Delhi goes the extra mile to walk the talk

Paradise lost: Balm and bandaid for wounded hearts and minds

While there is no word on autonomy, the confidence building measures (CBM), announced after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, would help in addressing various aspects of life in Jammu and Kashmir, be it humanitarian measures in education, development, release of arrested stone-throwers etc.

The two measures of the comprehensive peace package which will have long-term impact would be, announcement relating to appointment of interlocutors and one on disturbed areas. While the first will result in installing an institutionalised mechanism that will talk to all stake-holders, including separatists, the second refers to the long-standing demand of political parties, mainly the main partner of the ruling coalition – National Conference.

The appointment of interlocutors would mean that after a long while the Centre would be looking at holding negotiations with the Kashmiri groups.

Former home secretary and present state governor N N Vohra and later, BJP leader and former Planning Commission deputy chairperson K C Pant had donned the role of interlocutors. Like Pant, who was appointed by the then NDA government, the UPA government is expected to appoint a politician as chairman of the group of interlocutors, official sources say. Will it be someone like Oscar Fernandes who was once involved in Naga talks? One will have to wait for some time.

Looking at a negotiated settlement to the Kashmir problem was the principal stand of all the political parties that visited the state last week and on whose inputs most the CBMs of the package have been based. With the mechanism of interlocutors being a permanent mission, it will give the Centre and the stake-holders considerble leeway and manoeuvrability.

This is also an acknowledgement – for the first time in many years – of the acceptance of a need for negotiations.

The second point – of review of disturbed areas – was a sore point in the relations between the people of the state and the governments of the state and the Centre. While earlier, the state government demanded that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act be reviewed or diluted, the armed forces had strongly opposed it. 

However, the CCS has found a way out. Instead of diluting the AFSPA, it has decided to review the notification of disturbed areas. The AFSPA is an enabling Act and derives its powers through the application of Disturbed Areas Act. Thus if an area is not declared as disturbed, the AFSPA will not be applicable. Earlier, beleaguered Chief Minister Omar Ahdullah wanted the AFSPA to go in districts such as Srinagar, Ganderbal, Budgam in Kashmir region and Jammu, Samba and Kathua in Jammu region. The Manipur example was often referred to, where AFSPA was withdrawn from Imphal not long ago.
In this regard, the Centre has asked the CM to convene a meeting of the Unified Command, which he said he would do so this week itself. 

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