How Rahul Bhat’s murder raises questions about Modi govt’s Kashmir strategy
The cold-blooded murder of Kashmiri Pandit, Rahul Bhat, a Government Employee in Budgam in the Kashmir Valley by terrorists, has raised questions about the effectiveness of the Modi Government’s Kashmir strategy.
Let’s try to understand the issues involved with the proper perspective.
Unlike the people of the other Indian states where there is a significant mix of people from fighter Hindu communities (like Kastriyas) and other able-bodied men (of other communities including SCs and STs), Kashmiri Hindus are mostly Brahmins who are not physical fighters but more intellectually inclined.
Though the Modi government has done quite a lot to solve the complicated Kashmir terrorism issue, starting with the abrogation of Article 370, many critics (including those who normally support Modi) believe nothing much has been accomplished in Kashmir. Ironically, even PDP, NC, and other covert and overt terrorist-supporting organizations fault the government for this murder.
Most people don’t seem to realize that it is not possible for any government to solve such a complicated problem by waving a magic wand. Many seem to believe that PM Modi and J&K Governor Manoj Sinha could have stopped Rahul Bhat from being killed. They should realize that it is difficult to stop small victories of guerrillas in guerrilla warfare anywhere in the world, more so in a vibrant democracy like India where the government’s hands and feet are tied by an ultra-liberal system.
The simplest thing that leaders of Pakistani and/ or Indian terrorist groups have to do to succeed in their designs is to kill just one or two Kashmiri Pandits, their Muslim sympathizers and/ or security personnel, now and then. Immediately, there would be a lot of commotion, which is precisely what the enemies want.
Had this been happening in any other state, the fighter community among the Hindus would have challenged the terrorists and at least the task of the terrorists wouldn’t have been as easy. And when deaths do happen, they would happen on both sides and the commotion would be far less.
Most of the population of Kashmir valley are Muslims. A significantly large proportion of them is at least sympathizers of the terrorists if not active accomplices. Another large proportion of them remains silent when they watch a murder by terrorists in front of their eyes, for fear of their lives. Sure enough, quite a number of Muslims stand up against terrorism but they are targets of the terrorists too.
This situation was not of Modi’s making. He just inherited this challenge.
Kashmiri Pandits (and even non-Pandit Hindus) don’t have the same plans for Kashmir. Some want to go back to their original homes in Kashmir, some want some safe space in Kashmir to live in, and all expect the government to protect them somehow or the other; some say enough is enough and have given up thoughts of going back to Kashmir.
Except for the fact that they all want justice, they don’t appear to have any specific workable solution, and if some have, it is not in the public domain.
While the government is being faulted for not having solved the problem fully yet, no one has a specific idea of what the government could have done. In the TV debates, no participant including retired police or defence staff has proposed any workable idea.
Some believe the government has not acted strongly enough, but no one has spelled out what such action should be. No responsible government at the Centre can resort to methods that won’t stand up to legal scrutiny.
The government should handle the issue sensitively so as not to alienate the various sections of the society, giving a wrong impression to the international community that the government is partisan. Strong-arm methods will only complicate things.
So, how can the government solve the problem?
In my view, the government should invite opinion leaders among Kashmiri Pandits to become part of the solution, by giving them an advisory role and trying to genuinely implement their suggestions unless they are not implementable for some reason.
In the absence of any substantive suggestion from Kashmiri Hindus, my personal suggestion, to start with, is to shift most of the government offices to the Jammu region, at least temporarily (till normalcy returns to Kashmir valley with a complete stoppage of killings and other acts of terror), and transfer the employees to Jammu, but give them the option to work from the office in Kashmir valley (in the interest of most of the Kashmiri Muslim employees). Since the world has learned to work significantly remotely due to Covid, this should be possible.
J&K Assembly can also function mainly from Jammu, enhancing the role of Jammu as the Capital. This may save some money, but that would be incidental. This will lead to more importance to Jammu, which may be resented by Kashmiris no doubt but there appear to be no easy alternatives. The Governor can work mainly from Jammu.
How about Kashmiri Hindus working in the non-government sector? When government employees shift more decisively to Jammu (instead of shuttling), some non-government employees (like teachers, healthcare professionals, traders, et al) will also automatically shift to Jammu to serve them.
When the non-Muslim population in Kashmir valley comes down substantially, it will be easier for the government to give the remaining Hindus in Kashmir better protection.
Won’t this ghettoize Hindus and Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir respectively? It will. Unless the government comes up with some other heavily security-centric plan to contain Kashmir from being turned into a Muslim exclusive region, expecting Kashmiri Hindus to keep shedding their blood under the PM Employment Package may not be a workable proposition.
But when the terrorists find far fewer Hindus to target in the Kashmir valley, there will be fewer terror attacks. And there will be less need for the fair-minded Muslim brethren to stand up for the Kashmiri Hindus and get targeted. And there will be less bloodshed of police and defence personnel.
When Kashmiris find that a large part of their power has shifted to Jammu, they may realize the need for them to do their bit to bring normalcy to Kashmir. If they don’t, then this arrangement may be continued indefinitely. The new normal will be effective functioning of the J&K Government, and reduced terror attacks in Kashmir, with some shift of power to Jammu.
This is only an outline of my suggestion. It can be improved upon.
But ideally, the solution should come from Kashmiri Hindus, mainly Pandits.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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