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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 9 New Delhi February 17, 2018

Pathless in Kashmir

Saturday 17 February 2018, by Barun Das Gupta

Pakistan has stepped up its proxy war in Kashmir. Terrorists belonging to different terror outfits backed by Pakistan are making almost daily attacks on Army and paramilitary camps and killing our jawans. Defence and Home Ministers are routinely warning Pakistan that ‘appropriate retaliatory measures’ will be taken, though nothing is visible on the ground. J & K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has called for talks with Pakistan because ‘war is not an alternative’. The hyper-nationalist section of the media has accused her of ‘batting for Pakistan’. But amid all such heated debates, one stark reality stands out: India does not know how to deal with the increasing fidayeen attacks and the equally increasing alienation of the people of Kashmir from ‘India’.

The security forces are doing what they have been told to do by the political leadership of the Union Government. They are carrying out the orders given to them. It is not for them to sit in judgment over the result of what they are doing. If threats of retaliation does not deter Pakistan from aiding and abetting and fuelling terror attacks in Kashmir, then there is only one alternative left: to strike and destroy the camps from which the terrorists are operating. This means risking a full-scale war with Pakistan with all its unpredictable consequences. If the Union Government is not prepared to take such a risk, only two alternatives remain: either to go on suffering these attacks or to open talks with Pakistan and try to hammer out a solution. Obviously the Modi Government does not want a full-scale war Pakistan. This is quite sensible. War between two nuclear-armed neighbours is always fraught with dire consequences.

What is complicating the situation far more is the growing alienation of the people of Kashmir. Use of force to put an end to terror attacks has not been successful. Rather, the use of force is proving counter-productive by alienating the people, especially the youth. Pakistan wants to grab the whole of Kashmir. Its plot can be frustrated only with the help and cooperation of the people of Kashmir as was done in the 1965 war. Alienating them will only help Pakistan. What is needed now is to win over the people of Kashmir by breaking out of the current mould of thinking. That requires sympathy, imagination and a healing touch. Holding the land of Kashmir but losing the mind of the Kashmiri people would be self-defeating. Calling Mehbooba Mufti a ‘pro-Pakistani’ (or worse) will not help either. The political leadership of the BJP-led Central administration will have to think out of the box to find the path of ending the conflict in Kashmir.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.

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