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Act fast in Kashmir before more virulent strains of militancy gain ground
Posted:Jun 2, 2017
 
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By Subrata Saha
 
In Nov-Dec 2014 India and its friends celebrated the unprecedented voter turnout in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections. 65 percent overall voter turnout in freezing temperatures, even as people were struggling to recover from the devastation caused by the terrible floods of Sep 2014. This was the victory of democracy, won over all attempts to boycott, disrupt and delay.
 
All political parties went on record to unambiguously acknowledge the fairness of the election. Arguably the successful elections removed the very cause for which the militancy began in 1989 i.e alleged rigging of elections.
 
It goes to the credit of all security agencies that not one civilian life was lost in the entire electoral process. This was the high point of military stability.
 
The atmosphere was charged with hope. Public discourse was on peace dividend, development and aspirations for a better future.
Unfortunately, the military stability was not followed by political stability. Two and a half years since then, the situation has slipped much down hill. While stone pelting by students is the new disturbing dimension in the visible spectrum of violence, public proclamation of Islamic Caliphate and Sharia by some militants is the other alarming component. The intensity and viciousness of the propaganda from Pakistan too has multiplied manifold.
 
Over the past couple of weeks we are witnessing some strict measures to regain military stability. In the past one week twelve terrorists have been eliminated in operations along the line of control and in the hinterland. With all the efforts put in by the security forces it is reasonable to assume that the military situation would stabilise once again. The challenge then is how quickly and how well we can bridge the gap between military stability and political stability.
 
Kashmir’s political space is usually contested between Hurriyat, Jamaat, militant and mainstream parties. This contest can get terribly complex as the new militant campaign driven by the idea of Sharia and the Caliphate is striving to capture the imagination of the people, particularly the youth.
 
Even though the Hizbul Mujahideen and the separatists seem to be distancing themselves from this new brand of militancy, it has ominous portent and merits close attention. The rapid spread of ISIS in Iraq and beyond, is a recent example in history of how horribly things can go wrong where political stability does not follow military stability.
 
In order to deal with the emerging situation, first and foremost the mainstream political leaders need to reassert themselves as the military situation improves. Last week there were reports of mainstream political rallies in Kupwara, Kalaroosh, Trehgam and Bandipura, all in North Kashmir. This is a positive development that needs to be intensified further, irrespective of ruling or opposition parties and extended to South Kashmir and Srinagar as well.
 
There was a statement from the Union home minister Rajnath Singh alluding to permanent solution on Kashmir. Both the content and timing of the message are very important. It has raised hope and more importantly it shows that the Central Government and the State Government are together and not in silos.
 
Kashmir has a huge youth population that is hesitant to step out because of lack of awareness, empowerment and apprehension. The spirit of entrepreneurship too is hardly developed.
 
Kashmir’s potential economic wealth remains much under actualised because of the prolonged disturbed situation and also lack of requisite skills and enterprise. Fortunately infrastructure like the internal road network is better than several other parts of the country. In order to optimise Kashmir’s economic potential all the three arteries connecting Kashmir to the other parts of the Country via Sinthan, Pir Ki Gali and of course Banihal need to be developed.
 
By connecting economics with security and education it is possible to actualise the untapped economic potential and also provide meaningful employment for the youth. With this potentially more virulent brand of Sharia-Caliphate driven militancy striving for popular support, time is of essence. If all the instruments i.e, politics, security, diplomacy, economic, social, information, education and justice get connected and focused, it is possible to turn the tables on our enemies in Kashmir.
 
 
 
 
 
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