Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Needed: A Paradigm Shift in J&K

Karan Kharb

                Pakistan proxies and the separatists in Kashmir suddenly seem encouraged and emboldened as was evident recently from the drama enacted by Masrat Alam. These noises must be rasping hard on the BJP ears because its partnership in the state government had generated optimism for peace and progress. The Hurriyat leaders whose diktats to boycott the elections was spurned by the Kashmiri electorate had once seemed to have been consigned into oblivion – but only until the release of Masrat Alam.  He started spewing anti-India venom right from the moment he stepped out of the jail early last month. Flagrantly misleading and provoking the Kashmiri Muslims against India, he sang eulogies in praise of Pakistan and, surrounded by the Pakistani flags, declared. "I am not a citizen of India. Nor do I believe Kashmir to be part of India."  Now, put behind the bars once again, hopefully he will be tried for his audacious anti-India activities including treason.

Ironically, the opposite of what was expected from the new BJP-PDP dispensation is happening in Jammu and Kashmir. The election of 2014, which recorded unprecedented voter turnout despite vigorous boycott campaign mounted by the separatists, was held in a peaceful atmosphere attracting worldwide acclaim as a democratic exercise in the trouble-torn state. Interestingly, however, the poll mandate threw up two arch-rivals in the state politics – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) – as leading contenders for power with 25 and 28 seats in a hung Legislative Assembly of 87 effective seats.  That such political adversaries would become allies and form the government, was largely viewed as impossible. But it happened. Perhaps inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ethos of 'Sabka sath, Sabka vikas', the BJP went ahead and forged an alliance with the PDP after two months of sustained negotiations steered by Ram Madhav and the PDP supremo Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.  Understandably, it raised public expectations but scared the separatist lobbies.

                Unlike other states of the Union, governance in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is uniquely complex. Firstly, being a border state it acquires special geo-political significance, which is heightened even more with Pakistan having ceded Shaksgam Valley to China and the latter launching massive infrastructure development including multi-lane roads in the area. Secondly, besides its mountainous terrain remains covered either by dense forest or by snow, the state is also demographically divided with Jammu-Udhampur having predominantly Hindu population, the Kashmir Valley predominantly Muslim and Ladakh having a mix of sparsely populated by Budhists and Muslims. Thirdly, India's relations with Pakistan and China directly influence politics and happenings in these areas.  Fourthly, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution bestows 'special status' on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which distinguishes it from the rest of the states of the Union. This weird constitutional proviso makes the state look like a 'nation' within a nation.

                Thanks to these outlandish physiognomies of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, governments have been consistently smug in running affairs of the state in a status-quoist manner engendering a privileged class of self-righteous politicians and protected elite of bureaucracy insulated from the people.  The proxy war unleashed by Pakistan against India in this region has been fuelling chaos in the state.  More lives – military as well as civil – have been lost in the last quarter century of violence here than the combined total death toll of last three Indo-Pak wars.  Development has been another serious casualty while official corruption has thrived reducing civil administration to a self-serving mechanism largely denied to the people. The carrot dangling approach of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to placate and win over the Hurriyat and hard core separatists has already flopped.  Masrat Alam has very effectively utilised his brief release from captivity to reignite the fizzling voices of separatism in Srinagar. The brief drama he so diligently enacted with Hafiz Sayeed from Pakistan assuring Jehadis (proxies) in Jammu and Kashmir every kind of support – "Government, Military and moral" – has once again opened up the wound that has festered for over a quarter century now.

Azadi from the Bondage of Article 370
                For the first time in the history of J&K, BJP has partnership in the state government. It has a strong full majority government at the Centre. There is ample evidence for the government to understand that placating tactics and dithering have only led to worsening the situation rather than solving the problems.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the J&K government are today faced with a serious challenge, which they can convert into a grand opportunity to usher in new era of peace, prosperity and genuine azadi by integrating the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the mainstream of sovereign India. The so-called 'special status' under Article 370 has actually promotes 'separatism', inter-se rivalry and mistrust because the distinguishing constitutional provisions treat the state of J&K differently vis-à-vis the rest.  It also kills the fundamental principle of 'EQUALITY' enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India. No public interest has been served by it so far.  On the contrary, those in power use it from time to time for personal gains by blackmailing the Central Government under its shadow. 

                To the international community too, continuance of 'special status' for J&K gives an impression of 'some final decision about J&K's still hanging in the air' – an impression Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists have been cashing on to bolster their claims. Viewed from any angle, the provisions of this Article have proved to be a silky noose in the J&K neck.  The principle of equality entitles the people of J&K to be liberated from this royal bondage, which has only hampered their development.  It has deterred the Indian investors and multi-national corporates from investing in J&K.

                Permanent solution to a problem as ticklish as this cannot be easy but how long shall we allow this wound to fester in search of easy solutions? Time is now ripe to administer the bitter pill.  Article 370 must be repealed and the state of Jammu and Kashmir integrated into the national mainstream without further delay.

Fighting the Proxy War
                India has been telling the world what Hafiz Sayeed has audaciously owned up now.  In an interview to a media channel he recently admitted that he and his apparatus including Jamat-ud-Dawa has been "aiding the jehadis in Kashmir with full support from the Pakistan Government and the Army". India has information about a number of terrorist training camps running in Pakistan under the aegis of ISI, Hafiz Sayed and his associates.  The Indian Army hunting and fighting terrorists in the hinterland has been troublesome for the civil population who are frequently subjected to frisking besides facing a host of other hardships in the endemic violence in the region.

                The Indian Army should change its tactics for fighting this war. The Army should mind only the areas of its war time responsibility along the border/Line of Control (LC). Violence in the interior should be handled by the state police and paramilitary forces.  The local

government authorities must assume responsibility for peace and intelligence in their area of responsibility. As a strategic shift, the war should be carried to the enemy territory.  The Indian Army has the capability to carry out special commando missions against designated targets deep inside Pakistan with a fair degree of success.  It is disappointing to see that we have unwittingly neglected the offensive initiatives and developed a more defensive and over protective mind-set over the past few years. Pakistan, on the contrary, has always been proactively offensive and innovative from Kargil onward. 
Despite being aware of India's higher nuclear potential, Pakistan has never felt deterred from hurting India anywhere anytime whereas India has been visibly deterred not only from proactive offensive strikes but even from delivering punitive strokes as reprisal against audacious terror attacks like Mumbai 26/11, Parliament attack, Red Fort attack or beheading of our soldiers at the LC. This stance must change to bolder and devastating punitive actions unless we are preparing to be beaten and defeated in the next war.    

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