Top
Millennium Post

Political failure

Political failure
It is evident that the situation in Kashmir has deteriorated to levels not seen in a very long time. Former officers of the Indian armed forces have warned that unrest in the region is spiraling out of control. "What is worrisome is that it now seems to have become a direct fight between the security forces and the civilian population. This goes against our whole approach to counter-insurgency that people are the centre of gravity of all our actions. What has happened is that the political healing touch is missing. If it carries on any longer, it will end up brutalising both the security forces and the civilians. That is what we are seeing with these recent videos," said Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd), who headed the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command till last November. No one could have said it better. While social media has become the battleground over the alleged decision of one army officer to use a 'human shield' during the current unrest, very few people are talking about the complete failure of the political class. What we are witnessing in Kashmir is a political failure, not a military one. By and large, the Indian armed forces have achieved some major successes, especially in containing the number of terrorists and violence.

Unfortunately, since the unrest last summer triggered by the death of militant leader Burhan Wani, the political class, especially the BJP-PDP government, has miserably failed to engage with the people productively and continues to ride on a military strategy which is useless against an alienated mass. This is not a problem relegated to the current ruling dispensation in Kashmir or the Centre, but a legacy of past attitudes. In fact, what we see today is more of the same. On this occasion, however, the failure of the political class was brought home when the Election Commission decided to postpone the April 12 Lok Sabha by-election in Anantnag, South Kashmir, to May 25, after widespread violence during a similar poll in Srinagar that left eight people dead and over 300 injured. The voter turnout for last weekend's polling in Srinagar stood at a dismal 7.14%, a new low for the constituency. Anantnag was once considered a PDP stronghold, and the State government's plea for the postponement of elections raises further questions over its legitimacy to govern the state with the BJP. This complete rejection of the democratic process and mainstream political parties is especially worrying, and all indications seem to suggest that the ground situation has moved beyond the control of the State government. "Admittedly, the fear of violence and threats by militants contributed to this stunning debacle. Let us for a moment assume that it is just the threat of violence that kept people away. But isn't that supposed to be the point? Why, after three years of this government's strategy, are we less able to protect Kashmiri voters? What does that say of our counter-insurgency strategy," asks noted scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta. It goes without saying that the military functions at the behest of the political class. To prevent further incitement of violence in the state, the Indian State cannot and must not merely depend on the brute force of its military. Leaders from across the aisle have suggested that after the withdrawal of troops from civilian areas, the primary responsibility of maintaining law and order should be handed over to the state government and J&K Police. Home Minister Rajnath Singh had earlier asserted that once normalcy and peace are restored, there will be further engagement with all while moving forward in resolving issues. But the problem is of past precedence. Despite a prolonged period of relative peace and calm between 2003-08, little or no steps were taken to demilitarise or withdraw AFSPA from certain districts there. There was little dialogue with the key stakeholders in the region. Allied with the chronic state of poor governance in the state, Kashmir is tinder box always waiting to explode. "Government must define the political end state it is seeking, and the political strategy for the same must be shared with all stakeholders in J&K, the opposition, and the Armed Forces. 'Sky is the limit under the Constitution,' must be spelt out in concrete terms. Shed the ideological baggage and do not let ideological frenzy of the rank and file run away with the political strategy", argues Lt Gen HS Panag, a decorated officer of the Indian Army, in a recent column.

"Government must define the political end state it is seeking, and the political strategy for the same must be shared with all stakeholders in J&K, the opposition, and the Armed Forces. 'Sky is the limit under the Constitution,' must be spelt out in concrete terms. Shed the ideological baggage and do not let ideological frenzy of the rank and file run away with the political strategy", argues Lt Gen HS Panag, a decorated officer of the Indian Army, in a recent column.
Next Story
Share it