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'Peace has not been 'miraculously restored' in Kashmir'

By RASHME SEHGAL
August 03, 2022 17:24 IST
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'A threatened people should not be forcibly held in a place where their lives may be at risk.'

IMAGE: A Kashmiri Pandit protest in Srinagar. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

On Friday, August 5, 2022, it will be three years since Parliament abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The state of J&K was split up into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Dr Ajai Sahni, executive director, Institute of Conflict Management, has been documenting terrorist activity and its concomitant of security issues across the sub-continent for the last three decades.

"We must recognise the long term and dramatic decline in violence (in J&K) since 2007... This is the achievement principally of the security forces and intelligence apparatus, particularly of the J&K police, over successive regimes. I don't think any extraordinary credit accrues to the 'policies' of the present regime, particularly the action on Article 370," Dr Sahni tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Rashme Sehgal, "I do not accept the premise that a threatened people should be forcibly held in a place where their lives may be at risk."

Part two of a three-part interview:

 

For the nearly 6,000 workers from Kashmiri Pandit and other Hindu groups, the J&K government plans to shift them to district headquarters in J&K itself from where they can continue to work.
But the majority do not find this plan acceptable as they believe they will remain soft targets each time they step outside the protected perimeters of their camps.

J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh has publicly stated that targeted killings would remain a challenge in the UT as long as 'there is presence of gun, militants and involvement of Pakistan.'

I don't think the safety and security of the Pandits, and of other Hindus working in the Valley, including in its district headquarters, can be guaranteed in the current environment.

Indeed, vulnerabilities to targeted attacks are likely to be even greater in larger urban areas than in mofussil and rural areas.

In any event, I do not accept the premise that a threatened people should be forcibly held in a place where their lives may be at risk.

When the situation actually normalises, I cannot see any reason why the Pandits would not return to their homes voluntarily, eagerly.

IMAGE: Jammu-based government employees posted in Kashmir at a protest demanding their transfer to their home districts. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Kashmir Pandits state that they are witnessing a second mass exodus from the Valley reminiscent of the one that took place in 1990.

The sentiments of the Pandits must be respected, and there is no doubt that their personal and subjective sense of peril must be tremendous.

However, there is little comparison between the two situations.

For one thing, the numbers currently present in the Valley are minuscule; for another, while the targeted killings are reminiscent of the past, the wider movement of intimidation by the majority population is not comparable, though there is still visible hostility to the minorities.

Further, the near-complete breakdown of the law-and-order apparatus and of the administration in end 1989 early 1990 is nowhere in evidence now.

None of these differences can, however, reassure a population segment -- however small -- that is facing a direct threat of targeted attacks; attacks, we must recognise, that have been successful in several cases despite the current and massive security force presence and dominance in the UT.

IMAGE: J&K police personnel at the site of the encounter -- in the Kreesbal Palpora Sangam area of Srinagar, June 12, 2022 -- in which Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Adil Parray, who was involved in murdering two police personnel, was killed. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

These constant attacks fly in the face of the government claims of peace having been restored in J&K.

I think this is certainly one of the several indices visible in J&K that testify that peace has not been 'miraculously restored' in the UT.

We must recognise, however, the long term and dramatic decline in violence since 2007, even if peaks and troughs occur cyclically, and though much lower levels of violence had been secured by 2012.

This is the achievement principally of the security forces and intelligence apparatus, particularly of the J&K police, over successive regimes.

I don't think any extraordinary credit accrues to the 'policies' of the present regime, particularly the action on Article 370.

Violence had fallen to a much lower level under the previous UPA government, with 121 total fatalities, including 19 civilians, in 2012 (Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal data).

That level is still far from being restored under the present regime.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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