America can be
depended upon to
do the right thing
after it has tried all
the other alternatives is applica-
ble to most countries.
The government’s latest initiative on Kashmir has come at
the end of a similar tortuous
route when it tried everything
from a “muscular approach,” as
the Congress has said, to letting
the sword of abrogating Article
35A of the Constitution hang
over the state’s head.
Like Article 370, which is
anathema to the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP), Article 35A
underlines the state’s special status by preventing non-locals
from buying or owning property
But now the government
wants to start a dialogue with its
critics although, till recently, it
appeared that the use of force
was its most preferred option.
It isn’t only that the security
forces added the pellet guns to
their armory for use against
stone-throwers, in addition, of
course, to an occasional recourse
to real bullets if
the situation warranted.
The forces also
edged close to
Convention in the
when they tied a
local person to
the bonnet of a
jeep as the vehicle
traversed trouble-prone areas to
deter those who
Unfortunately, this crude display of the innate power of the
authorities was acclaimed by,
among others, the army chief,
while a well-known Bollywood
actor wanted a prominent
human rights activist, who is a
woman, to be similarly strapped
to a jeep.
Given this atmosphere of vir-
ulence, it would have seemed
that the government had only a
one-track approach to the situa-
tion in Kashmir, which was to
cow down the restive population
by a formidable show of force.
Yet, as is known, such a blink-
ered attitude has rarely led to
success in insurgency-prone
areas, not least because democ-
racies are invariably at a disad-
vantage when it comes to the
use of unchecked power.
The reason is the prevalence
of the system of checks and bal-
ances which calls
lest any one section
of the government
cross a given limit.
In Kashmir, for
Supreme Court has
questioned the use
of pellet guns in
view of the danger
they pose of not
only blinding the
opponents have called for the
withdrawal of the Armed Forces
(Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in
view of the leeway which it gives
to the security forces while its
inbuilt safeguards against mis-
use haven’t always been in evi-
It came as a matter of consid-
erable relief, therefore, when the
Prime Minister pointed out in his
Independence Day address to
the nation that the solution to
the problem did not lie in abuses
or guns but in embracing the
Kashmiris. “Na gaali se, na goli
se, Kashmir me parivartan hoga
gale lagaane se,” he said.
Now, Union Home Minister
Rajnath Singh has taken the cue
from Narendra Modi by appointing an interlocutor for reaching
out to the dissenters.
The government, therefore,
can be said to be approaching
the stone-pelters not with anyone tied to a jeep but on foot
with open arms.
This is not the first time, of
course, when such a conciliatory
approach has been tried when
belligerent measures had failed.
But this is the first gesture of its
kind by the Modi government.
The last intervention by a
group of interlocutors took place
when Manmohan Singh was the
But its recommendations
about reducing the army’s visibility, reviewing the AFSPA, lifting the Disturbed Areas Act and
expeditiously probing instances
of human rights violations were
ignored, as were the suggestions
of others like N.N. Vohra, who
was appointed in 2003 to investigate the causes of the continuing unrest. Vohra is now the
Governor of Jammu and
It is possible that the change
of government because of the
departure of Manmohan Singh in
2014 and of Atal Behari Vajpayee
in 2004 led to the reports of the
earlier teams being mothballed.
Since the present government
has at least a year-and-a-half to
go, the new man for addressing
the longstanding problem —
Dineshwar Sharma — will have
time on his hands.
But it is not so much the question of time as the sincerity of
some of the stakeholders, such
as the separatists whose loyalty
to the government is under a
cloud, which can hinder any forward movement.
Moreover, the differences
among them — such as between
the hawkish Syed Ali Shah
Geelani and the moderate
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq — will
complicate the task of the official representative.
Thankfully, the government
has given Sharma a free hand to
choose to whom he wants to
talk. But the hyper-nationalists
in the Hindutva camp, who
include a few television commentators, can queer the pitch
for a meaningful dialogue at a
time when suspicions are rife.
The prevailing lack of trust
between the opposing sides was
emphasized by former Finance
Minister Yashwant Sinha — now
a prominent critic of Modi —
when he visited Kashmir along
with a delegation of “concerned
citizens” and noted the “
alienation of the masses of people
who have lost faith in us.”
Retrieving Kashmir, therefore,
from the “mess” which India has
created, according to A.S. Dulat,
a former Indian spy master, will
be a gargantuan task.
Amulya Ganguli is a veteran Indian
journalist and political commentator.
“Na gaali se, na
goli se, Kashmir
lagaane se” —
Above, a paramilitary trooper stands alert as a Kashmiri motorcyclist crosses a deserted road during a strike on Oct. 27 in Srinagar. Below, activists of Youth Forum for Kashmir
march during a protest in Lahore on Oct. 27. Kashmiri protesters observed ‘Black Day’ to mark the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by India.
INDIA ABROAD November 10, 2017 11 SECOND OPINION