There are many villains in the crisis raging in Jammu and Kashmir, over the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), but there’s little question that chief among them is former governor S. K. Sinha.
Exactly a month before he was asked to vacate the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar on 25 June, Sinha ordered the transfer of 100 acres of land to SASB, evoking an outcry from environmentalists and politicians in the Kashmir valley, both mainstream and separatist, religious and secular.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaches out to the Opposition as well as like-minded parties in search of a political solution to the fire in which nine persons have so far died, scores injured and a few thousand crores of both public and private property laid waste, it might be worthwhile to acknowledge the role of other players in this mess.
For a start, home minister Shivraj Patil should have kept a watchful eye on the sensitive state, especially since elections are likely in the next couple of months. The fact that he didn’t, highlights his lack of focus. Moreover, Patil should have anticipated the Jammu trouble that has been openly stoked by the BJP and key outfits of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Key parties in the state, such as the People’s Democratic Party, which first acquiesced to the land transfer to the Amarnath shrine and then backtracked when things got too hot to handle, must also share responsibility.
The Prime Minister has pointed out that a Jammu versus Kashmir crisis can only help our “enemy”, presumably referring to the ease with which elements in Pakistan could take advantage of this intra-Kashmir divide.The manner in which the Amarnath yatra is being deliberately communalized also gives rise to the darkest fears, including a partition of Jammu and the Kashmir valley along religious lines.
India has fought three wars and a limited conflict in Kargil with Pakistan to uphold its secular ethos. It is remarkable that in this entire unrest, not one pilgrim to the Amarnath shrine has been hurt. The Prime Minister must do everything to assert the state’s right to uphold the secular principle. Nobody, including religious hotheads and political pretenders, can be allowed to trifle with that.
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