Listen to the prime minister of India

Listen to the PM

The fight against terror should not become a fight against Kashmir; the idea is to win over Kashmiris.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unequivocal message to the nation that India’s “fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmir, not against Kashmiris” has come none too soon. It ends days of shabby political silence as self-appointed protectors of the nation took to intimidating, assaulting and evicting Kashmiri students and others in various parts of the country in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. Many educational institution crumbled under pressure, and suspended or expelled Kashmiris; one gave an undertaking that it would not admit students from the Valley. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of hapless students returned home or are in the process of doing so. The incidents were not just scandalising for the impunity with which their perpetrators acted, they have also done irreparable damage to India’s case in Kashmir. They have provided fodder for propaganda to India’s enemies in Kashmir, and confirmed the worst fears of the alienated Kashmiri. There was a time Kashmiri parents sent their children to other states for education believing this was the best protection from the violence in the Valley. It is doubtful if they think that now. Prime Minister Modi’s words convey that the interests of India are ill served by such acts, and that the idea is to win over Kashmiris.

Which is why it is difficult to comprehend the developments in the Valley during the weekend. Some 200 members of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik were arrested the Valley, spreading confusion and anger among its not inconsiderable following in south Kashmir. The JeI is a political party, once banned for its close links to the Hizbul Mujahideen. In recent years, it has distanced itself from both HM and the Hurriyat, even though it remains separatist. How the government gains from action against the Jamaat is not clear at all. The Centre has much more to gain from engaging with those who carry some political weight among young people in Kashmir, than from the optics of arrests outside the Valley. Bewildering too are the Jammu & Kashmir administration’s orders — asking hospitals to hoard medicines, cancelling vacations of medical faculty, rationing fuel and directing ration shops to finish distributing foodgrains forthwith — that have created all round panic in the Valley since Saturday. To top it all, 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces are headed to Kashmir. All manner of rumours are abroad, including about an imminent government decision on Article 35 A and 370.

If Modi’s words are not just plain rhetoric, the Centre should not be undermining what little trust there is left between Kashmiris and the rest of the country. The response to Pulwama must not be to shut down any possibility of reviving the political process in the Valley.


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