Underlining the need for breaking cycles of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, senior minister and government spokesperson Naeem Akhter on Monday asked “policymakers of country” to stop treating the state “merely as a security enterprise”.
“In the process of curbing violence, the ecosystem of hope and resolution should not be vandalised or trampled upon. Kashmir is not to be conquered every day, but a place that is waiting for a meaningful outreach as promised by the Prime Minister NarendraModi in his much-hailed Independence Day speech.
Without naming anybody the minister said some latest remarks of “people in positions of power” to shift the focus from underlying political nature of Kashmir problem, takes away from sufferings of people in the state, and it creates a negative influence on process of reconciliation.
The strong-worded statement from Akhter comes days after Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) ally BJP rebuffed it over the demand of unilateral ceasefire in J&K. Senior ministers and functionaries from state BJP as well as a minister in PMO opposed the call for unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir and supported continuance of anti-military operations in the Valley. On Sunday the defense minister NirmalaSitharaman told media that Army has to “firmly handle” any militant activity that threatens the peace and harmony of J&K, indicating that a unilateral ceasefire as demanded by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was not a feasible option.
“While security of the country should be of foremost priority, we still believe that the best security can be guaranteed by a gratified local population whose sentiments are respected and viewpoint heard,” said the minister.
The PDP led state government finds itself in the midst of growing criticisms over rising civilian fatalities in government forces’ action during gunfights with militants. Since the beginning of this year more than 60 people including militants and protestors have been killed in the forces’ action. From May 1 alone at least eight civilians have been killed by the forces, six of them in the volatile Shopian alone. The civilian killings and the “trend” of setting residential houses in which militants are holed-up on fire is leading to simmering anger on the ground.
Referring to the civilian killings, the minister said the forces must make distinction between “infiltrators” and local population, and ensure that lives of ordinary people were protected and their property doesn’t suffer damage.
“While security forces have been repeatedly advised to take care of collateral damage and they have by and large been receptive, voices representing are doing a great injustice to their work. We have to steer clear of the dangerous pitfalls of speaking in muscular narratives. The resolution to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir has to be inclusive and reconciliatory with involvement of people for durable peace.”
While the government has appeared helpless over rising civilian fatalities the signals coming from New Delhi that it would continue with the iron fist approach towards Kashmir has now added to its worries. In the past two months the Chief Minister has at least on seven occasions urged New Delhi to initiate dialogue on Kashmir. But every time New Delhi has brushed off the concerns of the state government.
Talking about the need for political intervention on Kashmir, Akhter said any security challenge can be dealt with in a better manner through political initiative that should not be “sacrificed for shallow ideas” aimed at sparking chaos and eroding faith of people in institutions of democracy.
Akhter said after the events of 1947 when subcontinent was divided between India and Pakistan, the state J&K opted to go with India in the belief of shared ideals of democracy, diversity and dignity in mutual coexistence. “It is with the objective of reviving the original spirit of association of Jammu and Kashmir with New Delhi that the PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed entered into extraordinary coalition with the BJP. It will be tragic if this exciting experiment in nation building and inclusiveness is sought to be reduced to a military enterprise. It is time to realize the importance of this bond and harness our political potential by addressing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding former Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee’s model of reconciliation worked like a “miracle”, ushering a new era of peace and prosperity in J&K which is still being talked about with a sense of pride and relief.