'It's govt's duty to ensure the safe return of kashmiri pandits'

A recent controversy to hit Kashmir was the reported intent of the NDA government to move back 7,000 displaced kashmiri pandit families to a safe zone in the state.

 Some people have called it a separate homeland within their home state where the government would ensure their safe rehabilitation. The move has however attracted extreme hostility from the Islamists, represented by the grand mufti and ostensibly backed by the Hurriyat who have declared their intent to oppose the move tooth and nail. They have termed it a conspiracy aimed at religious confrontation and have gone on to question the very fact of Kashmir being an unalienable part of India. Pakistan has voiced the same formulation on international platforms. Close nexus is clear as daylight. 

The controversy has more recently taken the form of a confrontation between the state government headed by the Abdullahs and the NDA government at the Centre on the issue of talks with Pakistan. The Muftis are ambivalent in the fond hope that they may get the lion’s share of political spoils at the hustings, resulting from the discord. How else can one explain the state government’s resolution demanding that the Indian government take responsibility for continuing dialogue with Pakistan and Mehbooba’s reluctance to support the Indian decision to call off the foreign secretary level talks?

When Pakistan invaded Kashmir immediately after India’s partition in 1947 its aim was to present a fait accompli before Maharaja Hari Singh decided on the alternatives of accession and independence. In the event, the Indian Army ensured that Pakistan could not take Kashmir but the shortsighted reference to the United Nations by Nehru enabled it to retain control over a sizable part of the state.

Ever since 1965 when it tried to exploit India’s military discomfiture in 1962, Pakistan has known that it can not take Kashmir by force.  None the less, it believes and with good logic, that India being a soft state with a definite political constituency advocating  Muslim appeasement, can be severely harassed and hurt in Kashmir and elsewhere without the risk of its bluff being called. 

 Pakistan’s policy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts came about, not as reflection of its hope of annexing Kashmir but as a reaction to India’s role in the formation of Bangladesh. This policy is likely to continue unabated. Firstly ,because India has continued to remain soft, gullible and indecisive and secondly, because Pakistan has tasted a degree of success through building a militant pro Pakistan constituency in the state. 

Indian policy of extreme accommodation of separatist elements – not just the Hurriyat and the Mirwaiz but political opportunists and black mailers like the Abdullahs and Saeeds, has emboldened Pakistan. That Pakistan is a less than responsible nuclear armed state is not the  basis of its emboldenment or our politically defensive attitude. Pakistan understands very well that India is more than its match in military strength. Pakistan will lose big in any military conflict. Yet it puts its faith in the pussy footing tendencies of the Indian ruling classes.

Foolhardy adventure

There is no realistic possibility of a military adventure by Pakistan in the foreseeable future. Given their experience in Siachen and Kargil, its own internal war with the Taliban coupled with the dire state of its economy and a less than reassuring relationship with the United States, it will be foolhardy for the Pakistani military establishment to even contemplate military adventurism.  

The only course open to Pakistan is to divert the attention of its people away from its internal miseries by exporting terrorism to India and Afghanistan and finding more employment avenues for its youth through Jamat ul Dawa, Lashkar e Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Taliban, Al Qaeda and now the ISIS.

In this context, a renewed public agitation in Kashmir fully supported from across the border, is very much on the cards. 

Alarmists would argue that any hard action on rehabilitating kashmiri pandits or attempts to abrogate or dilute Article 370 will lead to uncontrollable eruption of public agitation which India can ill afford. But then, such agitation is not predicated on any  hard action by the Indian state. American withdrawal from Afghanistan may well release some terrorists for action in Kashmir and an agitation coupled with enhanced terrorism will, in all probability, be launched by the Hurriyat with tacit support from local politicians?  Even the Congress, PDP and NC can be depended upon to invent an excuse whenever considered opportune. 

What is most important for India is to tame these political terrorists in the state. It is they who provide sustenance and encouragement for Pakistani mischief. Without this support, cross border terrorists will be helpless. 

Successive UPA regimes have shied away from mitigating the extreme misery being inflicted on the kashmiri pandits on the pretext of likely Muslim hostility to their return. Ethnic cleansing in Kashmir and atrocities committed on the valley pandits has no parallel in history barring the holocaust during World war II and Bosnia. 

It is the sovereign duty of the Indian state to rehabilitate these hapless refugees. Providing a safe homeland to them within the valley is an idea whose time has come. Article 370 is irrelevant and redundant in present circumstances. This is the quagmire that breeds  extreme corruption and pathetic governance in the state. It is equally opportune to do away with Article 370 at the earliest. Let these actions mark the first 365 days of the NDA government. People of India will stand by the government decision and the defence forces can be relied upon to handle the rest.

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