The Ramzan ceasefire in Kashmir ended on a note of sharp escalation of violence by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, who took advantage of the suspension of “cordon and search” operations by the Army. The illogical advocacy by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of a further extension of the ceasefire—she was motivated purely by her own political interest—proved to be the proverbial last straw for the BJP, which snapped its ties with the PDP and got the Centre to hand over the rule of the state to the Governor. She stubbornly refused to condemn Pakistan for unleashing cross border terrorism in the valley and apparently looked at the ceasefire as a means of keeping the separatist lobby on her side.
Ram Madhav’s original idea of bringing a national party and a Kashmiri outfit together on an “agenda of governance” to provide a stable development-oriented administration to a sensitive state was no doubt a commendable strategy. The coalition, however, started cracking up during Mehbooba Mufti’s regime primarily because of her persistent appeasement of the separatists. Her decision to release the stone-pelters, en masse, on the fallacious plea that they were “kids after all” did not draw a line between the masterminds behind the organised disturbance and the boys used as pawns. The reappearance of the stone-pelters during the Ramzan ceasefire was an embarrassment from the Centre’s point of view. On the eve of Eid, terrorists assassinated journalist Shujaat Bukhari and abducted and brutally killed a Kashmiri soldier from the Rashtriya Rifles, Aurangzeb, who was returning unarmed to his home in Pulwama for Eid. The two killings were a determined attempt by the Pakistan army to send a message of deterrence to the media in the valley as well as Kashmiris fighting for India.
The coalition era saw three disquieting developments that must be addressed in the Governor’s Rule.
First, the Chief Minister pandering to the pro-Pakistan Hurriyat resulted in the administration not focused on identifying the agents of Pakistan behind the stone-pelters and pursuing them under the law. Police was not seen to be on the forefront of law and order duty, even though paramilitary help was made available for the purpose. The most pathetic and outrageous scenes during the Ramzan ceasefire were those in which grown up scoundrels—not kids—were seen physically assaulting CRPF personnel on duty. The latter appeared to be trying to save themselves—there was a ceasefire after all—while no policemen seemed to be around. Moreover, state police and intelligence are expected to know all about the Pakistan agents operating from the streets and mohallas of Kashmir and should have been producing “intelligence from below” to help the Central agencies.
Second, the Mufti administration did not measure up to its prime duty as the instrument of a democratic coalition of reaching out to the average Kashmiri to ascertain what the latter desired to have by way of development and security. There is no reason why the deputy commissioners and SSPs all over the state should not have been holding weekly open meetings with the people for this purpose. The Mufti government allowed an impression to be spread by Pakistan’s apologists and peaceniks that Kashmiris en masse were against India. The voice of Aurangzeb’s father dispels this notion. The present administration should build on this.
Lastly, and this is perhaps the biggest damage caused to the state, the Islamic extremists led by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, an Ahle Hadis outfit, during the Mufti regime destroyed the value system of Kashmiriyat that disapproved of fanaticism and violence and upheld inter-community sharing of the practice of venerating holy men and “pirs”. The Jamaat-e-Islami, though known to be the political agent of Pakistan, had earlier some pretence of being an indigenous organisation, but with the rise of Salafism in the valley it chose to become totally subservient to the LeT. That is how HuM chief Burhan Wani and the head of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Asia Andrabi started taking orders directly from Hafiz Saeed over phone. The state administration at the local level should now mobilise at least the families of those boys who were granted amnesty in stone-pelting cases to promote the idea of Kashmiriyat for peace and development. It should not remain a mute spectator to the radicalisation of the Kashmiri youth.
Now that the state is under Governor’s Rule, intelligence-based Army operations against Pakistani terrorists within our side of LOC and even beyond should be pursued relentlessly. The collaborators of the terrorists on our side should be dealt with professionally. Handling the stone-pelters should be the business of the police and paramilitary combine. As India’s Army chief directly oversees counter terror operations, the state should have only a civilian Governor of national security background with special knowledge of Islamic militancy. The Governor has to ensure that the administration takes its share of responsibility on the security front and that development projects across the state are executed in a given timeframe.
India’s policy that “talks and terror cannot go together” has successfully withstood the scrutiny of the democratic world. India’s stand against Pakistan on the issue of Islamic terror is now firmly supported by US and other major democratic powers. The comments of the UNHRC on alleged human rights violation in Kashmir are empty as the Council’s silence on Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terror against India amply demonstrates. The chequered course of the ceasefire has led the Opposition to attack the Centre’s Kashmir policy. There is nothing new in this criticism. The Governor’s Rule must fix the ambiguities created by the outgoing Chief Minister. India must be ready to face a stronger covert onslaught of Pakistan army in the run up to the elections in Pakistan, as the latter would play up the Kashmir card to maintain its sway on that country.
D.C Pathak is a former Director Intelligence Bureau.