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Eighth Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

December 02'

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Kashmir: Is Mufti on the right track?

Romeet K WATT


PDP-led coalition government in J&K, has to wake-up to pragmatism sooner or later, and the false sense of security, which they have led themselves into accepting as true, has been shattered in less than 48 hours, one after another, in rapid succession – first the attack on the CRPF barracks in the heart of Srinagar, second, the LED explosion on the strategic Jammu & Kashmir national highway, killing army personnel’s, and their kith and kin’s, followed by the ruthless suicide attack on the ‘symbolic and historical’ Raghunath temple, taking heavy toll of the human lives. This is second such attack on this sacred place of worship. The reports available at the time of writing indicate largely civilian causalities. No crime can be more culpable than the gratuitous killings of innocents engaged in the place of worship. It was not long ago when Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) stuck terror inside the Akshardham temple in Gujarat for about 12 hours – killing 36 and injuring over 70 innocent worshippers. 

 

These suicide-attacks have come within days of the release of Hafeez Sayeed, the chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) by Islamabad, despite reservations expressed by their partners in war against terror, America. His release has without doubt has rejuvenated the sagging morale of its cadres operating in Jammu & Kashmir, and with his release, the LeT is without doubt going to step up its activities in the State. Given the quantity and sort of ammunition on the terrorists, they appear well trained and are believed to the members of LeT. The Gujarat unrest, media reports suggest, came as a fodder for Lashkar chief Hafeez Sayeed who has been using it in his speeches following the crack down in Pakistan. He has reportedly urged his dedicated cadres to move ‘towards the south’ to seek revenge. Intelligence analysts firmly accept as true that the weapons and strategy in the Raghunath temple attack all point towards Lashkar’s suicide squads.

 

Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohd Sayeed, a deft politician in his own right, has used the ‘acupuncture points’ at which Kashmiris were vulnerable to revive his political fortunes. Passions have a populist edge and politicians go where passions catch fire, so it is but natural for him to wisely talk about nuts and bolts, after all, placating the domestic constituency, is something, which he cannot afford to miss so early in his innings. Magic and Miracles! That seems to be Sayeed’s mantra, at least for now.

 

However, by posing himself as a ‘dream merchant,’ Mufti has put himself into a knotty spot, and to get off the hook he impaled himself on, would be a tall order. The political debate in Kashmir these days is generously punctured with terms like: ‘healing touch;’ ‘unconditional dialogue;’ sensitive and humane government;’  ‘peace with dignity and honour,’ to cite a few. Mufti has geared up his state machinery to sharply contrast the freewheeling attitude of Abdullah senior’s government.

 

Now that the emotional floods have somewhat subsided, in Kashmir, it is time for some contemplative and retrograde analysis. PDP, many believe, has in a way reached a threshold between mainstream politics and political separatism characterised by the enticement to ride two boats at once – one indicative of democratic aspirations and the other providing for secessionist leanings. However a more vivid argument for the future would be that these passions crafted carefully by Sayeed will in no way bring to end the menace of terrorism. Sayeed seems to turn a blind eye to the overarching threat from Pakistan, as if they do not exist. Much remains to be seen whether the separatists elements in the Valley will climb firmly abode the ‘peace train,’ started by Sayeed, or not.

 

The blueprint of ‘sensitive and humane government’ as envisaged by the coalition combine as a means to ceasing bloodshed in Jammu and Kashmir has not shown wide acceptability in the politico-analytical circles, and analysts have cast serious doubts on whether the policy would work. The issues that are of paramount importance, taking into account the ground realities, are the attacks of radicalist Islam forces by way of their militant wings, JeM and LeT (they account for 70% of the violence) on our security personnel, and innocent civilians. The coalition combine should direct their energies to these pressing matters; debate over autonomy or self-determination can wait, for the time being. And as has been aptly pointed by a leading analyst, these foreign mercenaries ‘operate out of the reach of a healing touch.’

 

In this context the decision of the PDP led coalition to do away with the controversial Special Operation Group (SOG) under the garb of ‘assimilation or reallocation within J&K Police’ may, as time will decide, not be a wise decision, given that SOG has played an instrumental role in fighting cross-border terrorism, which has been at our door-steps for over a one and a half decade. In the mean time, the SOG boys can take solace from the words of Julio Ribeiro, then DGP, Punjab police who in an interview to Vintage Gentleman in 1986 said, that if somebody tried to kill him, he would kill him first. “Should someone try to kill me or my men, if he is armed, if he is a terrorist, he would get him first,” said the super cop at the height of militancy in Punjab. It is imperative the PDP led government devise and formulate ways and means of tackling Pakistan sponsored militancy before doing away with SOG.

 

As part of the coalition government’s endeavour to give detainees a ‘free trail,’ top militant commanders of yesteryears are being bailed out as part of the major policy shift. But contrary to what Sayeed was led to believe; the separatists spearheaded by Yaseen Malik have fired the first salvo, challenging the CM to prove that he is the ‘true representative’ of the people, by contesting a seat from the Valley. This indeed will come as a big shock to the rank and file in the PDP, who were assured of a conciliatory approach by the APHC. The manner in which these separatist elements have been set free, casts serious doubts on the functioning of the judiciary, who till yesterday appeared to have adequate proof to hold them, out of the blue discern that there was not anything to incriminate them.

 

These gesticulations on part of the PDP led government should also not send erroneous signals to the Pakistan sponsored militants for they might be tempted to interpret these signs as ‘supportive gestures’ from a regime that is sympathetic to their ‘cause.’ The situation, if one may further the argument, is analogous to Punjab where in the aftermath of operation Bluestar, for a while, terrorism was suppressed and things became very quiet. But after a popular Akali government came to power, trouble surfaced. Terrorists found they had good scope for their activities and channels of communication were opened for them. PDP should ensure that such mistakes are not repeated, otherwise things might start afresh from 1990, when Kashmir seemed to simply collapse into chaos and pandemonium. A dread of unintentional consequences and what the intended amends might bring is both real and valid. PDP’s talk of making Kashmir as a bridge between India and Pakistan; and the necessity to involve Pakistan in the dialogue process, are statements, which are too naive and simplistic.

 

Another debatable issue is the decision of the government to do away with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) on the premise that there are enough laws to deal with militancy. POTA, experts argue, is the only instrument that criminalizes the mobilisation and transfer of financial resources to terrorists in India. There have been numerous instances when the militants have been arrested with huge cache of money, meant for back-end financial support to militancy in the Valley. Section 22 of POTA is the only provision, experts point out, which provides for a harsher process and penalties in cases of fund raising for a terrorist organisation. In absence to such provisions, anti-militancy operations may be seriously hampered.

 

Sayeed has himself been more than a passing spectator to the metamorphosis and change in Kashmir. Mufti Sayeed has done a U-turn as far as the ‘ideological postures’ are concerned. Sayeed is still seen as a ‘muscle,’ which was instrumental in unleashing state terror in the Valley, decade and a half ago. Critiques of Sayeed charge him of using the opportunity to further his political fortunes. One of the grave slip-ups that he made was to free five militants in exchange for his daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989, when he was the Home Minister. This was done against the counsel of the then ruling party NC, and Central intelligence officials, who were certain that the JKLF would let go her daughter in the face of public indignation. He played a key role in dismissing the NC government in February 1990, and to complete the icing on the cake, Sayeed is also believed to have played a pivotal role in the appointment of Jagmohan as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Rest is history.

 

With this belittling background, Sayeed appears to take no chances this time round, and has already started taking steps, which would clean his slate of past slip-ups that people of the Valley blame him for. But in doing so, he has gone into an overdrive, to bring about a transition in the Valley, without any significant changes on the ground, in Pakistan sponsored militancy, to bring peace to the Valley. Idea of committing to an ‘unconditional dialogue’ with each and every one in the state even before evaluating all the aspects, seem somewhat flippant and naive. Such steps put a big question mark on the future of counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir. And last but not the least, Mufti Sahib, a wise council from a wise man: “Any kind of compromise is not necessarily better than no solution.”

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