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The mess in Kashmir, and the Government being ineffective in doing anything to counter it




The current mess in Kashmir offers no easy option for the Government in terms of how to handle the situation, and bring the overall situation to the peace that was there just a few months ago. After a long period of time, the Indian Government was feeling happy about the situation in Kashmir. Tourists were arriving in droves, the local economy was working fine, security incidents were minimum in terms of attacks by terrorists (and the casualties in terms of deaths in violent incidents as well as in cross-fire between the security forces and the terrorists was at a minimum). Further, in the overall situation, the tolerance for using terrorism as a method of furthering their goals had gone out of style, and as a result, support structure and media support for the terrorist movement in Kashmir had been drastically reduced, giving the Government a big plus. Also, local elections had been held and there was enough participation by the local electorate that a claim of electoral boycott could not be sustained.
And then, everything turned upside down. There seems to have been a new strategy in place to bring the status of Kashmir back to a boil, using the weapon a public protest. Public protests can be very difficult to handle, since you are no longer dealing with terrorists whom you can attack with the full force of security weapons, and without too many political issues. In this case, the Government is dealing with normal citizens, with young men, with women, and with many others. They pelt stones at the security forces, target individual policemen, try to burn and destroy Government institutions, and in a case of what one would think to be suicidal actions, they target the barracks and the posts of the security services. And as a result, even though the state Government has tried to restrain the security forces from harsh action, the direct attacks on the security forces have resulted in firing.

This firing has inflamed the crowds even more, with the funeral processions leading to more attacks. In such firing, even bystanders have got injured, or died. The Government believes that all this is being plotted by more extremist members of the Hurriyat, including from the Geelani faction, since the terror angle does not any longer seem a very feasible action. So far, this mass action has been fairly successful, since it has led to a complete shut-down of the valley (with the entire valley being under a total curfew now, the first time this has happened in many years). It has also led the Government to be hunting for a strategy as to what to do, since it seems that the state Government of Omar Abdullah has been singularly unable to bring the situation under control. The Government is being blamed for letting the situation totally go out of hand, with Omar Abdullah not being seen as an effective leader who can make the situation better.
The Central Government also seems totally unable to do anything significant, since it does not know whom to negotiate with, and cannot just simply drop Omar Abdullah since there are not too many alternatives. The situation cannot be let to go on, since it is a political dangerous situation; any Government that seems to suppress a revolt by citizenry cannot get the support it would expect if it was fighting a terrorist action.
The Government needs to do something quickly, since the situation cannot be allowed to go on. At the same time, some desperate steps such as removing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is not a solution. In this surcharged atmosphere, taking some half-baked steps that removes the special protection from the army is not a solution. Instead, the Government needs to identify the ring-leaders who are working behind the scenes, try and restart the local economy, have a discussion with more moderate members of the Hurriyat, and work the steps needed to try and stabilize things. There are no easy options, but the Government needs to continue, and use all the skills at its disposal.




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