The short-lived respite from militancy
came to an end with the attack on a security forces camp housed in
Pamposh Hotel in Srinagar on November 22, only 20 days after the new
government took over. This was followed by two more gory incidents.
First, an IED explosion near Qazigund killed over two dozen people,
including Armymen, women and children. There was again an attack on
Raghunath temple in Jammu. Incidents like these and the continuing
smaller militancy-related incidents like the firing of two grenades on
the Nowgam residence of the Chief Minister Sayeed on the day he took
over, were "part of the ongoing militancy" in Kashmir. But the
incident that once again raised many an eyebrow over the "soft
approach" towards militants was the Nadimarg massacre. The
separatist Hurriyat Conference and several militant organisations
condemned the incident as yet another "attempt by the government
agencies to defame the separatists". While the police claimed to
have arrested a militant of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Zia Mustafa on April 24,
responsible for the killings at Nadimarg, the outfit reiterated the
earlier stand and alleged that the militant held was apprehended about a
week before the incident.
Hurriyat’s claims apart,
the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) is also on a
week-long hunger strike (April 17-24) against the unabated incidents of
‘disappearances’ in the state, and the immunity granted to the law
enforcing agencies. According to Parvez Imroz, head of the APDP, 26
cases of ‘disappearances’ took place since the coalition government
took over. Over 6000 such ‘disappearances’ of non-combatants have
taken place since the eruption of militancy in the state in 1989. The
relatives of such ‘disappeared’ persons claim that there is no
difference between the previous gubernatorial and the NC regimes and the
present government. The authorities, however, claim that many such
persons had, in fact, crossed over to the other side of the border.
Even as complete peace has
not been restored, the situation, according to the senior government
functionaries, has changed a lot. Despite the non-implementation of POTA
by the present government and the merger with the police of the Special
Operations Group (SOG) that exclusively dealt with militants, senior
government functionaries claim that there is a discernible change in the
situation as compared to last year.
Police and security forces
officers, however, are keeping their fingers crossed over the possible
infiltration of armed militants from across the borders after the snow
melts. The Defence Minister is reported to have indicated that a large
number of militants were waiting on the other side of the Line of
Control to cross over during the summer months.
The PDP-led coalition’s
other achievement was the visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
on April 18 and 19. The visit came within the first six months of the
elections. The coalition feels that the visit has endorsed the
"healing touch policy" of the government, and all the
political parties have endorsed its policies on dealing with militants
and providing relief to the common man. Vajpayee’s visit and his
public meeting in Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir stadium, first of a Prime
Minister in the past 15 years, is claimed as yet another achievement.
This shows the seriousness of the Central Government to resolve various
issues in this trouble-torn state. "The mindset of the people has
changed", comments Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. "Even
in peace time, when people in large numbers would come to Srinagar from
different parts of the valley, things were not so easy", says a
senior PDP leader, adding that even incidents of stone pelting on the
people coming from the villages on such an occasion was normal. Over
20,000 people came to listen to the Prime Minister despite a general
strike called by the separatists.
While certain sections
were disappointed at the PM’s public address, he set the things right
before concluding his two-day tour. "I did not mention about the
massacre of Pandits at Nadimarg deliberately at the public
meeting," he said, adding that he "wanted a new
beginning" and did not want to fan passions. He pointed out that
the situation in Kashmir, as well as at the international level, has
changed. "Mein sapno ka saudagar nahi, Kashmir ek mor par khada
hai," he said. He added that the coalition government was a new
beginning and the most needed one as 44 per cent of the people
participated in the last Assembly elections. He also announced an
economic package. The appointment of N.N. Vohra, former Union Home
Secretary, as the chief negotiator in Kashmir talks is also considered
to be another milestone on the road ahead to "peace and
prosperity" in the state.
Photos: Amin War
is no solution, we have to start a dialogue"
and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who has been in
politics for over four decades, took over the reigns of the state
government on November 2. The PDP with its partner parties — the
Congress, Panthers Party, CPM and Independents — designed a
common minimum programme which offered the ‘healing touch’ to
people who have suffered militancy for over 12 years now. The
Chief Minister spoke to Ehsan Fazili a day after Prime
Minister Vajpayee’s two-day visit to Kashmir about the policies
of his government and how far he has been successful in tackling
militancy in the state. Excerpts from the interview:
How do you view the
performance of your government during the past six months?
It is for the people
to judge our performance. I think by and large we have been able
to initiate a new process of reconciliation and giving some
succour to people. We have provided electricity during peak hours,
social security benefits to widows, disabled and senior citizens,
and utilised planned resources in a proper way. While dealing with
militancy, security forces have been made accountable and they
have been directed to avoid human rights violations. Our emphasis
has been on the point that gun is no solution and we have to start
a dialogue. I think we have some goodwill among people and they
have a lot of expectations from us. The people voted in spite of
the threat of the gun. So, they voted for peace. We are on our
toes. My ministers go around, and take on-the-spot decisions,
doing their utmost. But nothing is ideal, and we do not have an
Your main opposition
party in J&K is the National Conference, which is an ally of
the NDA government at the Centre, while the Congress, your
coalition partner, is in the Opposition at the Centre. How does
this influence the state government’s relation with the Centre?
There was some noise
about our soft approach to militants when we released some
militants, innocent people, in the beginning but the Centre has
seen the changing scenario after the elections. It is seen as an
opportunity for the whole nation, an opening. The Prime Minister
said here that it could be a turning point, so the Centre has been
quite sympathetic. Everybody has to rise to the occasion.
Your main agenda
during elections has been ‘peace with dignity’. How far has
this objective been achieved?
I think it is for
the party’s success that whatever I have said as a coalition
partner has been totally endorsed by the Prime Minister. It is a
peace initiative. It is here that the Prime Minister extended a
hand of friendship to Pakistan.He indicated that we have to settle
our own problems here.
What is your
government’s policy on fighting militancy?
We did not implement
POTA and the SOG got merged into the police. Except for the
incident at Nadimarg, the situation has changed entirely, as
compared to last year.
How do you look at N
N Vohra’s Kashmir mission?
It is necessary that
Vohra should talk to not only to the Hurriyat Conference but also
the elected representatives. The elected representatives and
mainstream parties also have their viewpoints.
are distancing themselves from militancy"
What is the state of
militancy in Jammu and Kashmir at present?
Militancy has its
roots in the infiltration from across the border. There has been
some decline in militants’ attacks but the bottomline is that
militancy is there and we are fighting it with determination.
Has there been any
shift in the strategy or in the stance of the militants with the
change of the government?
Militants are out to
create destabilisation. There is no change in the pattern of
militancy. However, it has been observed that the local youth are
distancing themselves from militancy, while foreign militants are
What is the number
of active militants in J&K and what is the ratio of local
militants to foreign mercenaries?
It differs from time
to time. During summer, the number goes up. Our estimate is that
there are about 3,000 of them operating in different parts of the
state. The approximate ratio of foreign mercenaries to the local
militants is about 70:30.
How do you look at
the coming summer season after the snow melts?
There has been no
let up in infiltration. A few militants were killed on the LoC in
the Mendhar sector last weekend and now again we have reports that
infiltrators are waiting to cross over. But, I am sure that the
way the anti-infiltration measures have been taken, things should
deaths have been reported. What are the measures being taken to
prevent such cases?
speculations. Media reports are exaggerated in this regard. We are
a people-friendly force. The directions of the Chief Minister are
clear and we are working for the welfare and protection of the
What about the
massacre at Nadimarg where policemen failed to offer resistance?
All of them have
been dismissed from service for having displayed cowardice and