Monday, August 22, 2016
Kashmir: Passing the Parcel : By Maj Gen SG Vombatkere, VSM (Retd)
NEW DELHI:Monday, August 22, 2016
Kashmir has been continuously on the boil ever since Burhan Wani was killed 44 days ago. Appeals by the BJP-PDP state government and the union government to Kashmiri youth to not agitate, have been predictably ineffective. That the problem is political at its root has been pointed out by many, who have (again predictably) been dubbed by the ruling dispensation as peaceniks, pussy-footers, anti-nationals, and so on. However, the hawks support the Centre and have it that it is clearly a Pakistan-created law-and-order problem created by terrorists from Pakistan, which needs to be met with the combined force of state police, CAPFs and the army.
In this situation, Lt Gen D.S.Hooda, GOC-in-C Northern Command, said that the current crisis cannot be solved by any one person or one organization. [“The Indian Army Says It As It Is in Kashmir”; The Citizen; August 21, 2016] His adding “.. this is not a political statement. It is a statement of facts because everybody is involved, whether it is security forces, separatists, governments, student leaders, so my appeal is to everyone. I think we need to find some way forward in this”, shows that the way forward in the reality of the ground situation is multi-stakeholder political action. While the general needs to be commended for expressing his views unambiguously, it needs to be noted that some of his predecessors have said quite the same thing, namely, that political problems need political solutions, and the power of the gun barrel has time-limited effectiveness.
Viewing stone-throwing protestors as Pakistan-instigated “aggressors out to divide the country” [“Pakistan fuelling J&K unrest: Jaitley”; “The Hindu”, p.1; ] appears at odds with ground realities. Whatever other political purpose it may serve, it is unlikely to mitigate the current crisis, leave alone solve the problem.
History has repeatedly shown that the use of force, especially lethal military force, can only have short-term effectiveness. The Centre under the UPA and now under the NDA, does not seem capable of understanding that the army is its instrument of last resort, and continuing to use it over decades carries its trailing signal of political incompetence and ineffective governance. The army (with the accompanying AFSPA) is government’s trump card when all else fails. How many trump cards does the Centre hold, and what happens when the trump cards are exhausted, are questions which the BJP-PDP state government and the BJP-led Centre might like to consider.
“Passing the parcel” is a children’s party game played by participants seated in a circle, who quickly pass the parcel from hand to hand while music plays. When the music is stopped, the holder of the parcel has to accept the “forfeit” contained in it. Over the decades in Kashmir (and also in our northeast), the “parcel” of governance has been passed from player to player, but it might seem that while it is held by the present incumbents, the music may stop. What would the forfeit be? However, a realistic assessment and holistic multi-stakeholder review of the situation may not only keep the music playing, but also bring laurels of meaningful political handling to the Centre. But indications are that this is unlikely, and the forfeit may be something unacceptable.
(Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired in 1996 as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG's Branch. He is a member of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).