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Posted at: Aug 13, 2017, 12:42 AM; last updated: Aug 13, 2017, 12:42 AM (IST)

Danger ahead in forcing peace to settle in volatile valley

Danger ahead in forcing peace to settle in volatile valley
A CRPF man outside the house of Geelani aide Devender Singh Behal in Jammu.
THE arrest of even second-rung separatists by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has apparently dashed the hope of any internal political outreach in the near future with the separatists. Analysts say the Centre is now "exclusively dependent on the use of force to tide over an extremely fluid situation in the Valley.

For the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party, this could be yet another source of embarrassment ever since it entered into alliance with the BJP stressing internal and external dialogue.

In the nearly three years of its alliance with the BJP, the party has wanted the Centre to toe former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's line on Kashmir. With the arrest of Hurriyat leaders, not just the dialogue and engagement has become difficult. Even PDP's agenda has been subsumed by that of the BJP.

The NIA has spread its tentacles in Kashmir; the fear among the separatist leaders is visible as they are not ready to come on record over the crackdown, fearing they could be the next target. The mainstream political parties are silent which, off the record, think the probe may aggravate the situation. 

A ruling PDP leader believes that one of the reasons cited behind the lack of protests following NIA raids against the Hurriyat Conference leaders and businessmen of Kashmir is "helplessness" among the people, given the constant pressure on them since 2016.

"This strategy might help as a short-term measure. But the helplessness and hopelessness could any day turn around and will have negative results," says the PDP leader from South Kashmir.

A section of security officers is cautious. "The past decade has seen many political upheavals. Large-scale protests are now witnessing dangerous trends", says a senior police officer. "In 2008, we were able to calm the situation as so many things came in between, including a reconciliatory approach, of the Centre. In 2010, protests became more dangerous, but again the situation was brought under control because a political structure existed within the separatist and an outreach was possible. In 2016, protests forced the separatists to change the tactics, but the protests were not directionless," he argues. "If the next large-scale protest breaks out, there would be no political mechanism to guide it," the officer warns.

Another young PDP leader said both the state government and the Centre should show restraint in dealing with Hurriyat Conference leaders. "These are the people with whom both Pakistan and India have dealt with for long. If you put them out of circulation, you will have to deal with anarchists, who don't love Pakistan and have only hate for India," says the PDP leader.

"The silence on the streets is because many Hurriyat leaders have had no contact with the people for long. This is because either they were under house arrest or were put out of circulation. Also, months of strike have fatigued people. But it shouldn't be construed that they are okay with everything happening in the Valley", the young leader said.

Chief Minister Mehbooba had publically criticized the arrests while addressing the party foundation day, indicating differences with her BJP ally. "You cannot kill an idea. You cannot jail an idea," she had said.

Political analyst Noor Ahmed Baba says the raids are aimed at weakening the separatists and defaming them. "The Hurriyat is being directly put under pressure and the aim is also to highlight that they have made money even though one does not know the truth," Baba said. "New Delhi will only gain temporarily."

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, law professor at Kashmir's Central University, says these raids can boomerang.

BJP spokesperson Khalid Jehanghir says the NIA has taken a stand against militants and separatists. "It will show results."

Political anayst in Jammu - where popular thinking is often contrary to that in the Valley -- believes that the action against separatist elements was needed. "Such actions were needed. But no government acted. These separatist leaders shouldn't come back," says Anurag Gangal, a professor in Jammu University. "It will be a policy mistake if these separatists are back." 

— Majid Jahangir with inputs from Amir Tantray in Jammu


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