It’s time for the government to get tough on Kashmir

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While New Delhi gropes for a prescription to restore normalcy in the Kashmir Valley, it should be painfully evident that there are very few options before the government. In  the event, the Cabinet has rightly decided to convene an All-Party meeting on September 15 to take stock of the situation and try to build a political consensus over the course it is likely to take. While the Prime Minister has repeatedly reiterated his readiness to talk to anyone on the legitimate aspirations of Kashmiris, and although he has been forthright in asserting that the grievances of Kashmiri youth need to be addressed, he has been badly let down by political leaders of the Valley. Rather than strengthen the PM’s position, their encouragement of senseless violence and provocative actions have, quite unnecessarily, closed the door to dialogue. Any kind of talk with separatists is no longer an option. Nor does the government have much choice but to continue with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (SPA). Dilution of the Act at this point would not only be counter-productive but would also be interpreted as New Delhi’s weakness, besides giving a fillip to a similar demand in North-eastern states.

It’s time for New Delhi to signal that its patience has worn thin and that it cannot be taken for granted. Separatist leaders need to give a commitment on maintaining normalcy as a pre-requisite for talks. Even the political and economic package for the state that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been pressing for must wait till the situation simmers down. While New Delhi must address the governance-deficit and the trust-deficit in the state that the official statement on September 13 alluded to, it would be a colossal mistake to dilute the authority of Abdullah junior. The young Chief Minister has reasons to feel frustrated and he rightly feels that he has been pushed to the ring with one of his arms tied behind his back. He needs to be given the support that he needs.

While the government must take a long-term view of the discontent, alienation and restlessness that one sees in the Valley, the Opposition needs to resist the temptation of scoring political points over the sensitive issue. That is because the nation cannot afford to speak in different voices on how to deal with the challenges in the Valley.

Courtesy: The Tribune

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