The Union Government has taken a major step to re-energise a dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir by making an attempt to reach out to the separatists. “I have already said that we are ready for dialogue with all stakeholders in Kashmir. If Hurriyat comes forward for talks, we don’t mind talking to them…..,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh in an interview recently.
His statement has been welcomed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is running a coalition government in the state along with the BJP and also by some other local Kashmir leaders.
This bold step comes in the wake of a declaration of “suspension of operations” (ceasefire) in Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan. It indicates the determination of the NDA Government to break the status quo in a tryst to move towards lasting peace.
A political reaction to the aforementioned two back to back initiatives by the Union Government elicited a predictable and considerably negative reaction from the separatists.
The first set back to the ceasefire initiative came within hours of the same being announced with the terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), rejecting the same. LeT has termed cessation of operations as “treachery to the martyrs.”
“Ceasefire is not an option. We deem it as sin to the sacrifices rendered in the freedom struggle. We are the heirs of martyrs and opting for such choice is treachery to their blood,” said Abdullah Ghazanwi, spokesperson of LeT. Even as the ceasefire announcement was being made, terrorists opened fire on an Army Patrol in Shopian District of South Kashmir.
Not to be left behind, the Hurriyat leadership came up with its own brand of statements. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that a month of no action is nothing more than a “farce” while the chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Yasin Mallik, described the decision as a “Mazaak” (Joke).
So far as the offer for dialogue is concerned, the separatists maintained a stony silence for some time and then, under pressure to react, came out with their different and contradictory responses. Syed Geelani, always averse to any kind of dialogue, brought out of the box his notorious five preconditions for initiation of dialogue. It has already been established that his pre-conditions cannot be accepted by any sane government; he has invoked them to pull himself out of the game. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have given a more structured response by asking New Delhi to clear the confusion about talks. They contend that differing statements are coming from the Home Minister, the External Affairs Minister and BJP President. Though there is much to contest their argument, the silver lining is that they have, unlike Geelani, left a window open for forward movement.
Both initiatives have elicited a very positive response from the locals, the common people, of the Kashmir region. This response has been captured by the media and is also visible on the social network. It provides reason enough to the government to proceed with its policy and see if some benefit can accrue from the same.
What is worrisome is that within this period, in Kashmir, there have been incidents of Grenade lobbing, snatching of rifles from police personnel, targeting of security vehicles with IED blasts and open attacks by terrorists. There is a report of five terrorist recently killed while attempting infiltration even as the Army has said that many are awaiting their turn to cross the border.
It becomes evident that the response of the terrorist cadre, especially the local youth who were to be the prime beneficiaries of this move, has not been as positive as was desired and expected. Pakistan is determined to ensure that the ceasefire and the dialogue process is not successful. It is apparent that ISI has passed clear instructions to the terrorist cadre to keep the pressure on. It is also apparent that the like of Syed Geelani have been ordered to scuttle the dialogue process.
The security forces on their part are very alert and vigilant to ward off terrorist attacks. It is for this reason that the terrorist are not getting the type of success that they are looking for despite making numerous attempts.
It is notable here that even in the restive North–East, the government is attempting to build on the strong constituency of peace that has taken roots in the region. It has withdrawn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya and from eight out of 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh. Three years earlier Tripura also saw AFSPA being lifted after 18 years.
When the revocation of AFSPA in area of North-East was announced there was a lot of hue and cry for a similar revocation in Jammu and Kashmir too, as usual, led by the separatist elements. “Time and again we have demanded its (AFSPA) withdrawal. If GOI can remove it from its north-eastern territories, this cruel and merciless power bestowed upon 8 lakh Indian forces in J&K should be revoked immediately!” tweeted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Suspension of operations during the holy month of Ramadan and the offer for talks can well be considered to be an apt response of the Union Government to the demand for a scale down in security activity by the separatist elements and some others in the Valley. The Government has given out a message that it is ready to let down the security threshold (as in the case of the North-east) provided the people contain their wayward youth and the separatist force come forward for an open dialogue.
The government has amply demonstrated its commitment to peace and walked the extra mile, at the cost of putting its reputation on the dock. Now it is the turn of the separatists and others to respond. If core segments of the political leadership sheds personal agendas and joins the common people in their efforts to usher peace and prosperity there will remain every reason to continue with the suspension of operations and simultaneously give momentum to the dialogue process.
(Jaibans Singh is a noted security analyst and author)