Rebuilding trust

The eight-point package announced  by the Central government for Jammu and Kashmir may be seen as the first part of a firefighting operation in the state. It falls short of the demands made by even moderate elements in the state but that does not detract from its value as a gesture to the people. The all-party delegation that visited the state last week had a direct feel of the situation and no party could dismiss it as a case of estrangement caused by simple reasons. It is the result of complex factors, some of them historical, others relating to the incompetency of the present administration; some economic, others administrative and political, some substantive and many emotional. It is difficult to address all of them with a capsule in a short period and that’s why the package should be taken as only a first step.

The move to release those who have been detained for stone-pelting and other violations of the law, to reopen educational institutions which have been closed for long and to lift curfew in places are intended to encourage restoration of normal life in the Valley. But as responses from some sections have showed even this will be opposed by those who do not want normalcy. There is no direct mention of any thinking on relaxation or amendment of the AFSPA, which has been widely discussed. The government has done well to keep it so as any immediate gains from an AFSPA-related decision are uncertain and it is not even among the main demands of many sections. The decision to appoint interlocutors is a move to increase engagement with the society but this has been tried before without any tangible results. The credibility and acceptability of the persons might make a difference and therefore care should be taken in the choice of the persons for the job.

There is no time schedule set for implementation of some proposals in the package. There should not be any delay in implementation, as otherwise they will be taken as just another set of cosmetic measures announced by governments from to time. The most important task is to regain the trust of the people and make the local administration more effective. Once the situation stabilises in the state, more important demands like those relating to the limits of autonomy, which the government has agreed to consider, will have to be addressed.

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