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Sunday, 8 November 1998

Peace and Politics go Together


(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)


To Mohandas Moses, adviser to the governor, December 9 was
the day "it became clear that the darkness would end". On that
day, seven lakh children were inoculated against polio. "Even in
the Valley, coverage was almost total. This is the first time in six
years that the government was able to administer a programme
throughout the state", he said, adding that "While in 1993 there
were only 90 working days in Valley schools, this year we have
crossed 180".

To additional chief secretary S. S. Bilowria, "End-l994 was
the turning point. That was when the Kashmir police once again
began participating in anti-militant activities. Today they are
doing most of the operations", he claimed. According to B. K.
Goswamy, advisor to the governor, "This year we have been able
to visit all areas in the state without any local protests. For the
past few months, the local people have been coming to us with
petitions, even in Sopore and Baramulla".

Governor Krishna Rao emphasises: "We have been ready for
elections since May. True, there was Charar-e-Sharief. However,
we have told Delhi that such incidents may be there, but
elections should not be postponed because of them". The governor
justified his policy of dealing only with the Prime Minister on the
grounds that "there should be a single chain of command, or else
contradictory orders will come and there will be confusion". He
was unhappy with the National Conference "which first
supported elections, and then changed its mind", but disagreed
with the Election Commission decision to postpone the polls.
"Kashmir is ready for the revival of the political process. I know,
I've seen it happen before, in the North-east", the governor said.

Top intelligence operatives told this correspondent that
"intercepts have made clear that Pakistan has told its men in the
state to burn more shrines, kill candidates and trigger off
explosives. However, elections are worth the risk. A popular
government would ensure that the militants do not get the
oxygen of popular support", a senior intelligence officer said.
Giving his assessment of the likely turnouts in selected areas,
another officer said: "Jammu, Ladakh, Kargil and Rajouri will be
near-normal. There will be low polling—as was the case in
Punjab—in Baramulla, Doda, Kistwar, Kupwara and Poonch.
There will be almost no polling in Srinagar town, Anantnag and
Badgam". When asked about the likely winners, the reply was:
"The National Conference, if it contests. Congress, if the NC
stays out." A colleague claimed that "the pro-peace groups are
far more than the pro-terrorist ones, but the latter shout louder,
and so get heard".

Ever since the induction by Pakistan of Afghans, Sudanese
and other foreign mercenaries in the Valley, sections of the
militants have tumed against them. "The Hizb, Harkat and
Lashkar are just ghulams—servants—of Pakistan. No true Kashmiri
can ever be a ghulam. This is why we are against them", said
Kareem, a militant supporting the lkhwan, which has been
engaging in a war with pro-Pakistan groups for control of turf
since 1993-end. "Look at the new houses of these (pro-Pakistan)
people. They are collecting money by selling the bones of the
Kashmiri people", said Akhtar, a former activist of the 
Jamaat-i-Islami and now an NC supporter.

"No insurgency can succeed unless it can hold ground", said
S. S. Bilowriar "Today there are no places controlled by the
militants, barring some mountain areas". According to Rehman,
a state government employee, "now people are coming forward
even to thanedars to give information about the foreign terrorists.
They are fed up of the militancy". He added that "one sign of
returning normalcy is that the Jammu and Kashmir police have
once again started night patrolling in Srinagar. What we need
now is a popular government that the people can approach". A
businessman from Jammu agreed: "Farooq Abdullah’s was an
inefficient government But even that is better than rule by
officials".

In Jammu and Ladakh, the impetus for separation from the
rest of the state has got accelerated by what is seen as a Valley-
orchestrated militancy. "Why should Jammu and Ladakh suffer
for the follies of the Valley? Better that both separate from
Kashmir", said Hari Om, a history professor in Jammu. A new
group—the Jammu Mukti Morcha—has come up to articulate this
demand. "Just as Ladakh finally got an autonomous council,
Jammu should be given at least this", said Dr. Virender, its
president.

Dr. R. N. Sharma, a physician who had practised in the
Valley for two decades, said that "What is seldom recognised is
that the Valley is smaller than even the Doda district of Jammu.
It is only there that the terrorists are strong". When asked who
were the groups supporting the militancy, Dr. Sharma had this
to say: "These days only two groups, the local press and the local
lawyers. The ordinary Kashmiri has lost interest".

According to a top official of the state administration, "the
problem in Kashmir has been the constant interference by central
leaders. In 1984 B. K. Nehru complained about Arun Nehru and
M. L. Fotedar, who used to always interfere to protect their
favourites. For this he was transferred. In V. P. Singh’s time
home minister M. M. Sayeed used to patronise religious
extremists. These days it is the NC leaders who use their clout
with Delhi to try and get militants released. The truth is that
except for the first two years under Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed
in the 1960s and a short time under Jagmohan, Kashmir has
always had a rotten government".

A senior official of the state government had this to say when
asked about the degree to which autonomy could be given to the
state, without damaging national security: "Article 356 (which
gives the right of Central intervention) has to remain. So also the
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Comptroller and Auditor-
General and the Election Commission. Packing off the IAS and
the IPS will not be problem, but internal security will need to be
a central responsibility for some time. Apart from this, there is
no danger in giving autonomy".

"Yes, provided Jammu and Ladakh are given autonomy
from Srinagar" said Professor Hari Om. "We are fed up of
paying for the mischief done in the Valley. In case Jammu and
Ladakh are not given autonomy, an agitation will begin in both
places against Srinagar". For the capital of Kashmir - which
incidentally was founded by Emperor Ashoka as a Buddhist
centre in the third century BC - it looks as though it will continue
having interesting times, even after political processes edge out
the militancy!



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