NEW DELHI (TIP): The Centre’s next political course in Jammu and Kashmir will entirely depend on the drop in number of incidents of clashes and complete cessation of violence. No fresh initiative is likely till then though the government is open to talking to as many sections of the people as possible, top government sources said on September 8 (Thursday).
A day after the all party delegation and the government concluded their brainstorming session with an appeal for peace, an assessment by top Union ministers has veered towards first restoring the security in the state, and then rebuilding the primacy and “ability”of the state for easing the life for the common people.
“Azadi” as a demand will remain a non-negotiable subject for the Centre’s interlocutors. New Delhi has sufficient reasons to believe that the current spate of violent incidents has overtone of religious extremism — to push the state from its traditional “Sufism” to “Wahhabism” as crafted by handlers in Pakistan.
“We cannot let the people fall prey to the strategy of the pro-freedom extremists. They unleash violence and then force the security forces to take action. Once, there is counter action by the security forces, who are under orders to show restraint, the extremists play the victim card to question the Centre’s sincerity,’’ said a top official.
However, a clear instruction has gone out to all official agencies that the people and separatists will have to be treated as separate entities, top government sources said.
As for the call given by the all party delegation, which went to Srinagar, for “talking to all stakesholders,” the government believes that engagement with separatists is not feasible as they cannot be treated as stakeholders so long as violence continues.
The state has continued to witness incidents of clashes by “pro-freedom” groups though curfew has been lifted in most areas. However, there is admission in the top echelons of the Union government that there is “home-grown” anger among the people, which is being taken advantage of by terrorist groups and separatists. Therefore, the answer to the problem lies in improving tools of governance.
Even as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti faces dissension within her People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from seniors like Muzaffar Baig, the Centre feels that the “need of the hour” will be to strengthen the elected government, which has the mandate to engage in dialogue with all sections. Even for that matter, the PDP-BJP coalition was dictated by the arithmetic of the mandate in December 2014 and “no change was likely.” The Centre also sees no immediate possibility of engaging the factions of the Hurriyat Conference as they too are no longer in position to command the mobs that are in the control of extremist groups who want to radicalise the state on religious lines.
Hurriyat leaders are themselves seen as “hostages” to the Islamist elements who call the shot, now. Even within the Hurriyat ranks, there is dissension over their leadership’s decision not to engage the all party delegation members who knocked at doors of their leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
What has surprised New Delhi is that the issue of lack of development is not being voiced neither by the separatists or local political and civil groups. Even a group of leading citizens from the state have petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee only on the political aspect of the problem.
Their concern as stated in their memorandum was more about “an open dialogue with the representatives of those leading the ongoing movement and overall struggle for realization of political aspirations, without questioning the legitimacy of the leadership, is imperative.” The signatories to the memorandum include Muhammad Shafi Pandit, former chairman of J&K Public Service Commission and Hasnain Masoodi, former judge of J&K High Court.
The Home Ministry’s assessment is that by the time Eid-ul Zuha, slated for September 13, is observed, people in greater numbers would shun violence, notwithstanding the strike call extended by separatists till September 16. (PTI)