By Joginder Singh
A CRPF inspector-general was transferred from Srinagar on August 13 following an uproar in the Kashmir Valley led by terrorists and their supporters against alleged excesses by the Central Reserve Police Force. He was also allegedly denied a Police Medal for fear of protests in the Valley. There is nothing new in this kind of approach from decision-makers as they are mostly somewhere else, safe in their air-conditioned rooms. But people facing dire life-and-death situations are always on the spot. Decision-makers assess the situation and sometimes pander to local sentiments by sacrificing people who are on the spot in the hope that it will bring peace and improve the situation. But this is simple application of "band aid" where a surgical operation is called for it.
Wherever a government has resorted to appeasement and compromised on basic values, it has invited more trouble. Terrorism in the Valley thrives or remains under check in direct proportion to the political will and strength to deal with it effectively. It commenced with the kidnapping of the daughter of a former home minister of India, who is also a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. To get her released, the government of the day set free five dreaded terrorists. I am an eyewitness to that part of history as I was, at that time, inspector-general of the Central Reserve Police Force in Srinagar.
The tendency to underplay has empowered terrorists to openly dictate to the people — about using purdah, closure of beauty parlours and cinemas houses, and raising pro-Pakistan slogans.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given a laudable call, from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 to shed communalism. Unfortunately, the agitation in the Valley is based on communal lines. However much we may wish, communalism in one generates communalism in others, in accordance with Newton’s Law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Otherwise, how could hordes of people, led by terrorists, start to march towards Pakistan. A series of misconceived policies have brought about this situation. Otherwise, how could a partner in a coalition government plead that Pakistani currency be made valid in Jammu and Kashmir.
It would be wrong to say that transferring 39.88 hectares of forest land to the Amarnath shrine board and its reaction in Jammu has led to the present situation. Lack of a clear policy and mollycoddling has led to the present chaos.
The question now arises as to what can be done and whether what is being done is sufficient? In 1990, midnight protests were sparked off by calls given by 1,100 mosques which had installed loud speakers to call the faithful to prayers. Loudspeakers in mosques are again being used to give calls for anti-national activities and asking people to gather in the streets at a particular spot. The then governor had ordered the disconnection of loudspeakers, which itself had led to protests.
In a highly communalised situation it is impossible to get any kind of evidence to prove someone’s anti-national activities as no witness would be willing to come forth to depose, even under the "witness protection act". At present there is no "witness protection act" available.
Margaret Thatcher used to say that publicity is oxygen for terrorism. Any publicity which eulogises terrorism should be discouraged, if not entirely banned. Terrorist leaders, their supporters and sympathisers should be immobilised by using the present laws and detained outside Jammu and Kashmir.
The government has announced a pension scheme for the families of terrorists on the grounds that it is not their fault if their children have become terrorists. This system is fraught with danger, and the sooner it is given up the better. Why should only Kashmiris be selected for this government munificence when people in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Assam and other north-eastern states may have similar claims. It should not become a scheme to help anti-national and traitorous elements. Many so-called intellectuals talk about a referendum in the Valley. With Pakistan having hijacked the anti-national elements, any referendum or election will be irrelevant at present. The first priority is to drive the Pakistani terrorists out of the Valley and send them to the country of their origin or to push them to meet their "maker". The government should stop all talk of a dialogue with terrorists who are nothing more than front men of Pakistan. Only a tough approach will send the right signal that the government means business.
The government is spending much more on Kashmir than it is on other states. A Kashmiri gets eight times more money from the Centre than citizens of other states. While per capita Central assistance to other states moved from Rs 576.24 in 1992-93 to Rs 1,137 in 2000-01, for Kashmiris it spiralled from Rs 3,197 to Rs 8,092. For a perspective translate the numbers: If this cash, managed by the state government, were to be despatched by money-order each Kashmiri family (with five members on an average) would get Rs 40,460 every year.
Without Central assistance Jammu and Kashmir cannot even pay wages to its employees. It is reported that the benefits of Central funds have remained confined to only about 150 families in Kashmir. The rest of the money has disappeared — either it was not spent or spent improperly or simply drained off. The benefits of Central aid have not reached the common man in Kashmir, who has not developed a stake in India. The government’s number one priority should be to root out corruption. With these steps it should be possible to send the right message to both, Pakistan and its henchmen and the people of the Valley.
Joginder Singh is a former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi