Finally, the army has been sent in to help civil authority in Srinagar and other turbulent parts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). It is a step that could have been avoided, had the right decisions been taken at the right time. As with much else, this is often a post facto hope. But all too often situations seem to be slipping out of hand in India.
The decision to move the army in came after the J&K government made a request to this effect on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the cabinet committee on security met to take stock of the situation in the state. The army has been sent in for a “deterrent effect” in the troubled parts of the state.
That effect will be difficult to achieve. The reason is simple: For the better part of the last 18 months since elections in J&K, the state government, the political representatives elected to the state assembly and governance have all been either absent or ineffective. If reports are to be believed, many legislators have not even bothered to interact with their constituents after getting elected. Carrying on with administrative tasks and developmental activities is difficult in insurgency-hit areas. No one said Omar Abdullah’s government would have had a cakewalk. But his government lost momentum somewhere along the way. This has done grave damage to his credibility. To pin the blame solely on lack of “political momentum” would be an exercise in dissimulation.
What should be done? After the army has managed to quell the disturbances, the government needs to work on two fronts. One, it needs to keep an iron hand on the law and order situation. To let protesters take control of the streets, as they will at the instigation of secessionists and political mischief-makers, is not respecting human rights but inviting trouble. Two, the people of J&K need some respite, economic and social, from the more than two decades of turmoil. Employment for the valley’s legions of unemployed youth and promoting business ought to be Abdullah Jr’s top priority. A peaceful environment that delivers benefits will undoubtedly create conditions for lasting peace. Let Pakistan’s machinations be the worry of the mandarins in the ministry of external affairs. The chief minister of J&K should have other calls on his time. If he continues as he has done so far, he won’t have much of it left.
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