Backed into a corner
Recent reports indicate that the Centre may take up a tough line against the separatists in the Kashmir Valley. Millennium Post has reported that the government is not going to accord “special status” to Hurriyat Conference leaders in matters of peaceful engagement. In a sharp rebuke to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s invitation for talks, the separatist camp had accused her of being “deceitful” and insisted that the recent round of talks cannot be an alternative to a “transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue”.
Whatever their grouse, rejecting an invitation for talks is no way to proceed. As they’ve closed one door, the Centre is considering curbs on their foreign travel by withdrawing passports and denying travel documents in some cases. Besides these, the Centre would also scrutinise their bank accounts and complete investigations in pending cases against them to send out a strong message to those provoking young protesters in Kashmir Valley to engage in violent acts. The government may also scale down the security which they enjoy at the exchequer’s cost. It is hard to condone the Centre’s actions. But it has been backed into a corner.
Engaging the separatists to end the ongoing unrest in the Valley is a seemingly futile option for the Indian state. In response, the Hurriyat Conference on Wednesday said media reports about the Centre mulling tough steps against separatist leaders of Kashmir was an attempt at "fooling and misleading" the people of India. "These tactics are aimed at fooling and misleading the people of India and creating hysteria so that the attention of the people of India is diverted from the actual issue on ground and they are kept ignorant about it," a spokesman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said. It is sad fact that moderate voices within the separatist camp have been subsumed by reactionary forces.
Their decision to reject the dialogue process should have been long evident to the Government of India and PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s strategy to include the likes of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani in the recent round of talks was bound to fail. Any illusions that the likes of Geelani and his supporters in Kashmir can espouse the ideals of humanity, democracy and its plural ethos should be consigned to the dustbin. These elements had forfeited their claim to these values in the early 1990s when they facilitated and actively participated in the spread of jihadi terror through militant groups like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The origin of the clamour for “azaadi” was indeed secular and trans-religious.
However, the movement has morphed into a reactionary slugfest, aided and abetted by Pakistan. Geelani has reiterated this fact time and again. Last year, he had claimed that Pakistan flags would "continue to be hoisted" in the Kashmir Valley, adding that "people here love Pakistan". The Indian state should not engage with separatists who double up as Islamist terror ideologues. It must shun tolerance for such rabid elements. But the Indian state must also make concerted efforts at regaining the trust of its own citizens in the Kashmir Valley. Draconian laws, human rights abuses, and the proliferation of the Indian military at the cost of a functioning civilian government are as responsible for the continuing state of turmoil. One act of violence feeds into another.
The likes of Geelani are a mere front for the Pakistani state's attempts at fomenting conflict in Kashmir. It isn’t hard to establish a link between Geelani's comments and Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif comments on Wednesday when he today described Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein” and said Islamabad will continue to support the people of the Valley on “diplomatic and ethical” fronts. Add military and logistical aid to the insurgency into the mix, and one has the complete picture. Without a peaceful resolution to the ongoing violence, more innocent civilians are going to suffer. The solution lies in greater engagement with Pakistan, and not the separatists.