SINHA’S OLIVE BRANCH IS WEAK

LG’s remarks on peace are a bit refreshing but far from re-assuring and promising

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s bid to strike a reconciliatory note in an effort to bring peace may have been welcome but for two things. Sinha’s two recent statements mark a slight departure from the rigid posturing of the central government ever since the region was stripped of its special status and brought under a stringent lockdown. One was his averment that all violence needs to be condemned, whether the casualties are civilian or security forces, without being selective.

The other was the appeal to local militants to shun the path of violence in lieu of which he promised to help them with jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Does this reflect the line of thinking within the party ruling New Delhi? The state BJP leaders have vehemently opposed Sinha’s softening postures and batted for an ultra-violent and unforgiving policy as a recipe to end militancy. There is as yet no reaction from the party high command in Delhi and that is what matters more. It is hoped that there is larger realisation in the government that militancy cannot be entirely combated by pursuing the ‘gun for gun’ policy, the LG’s prescription may be ineffective.

Rehabilitation policies for militants are not new and have been tried by previous regimes without much success because of the massive gap between the professed promises and the implementation on the grounds. Secondly, the rehabilitation promise hinged on an incorrect reading of the genesis of militancy. Sinha seems to be repeating the same mistakes even if the intentions are noble. Though, it cannot be ruled out that some people in the last three decades took to militancy simply because they were frustrated by their economic conditions or due to rampant religious radicalisation, but by and large militancy has been an offshoot of an existing and unaddressed political dispute and is further exacerbated by the human rights crisis.

It is well documented that many young men, particularly in the recent past, chose to give up their lucrative career prospects after being disillusioned by the political situation and the lack of democratic space to express dissent. A quick glance at the chronology of different phases of insurgency in Kashmir reveals that it has been more benign within an enabling atmosphere of peace process and enlarging the space for freedom of expression and is exacerbated in the face of denial of that space, resulting in massive human rights abuse that in turn acts as a major fuel. In today’s time, Jammu and Kashmir is far from that ideal situation.

India-Pakistan situation continues to be hostile and the borders resultantly tense and violent. In present times, the country is also riddled with fresh challenges from the northern borders with China. Such hostile climates coupled with deepening sense of alienation and abject despair within do not inspire the confidence that is required for peace building and conciliation. Sinha’s olive branch may have been well-intentioned but this branch is cracked. He should instead try and listen to what Kashmiri youth want and understand why they are pushed to pick up the gun. He may need to begin first of all by providing a democratic space, ensure that civil liberties are respected and allow people the freedom to speak.