Flare up in Kashmir (Article)

Posted By: Samyuktha
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New Delhi, July 1 (ANI): No end appears to be in sight of the trouble brewing in the Kashmir valley. Protests against the killing of youth in firing allegedly by the Central Reserve Police Force have escalated, leading to more incidents and more deaths.

In the latest incident, three youth were killed as police opened fire to break up a demonstration at Anantnag in South Kashmir. In the meantime, the situation in North Kashmir continues to be volatile, with people defying the curfew in several towns of the area.

State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram have blamed anti national elements for the surge in violence in the Valley. It appears that whenever there is comparative peace in the state, such elements inspired by their masters and handlers across the Line of Control foment trouble on one pretext or the other.

There have been reports recently of increase in infiltration attempts from across the LoC and the international border. The security forces have adopted a three pronged strategy to check the infiltration. This has worked to an extent but possibilities of a number of militants making their way across the LoC cannot be ruled out. Even otherwise, there are believed to be from 600 to 800 militants in the state, said to be the core of the sleeping cells, which get activated whenever terrorist groups in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir want to use them to execute their nefarious designs.

It has been seen in the past that whenever there is a move towards a dialogue with Pakistan to find a solution to various issues between the two countries including Kashmir, terrorist groups try to put a spoke in the wheel by triggering violent incidents.

These elements also oppose peace in the valley as they do not want Kashmiris to develop a 'vested interest' in a stable and quiet valley. Recent reports have spoken of Jammu and Kashmir attracting a record number of tourists this season when the rest of the country has been facing what is believed to be the hottest summer in the last 100 years. Hotels and house boats in Srinagar have been full, which has brought a cheer to the tourism industry in the state. It is obvious that if the violent incidents in the Kashmir valley continue, it will drive away tourists from there.

The escalating violence in the Kashmir valley comes at a time when the Manmohan Singh government has been thinking of amendment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to make it more humane.

The separatists as well as the mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding either revocation of this law or amendments to ensure that it is not misused by the armed forces as an instrument to violate the basic human rights of civilians. Of course, there is opposition to the move from the Army and the security forces, as they think that the cover of the legislation is needed for their smooth operations in areas like Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East, which are hit by insurgency.

After considering the matter for a long time, the central government now appears to be inclined towards watering down some provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. But if the violence in the Kashmir valley continues, the government may be forced to have a rethink on the issue.

The Centre as well as the Jammu and Kashmir government need to be tough in tackling anti national elements while reining in the security forces to ensure that they do not over-react and that there is no violation of basic human rights. Indicating that the State government is waking up to the nefarious designs of the militants and their masters across the Line of Control, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that the incidents in the valley are "not a simple law and order matter, which is there due to absence of or poor quality of governance."

In a significance remark on June 29, he said it is a battle of wits, ideas and a war of ideologies in which anti-national forces and vested interests have come together. Omar Abdullah said that emotional and vulnerable youth are being exploited by the anti-national elements and brought to the forefront (of the protests to face the bullets of the security forces).

Union Home Minister Chidambaram has extended full support to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in tackling the tricky situation developing in the Kashmir valley. Noting that there are reliable reports that anti-national elements are trying to exploit the situation, he has spoken of the possibility of militants having sneaked into the valley to trigger violence.

Taking note of the concerns over human rights violations by the security forces, Chidambaram has assured the state governments that the Centre would inquire into reports of excessive use of force by the paramilitary forces in the valley.

Both the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government will have to do some tight-rope walking to calm down the situation in the Kashmir valley and defeat the designs of the anti-national forces. Mainstream political parties of the state also need to sink their differences and help the authorities in bringing the situation under control.

Opposition parties like the Peoples Democratic Party of Mehbooba Mufti may have a genuine grouse that the Omar Abdullah government has not handled the situation the right way and may have a basis for demanding the Chief Minister's resignation. But the present moment is not the right time to press this demand. The first priority of all right thinking people in the state should be calming down of passions and restoration of peace.

In the long run, the Centre as well as the state government, in which the Congress is a coalition partner, need to think of a strategy, which can take care of the challenge posed by anti-national forces, while preserving the recent gains in terms of building up of a democratic and responsive polity in the state. Even while talking with Pakistan, the Manmohan Singh government will have to take proactive steps to ensure that terrorist elements are not able to vitiate the atmosphere.

(The author is a political commentator) by B. I. Saini (ANI)

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