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Troubles afoot

Troubles afoot

Ahead of the crucial by-polls in Jammu and Kashmir for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday raised the issue of revocation of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some areas. She said PDP and BJP had come together on an Agenda of Alliance which included revocation of the draconian law. "We should not shy away from the revocation of AFSPA. When things improve, why not?" she said while addressing a seminar in the national capital. Considering the situation on the ground, one can deduce that there are no signs of improvement on the horizon. In fact, there has been a recent spike in militant activity in the region. Security forces operating in the state once again have to deal with angry crowds, every time they lay siege upon these militants. Military experts argue that sympathisers incite and exploit these non-combatants to ensure that the militants escape. There have been recent instances of civilians getting killed in the crossfire too.

On Wednesday, a minor girl was killed in Kupwara district, after stray bullets from an ongoing encounter entered her home. Earlier this year, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat stated that the Army would treat "over-ground workers of terrorists" as anti-national elements. These comments were well received in certain quarters. They saw his comments as an attempt at extending greater freedom to security forces when operating in troubled areas. In another significant development, the Ministry of Home Affairs made fresh authorisation of 4,949 pump action guns, widely known as pellet guns, for Central Reserve Police Force personnel deployed in the region. Reports indicate that the number of pump action guns rose to 589 from just 640 last year—a ten-fold increase. The Centre fears the outbreak of another round of protests in the coming months. Last year, more than 1,000 civilians were left with impaired vision due to pellet guns. Both developments seem to indicate there is little or no political engagement with Kashmir. There is talk of the establishment reaching out to moderate Hurriyat groups. Experience tells us that such a proposed engagement without a clear plan of action will do little to resolve the longstanding turmoil in the state. What the state needs are reserves of political will and confidence building measures to regain the faith of people. More guns do little to achieve such an outcome.

Reports indicate that the number of pump action guns rose to 589 from just 640 last year—a ten-fold increase. The Centre fears the outbreak of another round of protests in the coming months. Last year, more than 1,000 civilians were left with impaired vision due to pellet guns. Both developments seem to indicate there is little or no political engagement with Kashmir. There is talk of the establishment reaching out to moderate Hurriyat groups. Experience tells us that such a proposed engagement without a clear plan of action will do little to resolve the longstanding turmoil in the state. What the state needs are reserves of political will and confidence building measures to regain the faith of people. More guns do little to achieve such an outcome.

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