A turning point ?

It will indeed give a bloodier tinge to an already bloody situation.No fantasy this. Just innocence or call it inability to understand the grim implications of the altered strategy of the Security Forces’ operations in Kashmir valley; it would be simplistic to dub it a sea change for the simple reason that the end result of the change spells untold misery and devastation, if implemented with accustomed military vigour. It will indeed give a bloodier tinge to an already bloody situation.

It spells deaths and more deaths not just of the militants but also of innocent civilian populations whose only fault would be that a militant or militants chose to show up in their particular area, or, worse still, if with noticeable increase in the number of local youth falling prey to the lure of martyrdom, belongs to where the Security Forces are already engaged in their cordon and search operation,an euphemism for “encounters”. God save the ordinary residents, for once the forces have got a whiff of a militant presence in a particular area they now descend upon it under the cover of darkness – a strategic choice, we are told – to hunt down the offending presence of militants. And God help those who come in the way of the Security Forces’ charge, be it a house or some houses used as a temporary staging post by the fleeing/fighting militants choice.

By the time you hear the first chirp of the sparrow it is time to count the dead militants, unfortunate residents caught in the crossfire and any number of houses razed in hot pursuit or simply set on fire as the fiery encounters rage on for the night. The darkness of the night combined ironically with fitful power supply, add to the eeriness of the scene. No, this, on the face of it is not an effort to bring a quick end to the growing militancy in parts of the valley, this also is no part of that overworked phrase of winning the hearts and minds of the people, younger hearts and minds in particular. Had that been an Army General would not have gloated earlier last week over 13 deaths in the Shopian region, making it appear as some kind of a new beginning in the war against militancy in the State. A war conducted in darkness of the night. There was no mention at all of winning over the hearts and minds of a harried population, as distinct from those engaged in acts of militancy.

Silly me, I was still groping for a glimmer of hope wishing that out there, hidden in the stern military verbiage, caught between sentences there might be a mention, even a cursory one, to what a former Chief Minister of the State, Mufti Sayeed always liked to flaunt: the healing touch. His successor and daughter the present Chief Minister Mehbboba Mufti does refer to it occasionally but without conviction, it would appear; she has given expression to her anguish over recent happenings in the valley but far too feeble for partner Bharatiya Janata Party to listen to, often drowned by the latter’s approving “kill kill” cacophony, virtually giving the approving nods of the tough Security measures. I was still to come to terms with the underlying message conveyed by the Security Forces, hoping against hope, despite the ground reality of pervading gloom, there might be a hopeful twist somewhere along the way for the younger, educated, unemployed population which has nowhere to turn to, certainly not to an uncaring State or the Centre. A tragedy this, for, as the Shopian killings of last week revealed some of those killed were barely a week old in the militant ranks, perhaps yet to learn proper use of a gun, driven into militant ranks by a sense of suffocation.The Security Forces and their political masters in Delhi must meanwhile continue to celebrate without realizing that a breakthrough in Kashmir will come out not from a body count but through dialogue whether it is within Kashmir or with Pakistan.

This is a reality New Delhi has to face up to. Repeated assertions that Kashmir is an internal issue and that the only dispute with Pakistan is over the LoC or as some of Mr Modi’s junior colleagues like to repeat parrot-like “the getting back of the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. (Azad Kashmir to Pakistanis). A General had no hesitation in gloating over a triumph his men had scored the previous night It had been a special day for counter-terrorism. Which indeed it must have been,even against a backdrop of blood and gore dating back some three decades at the last count. I have no bones to pick with the soldiers and their commanders who were only carrying out the latest orders from the war room presided over by their saffronite political master. A digression here would seem to be in order unrelated though it may seem to the happenings in the Muslim majority Kashmir. Here is a poser from someone whom I have held in high esteem over the decades, a Retired Muslim bureaucrat and an internationally recognized literary figure, a “naqaad” par excellence.

Shamsur Rehman Farooqi observes “almost none of the Muslims who live now in India were born when partition drove a live dagger into the heart of the Indian people. So who among the contemporary Indian Muslims, in the eye of the majoritarian, deserves blame for partition ?” Or, when he asks “we have Ministers who offer us a choice between Ramzadas and Haramzadas. There are Ministers who tell us that he who doesn’t vote for the BJP should go to Pakistan. We have Ministers who declare that no one saw a monkey change into a man, so evolution must be false. We have a Prime Minister who boasts that the God Ganesha’s elephant head proves that there was organ transplant in ancient India. This in a country where innumerable jobless, illiterate, desperately poor people go without food and shelter every day. Will this go away when the Muslim male throws away his wretched skull cap?