Millennium Post

Peace returns to Paradise ?

What next on Jammu and Kashmir’s political and security fronts? The developments of the past few months have lent relevance to the question.

Take the political front. Till recently, intra-party and inter-party squabbles marked the functioning of the National Conference and the Congress coalition partners. Lately, their leaders, who were publicly indulging in spats, have been forced to exercise restraint in their utterances. The coalition leaders are now talking about the need for mutual cooperation. That they want to translate their intentions into action is indicated by their fielding candidates jointly for the four seats — two seats each — of the Legislative Council elections. The Council elections from the panchayats quota are to be held on 3 December.

Unity in political parties and between coalition partners is normally driven by self-interest. It lasts till its advocates find more politically lucrative opportunities to serve their self-interest. Judged by this yardstick and in the absence of any greener pastures, the decision of the National Conference and the Congress to maintain their unity by jointly contesting the Legislative Assembly elections is logical. It will help the coalition to face the challenge posed by the main opposition PDP and win the Council elections. In fact, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has gone a step further saying that the fielding of candidates jointly is ‘indicative of a grand alliance between the National Conference and the Congress parties in the 2014 State Assembly elections’.

The main opposition party, PDP, which had for quite sometime been vocally active more than usual and was organising protests against the government, is now turning hyperactive to fight the Legislative Council elections. Its patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has launched an offensive against the ruling coalition for allegedly failing to empower the panchayats during whose elections there was massive turnout of the people.

About the state of the BJP, the less said the better. Primarily, the Jammu region-based party had split when seven of its 11 MLAs voted in favour of Congress and National Conference in the Legislative Council elections in 2011 to ensure victory of the coalition candidates. In February 2012, the party rebels formed Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Front ‘to teach the BJP a lesson in the elections to the Jammu Municipal Corporation’. Fissures continue to plague the functioning of the party.

The Legislative Council elections have ended the relative calm in state politics. The revived political activity is going to get a boost during the run-up to 2014 Assembly elections due in less than two years. Now the state’s security environment.    There has been an increase in the infiltration attempts and the sporadic terror incidents.

The infiltrations are the usual pre-winter phenomenon and the security forces have been able to foil most of the infiltration bids resulting in the killing of some of the militants. Otherwise, the relative calm on the law and order front sustains.    
In the overall context of the security environment, the more significant development has been the weakening of the pro-Pakistan separatist outfits. Feeling demoralised, their leaders are in a state of confusion about their future course of action. After the vertical splits in their ranks, their popular support base in the Valley has also been gradually squeezing. This has injected a sense of disheartenment among them.                 

Besides the lukewarm response their protest and bandh calls have lately been evoking, three other factors are responsible for the separatist leaders’ growing disillusionment.

One is Pakistan’s changed stance on the Kashmir issue, as indicated by its scaled down support for the militants. Not long ago, Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar had said in Islamabad that although the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved, it need not be the point of start and cannot be a roadblock for bettering India-Pakistan relations”. Reports had also appeared in the media that Pakistan is planning to shelve the Kashmir issue ‘for the time being’.

The other factor for the separatists disillusionment is the growing feeling that if, under US pressure, Pakistan can turn its back on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it can do anything with Kashmir too, even   ‘ditch the militants’.

The third reason is the Taliban’s increased violent activities in Pakistan. Even the hardline pro-Pakistan leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is disenchanted with the Taliban as ‘they are killing innocent people in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bombing of civilians is not Islam’. He says he also feels isolated in the state ‘because of the restrictions imposed on my freedom of expression and movement’.

The criticism by Geelani and other separatist leaders against the killing of innocent people by Taliban militants in Pakistan has, however, exposed their double standards. They condemn the killings in Pakistan but have never even expressed concern on the killing of innocents, most of them Muslims, in Jammu and Kashmir or in the rest of India. On the contrary, they have been lending support to the militants’ violent actions. Geelani even crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ on 22 November, when in a video message he asked the people ‘to hold funeral prayers for (Palestinian) martyrs and Ajmal Kasab, (the sole surviving terrorist member of the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Toiba, which killed 166 and injured 300 innocent people in terror attacks in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008, and who was hanged on 21 November in Pune’s Yerwada Jail) should also be remembered. Nimaz-e-Jinaza (general prayers) should also be offered to him”.

One can conclude from the above developments that the relative calm in the state’s political and security arenas is not only likely to sustain but may also become more pronounced.

This makes it imperative for the political parties to establish closer ground-level ties with the people. This will require strengthening of panchayat institutions and making them an effective tool for solving the people’s problems and undertaking speedy development. [IPA]
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