The situation in Jammu & Kashmir is going from bad to worse. The widespread acts of violence on the Eid day and the outburst on September 13,2010, in the wake of baseless rumours of insult to the Holy Koran in the US make one apprehend that we may reach a point of no return if we do not address the anger of large sections of the youth.Fifteen people, including a member of the security forces, were killed in different incidents on September 13----the largest number in a single day since the present trouble broke out over three months ago.
2. The anger is a reality. It will be totally unwise to close our eyes and ears to it. It will be suicidal to think that but for instigation by Pakistan the anger might not have acquired such dimensions. The origin of the anger and its gradual escalation were due to mishandling of the situation by the State Government and by the confused response of the Government of India to the situation as it has developed. Pakistan and the jhadi organisations based there are now exploiting the anger caused by perceptions of our insensitivity to violations of human rights by the security forces. Deaths of some Kashmiris in an alleged false incident involving the security forces and the total inaction of the Government in the face of repeated demands for enquiries into the deaths of young Kashmiris due to use of force by the security forces against stone-throwing mobs have led to a resurgence of the alienation of growing sections of the youth.
3.The incidents of September 13 show two strands of anger. The first is against the Governments of J&K and India due to the perceived violations of the human rights of the Kashmiris. The second , which made its first appearance in the incidents of September 13, is directed against the US because of a threat, which had emanated from a pastor with insignificant following to burn the Holy Koran on the anniversary of 9/11. He gave up his threat under political and public pressure in the US, but not before he had provided fresh oxygen to the jihadi elements in the Islamic world.
4.To what extent the anger of the Kashmiris against the US was spontaneous and to what extent it was insitigated by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements based in the Af-Pak region? It is difficult to answer this question, but one has to note with some concern that the anger against the US seen in the streets of Srinagar on September 13 was part of the pattern one had been seeing in the last few days in the Af-Pak region ever since the pastor issued his threat. We had seen similar anger against the US in the streets of Srinagar when US troops invaded Iraq in 2003. That too was part of an orchestrated pattern seen in different cities of Pakistan. But the anger subsided after a few days. Will it subside similarly now? One has to keep one's fingers crossed. It is important to note and deny promptly and effectively all rumours being disseminated from the Af-Pak region by Al Qaeda, the Talibans and their affiliates regarding insults to Islam.
5. One should remember there was an escalation in violence in J&K in the days and weeks before the visit of President Bill Clinton to India in April 2000. We should expect a similar escalation in the period before the forthcoming visit of President Barack Obama to India in November.There is a strong possibility that the kind of violence that one has been seeing since the Eid day, which is different from the kind of violence that one had been seeing before Eid would be sought to be kept up till the visit of Mr.Obama. The violence before Eid was largely spontaneous. The violence since Eid is increasingly orchestrated and inspired from outside---- inspired not only by the State of Pakistan, but also by all the jihadi organisations based there.
6.If we had promptly acted against the initial incidents and against those members of the security forces against whom allegations of staging a false encounter had been made, the situation might not have deteriorated to the extent it has. There are now vicious winds of anger and hatred blowing across Kashmir, helped by our failure to understand that we are now facing a different kind of situation in J&K and by our reluctance to act against the members of the security forces against whom allegations of human rights violations were made.
7. The situation has so badly slipped out of control that one does not know how to retrieve it. Retrieve one must for restoring normalcy in J&K.Even now, the Governments of J&K and India give the impression of a total lack of lucidity in analysing and assessing the situation. The Kashmiris are not agitating for jobs. They are not agitating against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. They are not agitating against the Army. They are not agitating against our counter-terrorism machinery, which had effectively countered Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the State. They are agitating against the State's law and order machinery for alleged disproportionate use of force against stone-throwing mobs. They are agitating against the Government of India for not intervening to protect the human rights and the self-dignity of the Kashmiri Muslims.
8.The first response of the Government of India should have been to ensure respect for the human rights of the Kashmiris. Even now, despite the deterioration in the situation which has made the increasing resort to law and order methods unavoidable, our priority should be to visibly stop violations of human rights. The National Human Rights Commission should be asked to look urgently into the various complaints that have been made and convince the Kashmiris of our seriousness in guaranteeing respect for their human rights and self-dignity.
9. If we don't do this and keep thinking that we can restore normalcy by creating jobs and by making statements of our willingness for a dialogue, we are in for a nasty surprise in J&K. The credibility of the Government of India in J&K is very low. It is seen as a Government which only acts under pressure. It is seen as a Government which is totally confused.
10. It has to show it means business----business in restoring law and order; business in respecting the human rights and self-dignity of the Kashmiris and business in preventing Pakistan and its jihadi organisations from exploiting the situation. ( 14-9-10 )
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )