Delhi politicians have failed Kashmir

Is there a Kashmir policy – a sound framework to contain the crisis erupting in the Valley? What is this government’s Kashmir policy? Does it realize the extent of anger triggered off by the ongoing killings of the hapless civilians? Why are the civilians getting killed in that targeted way – bullet injuries in the neck, head, mouth and chest?

Why are the young men killed in the ongoing Army operations labelled and branded as ‘militants’. Are they all actually militants? Where is the much needed transparency and accountability? Why are the civilians in the Valley crying out the inevitable – why is it so easy for the security forces to kill and hound them? Why are the rulers of the day sitting like mute spectators, witnessing these horrifying realities?

Is it adequate to come out with those routinely worded condemnations and those hollow words and assurances to set up an enquiry or two? Isn’t it time that official killers be booked for crimes for killing their fellow citizens? Whatever happened to all those political promises for zero tolerance to killings of the civilians? Where on earth is the slightest trace of insaniyat and jamhuriyat that Prime Minister Narendra Modi harps on, whilst giving speech after speech on the Kashmir situation?

I’m writing this column in the backdrop of last weekend’s killings in Pulwama’s Sirnoo village, where seven civilians were killed and 36 were injured in firing by security forces. The Medical Superintendent of the Pulwama district hospital, Abdul Rashid Parra, said most of the civilians died of bullet injuries in the head, neck and chest. And several of these civilians were young. One of them, Abid Hussain, 26, a resident of Karimabad, is survived by his Indonesian wife, Wiwiak, and a three-month-old child.

The others killed were 14-year-old Aaquib Ahmad Bhat, 29-year-old Tauseef Ahmed Mir, 17-year-old Liyaqat Ahmed Dar. The list of the dead and injured is long. With entire families ruined and the entire atmosphere surcharged with anger and sorrow, can peace be ever expected to hold out and prevail in this ongoing atmosphere, where violence holds out, where civilians are getting targeted and killed as never before. The separatist leaders have given a call for a three-day strike and a protest march to the Army’s 15 Corps headquarters at Srinagar’s Badami Bagh. But in the prevailing atmosphere of siege, it is unlikely to make any difference.

Politicians in New Delhi have failed. Their speeches and promises sound fake and hollow.The political lot will have to re-think of using the military and paramilitary to crush the rebellious voice in the Valley. Political dialogue has got to be started immediately because only a political solution will settle the mess that has been compounded over the years.The ‘war crimes’ on the civilian population are quite obviously increasing because of the impunity  provided to the forces under AFSPA.

If the government of the day in New Delhi was serious in settling the crisis in the Valley it should have started off with an immediate dialogue with the Kashmiris and their Hurriyat leaders. It could have also started implementing several of the measures suggested by Yashwant Sinha, who along with four other members of his team, had visited the Valley, soon after the pellet gun injuries and killings had compounded the situation in the Valley in the autumn of 2016, after the security forces’ firing on the funeral procession of militant Burhan Wani and the aftermath that had continued for months.

Yashwant Sinha and his team members had met a cross section, including Hurriyat’s Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. This team had submitted its detailed report and some of those suggestions could have helped in the ‘healing process’; that is, if they were implemented by the government of the day. After all, the team had suggested release of first-time offenders and minors arrested under PSA, re-starting dialogue with the Separatists and a judicial probe on police excesses.

It had also suggested compensation to kin of the civilians killed and those wounded, rehabilitation packages for those permanently blinded by pellet guns and setting up of a blind school in Srinagar for children blinded by pellet guns. It called for a judicial commission into excesses by the police, especially the use of pellet guns.

The team had also focused on the fact that the search operations were resulting in destruction of property in Kashmir homes, “Apparently electrical and electronic gadgets are destroyed in the name of search operations. This continues even when the search operation yields nothing.”

Most significantly it had stressed on this basic factor –“Across the cross section of people we met there was anguish about India not recognizing that Kashmir was a dispute. The refusal to see Kashmir as a political issue, people claimed, had resulted in the present situation because a political issue cannot be solved through law and order measures.”

It’s quite obvious that the government is in no mood to solve the crisis in the Kashmir Valley. What is the point of giving speech after speech when the killings are continuing. An apology wouldn’t hold out. Ask the devastated families of those killed and ruptured by the unending violence.

Death and destruction hold out in the Valley. And as politicians have failed and their speeches are turning out to be bogus, it’s time that civil society and academics step in and help lessen the violence and the aftermath.