Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been 'arrested', perhaps a pointer to a toughening of the Centre's stance on the unrest in the state.
Indeed, the fact that no meeting took place between Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and the separatist leaders during the former's visit to the state over the weekend is being seen as growing realisation in Delhi that the Hurriyat and other separatist organisations are increasingly irrelevant in Jammu and Kashmir affairs, beyond their efforts to keep the state on the boil.
Yet, the one question that observers ask is, why hasn't stronger action been taken against these separatists, despite there being several dossiers and cases against them, ranging from money laundering to sedition. Successive Indian governments have been "foolishly scared" to act against the likes of Geelani, says former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officer Amar Bhushan in an interview with OneIndia. Excerpts:
Why hasn't tougher action been taken against separatist leaders all these years despite their known role in keeping Kashmir on the boil?
I have often wondered myself what has prevented the government of India from acting against these persons, and I can't fathom a strong reason. I would say, successive governments have been scared, in fact foolishly scared, of these separatists and their possible hold on the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
Is the government worried that such action would trigger greater violence?
That shouldn't really be the worry. The state continues to witness a great deal of violence even now. Tough action against them might be followed by stepped up violence, but it won't last beyond a few days.
Does arresting Geelani or the other separatist leaders help?
I don't think so. Arresting them and keeping them in jail for a prolonged period only makes them symbols of resistance, unnecessarily and disproportionately.
Is it their support base that has the government worried?
Their support base is exaggerated. These separatists can hardly win even a panchayat election. Deal with them like how you deal with the Wanis. Instead of strong action, the government choses to confine them to guest-houses and rest-houses. Worse, they are being given platforms to air their opinions.
I do wish the television channels understand that these people are irrelevant and stop giving them such importance.
Pakistan seems to consider them stakeholders...
Pakistan can think what it wants. And if they want to keep meeting them, they can, but we should not make a big deal of them. As I said, these separatist leaders can't even win a panchayat election among their own people.
Kashmir burned when Nehru had Sheikh Abdullah arrested. Does that still play on the mind of the government?
We cannot compare Sheikh Abdullah to these separatists. Abdullah had the support of 70 per cent of Kashmiris. These separatists have the support of hardly 10 percent. A Syed Geelani is like a dead horse in the Valley, why give credence to him at all!
Indian agencies are sitting on dossiers on the activities of the separatists...
Since several years now, files have been created on how the separatists get their finances and what they do with those monies. There is a lot of illegality involved. But what is the point of it all if we cannot act against them? I think these are strong cases that can be made against them. And I would also say, they should be tried in courts outside Kashmir.
Former Home minister P. Chidambaram says, go back to the 1947 agreement. Do you agree?
Of course, I do not agree. He needs to understand that a lot has changed since then. He sounds like a Pakistani panelist when he speaks like that. He should speak like a responsible person.