Two recent images from Kashmir have been playing in the mind. The first is of a youth kicking a CRPF soldier. The second is of girls in school uniform, faces covered, pelting stones at security forces. These actions reflect anger, as well as disdain for the security forces. The Valley has rarely seen young women chasing vehicles belonging to the armed forces. As a journalist from the State remarked, earlier a bullet was enough to scare the protesters but now they seem fearless.
One hopes this change of mood has registered in the corridors of North Block. But then, the Government’s engagement with Kashmir has been marked by a singular lack of understanding. Instead of reaching out to stakeholders and finding a solution, the Government seems to see Kashmir purely as a law and order issue. The Doval doctrine — the national security advisor believes the protesters will tire out — doesn’t seem to be working. This might have further alienated Kashmiris from the rest of India. Now the Government has banned 19 social media websites in the State.
Indian democracy’s rich history has been the country’s USP in diplomatic circles. The success of the 1996 elections in Kashmir was a major plus for India. But the 2 per cent turnout in the recent bye-elections shows we have lost ground, much to Pakistan’s delight. Calls to “choose between tourism and terrorism” may not work to connect with the youth who want jobs — the best way to get them off the streets. But first, peace has to prevail. CM Mehbooba Mufti, in her meeting with the PM earlier this week, evoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee in pushing for talks. The former PM in his 2003 visit to the Valley had said that a solution should be based on democracy, Kashmiri culture and humanity. As Yashwant Sinha, whose offer to help hasn’t got a response from the PMO, says: “They need not respond to us, but they should respond to the situation.”
Prince Mathews Thomas, Deputy Editor