The state has no choice but to launch sustained security operations to quell the current spate of violence in Kashmir.
Curfew has been imposed in nine districts in Jammu & Kashmir, says one of the agency reports today. In all likelihood, it means to say that parts of these nine districts are under curfew although it conveys the impression — wrong impression — that the complete jurisdiction of these nine districts is under the curfew. Notwithstanding this anomaly where major incidents of violence in state are still limited to less than 15 police stations, the situation in J&K has worsened in recent days. Violence continues nearly unabated and it is not something that any well-meaning Indian can be comfortable with.
There has been a lot of lamentation and commentary on the subject. Commentators have delved into the causes of the morass: stagnant economy of the region, lack of mass engagement from mainstream political leaders in the state, Pakistani hand in fomenting this organised stone-pelting after failing to reignite militancy, mistakes compounded by New Delhi’s inaction in the aftermath of successful assembly polls in 2008 under the assumption that normalcy had returned, historical aspects of the problem, and religious dimensions of the issue. Perhaps, all of these have contributed in some measure to the problem as it exists today. But that also means that there is no single root cause which can be deracinated instantenously to fix the problem.
A lot can be said about each of these causes — and their long-term impact — but that would serve no purpose today. The pressing question is about the immediate steps that the governments, both at the centre and the state, must take for the sake of the ordinary Kashmiri. These immediate steps, considering the violent situation of the last few days, will have to be security-centric, focused on a single goal: to break this incessant cycle of violence. Let us not forget that peace and security is the primary responsibility of the state towards its citizens. Moreover, this would lead to re-establishing the rule of law, bring a certain degree of normalcy in daily routine of the average Kashmiri and re-impose the authority of the state. This will break the momentum which the violent mob — and their separatist leaders — have generated in the favour of stone-pelting, provide some respite to beleaguered security forces and change the prevailing narrative in the media.
Any political engagement or talks with ‘all shades of opinion’ in the state can only occur — let alone succeed — once the state is able to suppress, if not eradicate, the current spate of violence. Those who seek a political solution to the problem and purport to be a voice for the legitimate aspirations of the average Kashmiri must thus support and goad the state into action on this path — to quell the violence immediately.
Quelling the violence now, however, will not be easy for the state. It would be a throw-back to the era of the Punjab militancy, where an equally violent situation was brought under control by the state police and the paramilitary forces. It will be ugly; there could be a few instances of state’s high-handedness; there will be some not-so-nice images coming out from the state; it will not win India any brownie points internationally; and such measures will require unstinting support of the political leadership of the state and the centre.
But as the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. There are no easy choices left for the state. It has to launch a cohesive, strong and sustained security response to quell the violence and restore a certain degree of normalcy for the populace. The reduction of violence to acceptable levels should, and must, be followed by bold political initiatives from the Indian government. Else India would have again stolen failure from the jaws of success.
Failure is not an option. The state must knuckle down and brazen it out. And bring a stop to this madness of violence in J&K immediately.