The last week has seen a new wave of anarchy in the Kashmir valley. On Monday, 14 persons had been killed and scores injured. There is now a dangerous drift in managing the security situation there by both the state and the Union governments.
Two things have happened in the past three months in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). For one, the Omar Abdullah government has not met the expectations due from it. Its ability to connect with the people of the state has been, to put it mildly, wanting. In terms of governance, there has been hardly any movement in these past months. If J&K were any other Indian state, this would not matter. But in a state where insurgency and secessionism are being fuelled by Pakistan, it makes all the difference.
Then there is the question of the changing tactics of secessionists in the state. From terrorists confronting the Indian Army, the tack has changed to Hurriyat leaders instigating crowds of young people to indulge in arson. The Abdullah and Union governments have been slow to understand this change. The waffling in Delhi on side issues, such as removing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which have nothing to do with urban unrest in J&K, shows this clearly. To be fair to the Central government, implementing a new strategy to tackle these changed tactics, is not something that can be done in a day. But the demand for a “political” package by Omar Abdullah, and the Union government considering such demands, shows how far they are from comprehending the ground situation in downtown Srinagar.
The plain fact is that there is a vicious feedback cycle at work here. If the Centre “relents” by meeting demands such as removing AFSPA, it will not lead to peace in the streets of Srinagar. If anything, it will whet the appetite of Hurriyat leaders for more reckless adventures.
The important thing at this stage is to restore law and order in Srinagar and other towns of the state. This has to be followed by putting in place new strategies for crowd control in the urban areas of J&K. But most importantly, the younger Abdullah has to be told that if he does not take the right steps, matters may get out of hand. Assessing the utility of his government is a review that can no longer be postponed.
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