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Need to win hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people

As such we should  understand that we not only need to  use force to neutralise militants but at same time make  every effort to  win hearts and minds of Kashmiri people.
Feb 22, 2019
There is a feeling of general outrage  after the terrorist attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy  in Pulwama close to Srinagar in Kashmir in which 42 paramilitary troopers were killed and some injured. The attack was carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohamad  module (it claimed responsibility) in which a suicide  bomber crashed a car laden with  explosives into the 78-vehicle convoy travelling from Jammu to Srinagar. This follows audacious  attacks carried out by  Pakistan based outfits on an Indian Army camp in Uri and an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in 2016.
The Pakistani national who Indian agencies said was a mastermind of the latest attack has been killed in counter action   by Indian security forces. There is, however, widespread demand for  more action against the militant groups based in Pakistan and their supporters in Kashmir. Militancy has become a major  point of conflict between India and Pakistan.  The Indian government  was further annoyed by the response of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who  instead of condemning the attack  and  promising action  asked for credible proof  before action could be taken. He totally ignored series of dossiers  provided to Pakistan authorities after the Mumbai attack or attack on the Pathankot base.
It is no secret that the Indian security  forces will have to take  appropriate action against  Pakistan at the time and date  of their choosing . The Government of India has given free hand to the forces in matter of tactics. But at the same time an unfortunate trend has been observed  like attacks on Kashmiri traders and students staying and working  in different parts of the country. This is condemnable  and should be put down with a heavy hand. After all,  as we claim in one voice that Kashmir is a part of India, we also should own up Kashmiri people as part of India in one voice.
Kashmir has held several free and fair  elections to elect members of the state assembly  and faced open attacks as well as guerrilla warfare for several decades. We  have been able  to defeat them because  a majority of Kashmiri people chose  to side with India and helped us by providing information about  the intruders from Pakistan and local militants. As a result of it in majority of cases persons involved  in any major attack have been neutralised. As such we should  understand that we not only need to  use force to neutralise militants but at same time make  every effort to  win hearts and minds of Kashmiri people.
No amount of force can hold any territory nor it is desirable to hold any territory by force only. The lesson of Kashmir has been that it chose to be a part of India  by its own will because it wanted to be a part of secular India  and not join Pakistan because of its religious link only. The first resistance was offered to Pakistan’s attempt to occupy Kashmir by force was provided by Sheikh Abdullah and men belonging  to the National Conference before Indian troops could reach Kashmir Valley.
This correspondent,  who has covered Kashmir for over two decades,  saw the local people provided first information about attempts at cross-border incursions  in 1965 when the the Pakistani army backed irregulars had  reached some parts of city including one colony close to police lines. The same story was repeated in 1971 when a war broke out  between India and Pakistan on the issue of  Bangladesh leading to division of Pakistan  and capture of  over 100,000  Pakistani soldiers  by Indian forces.
As such we have to realise that the battle between India and Pakistan on Kashmir  can be won not only by bravery and zeal of  Indian forces  but also by winning  battle for hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people. It is no secret that in the last two years the situation in Kashmir has not been normal and also witnessed a rise  in  recruitment of locals in ranks of militants. This situation needs to be changed.
Along with action by security forces we also need political action to  attend to all grievances of the local people. As Jammu and Kashmir  is under  central rule, it is the responsibility  of the central government  to undertake this task. It should try to control militancy  and restore peace. Whenever good governance was provided in the past progress was made.
Kashmir under the Indian constitution  has been provided a special status  through Article 370 and an assurance  needs to be given  that  this will be maintained. The same in some form has been provided to the Northeast also. These mechanism only strengthen the integrity of the nation as India is an example of unity amidst  diversity.
(The author is a veteran journalist and commentator)

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