Friday, July 24, 2009

Restoring Peace in Jammu and Kashmir

When former Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's daughter Rubaiya was abducted by terrorists in 1989, the situation started deteriorating and since then, Kashmir continued to remain on boil due to terrorism. Millions of Kashmiri pundits were displaced from their homes, and had to migrate to other parts of the country, and thousands of people lost their lives. Kashmir, the heaven on the earth, was reduced to a hell because of the proxy war waged by Pakistan.

Improved Situation
In 2002, during the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led Government, elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly were held in a free and fair manner, and the elected representatives formed the State Government, under which the situation started improving. The people of the State witnessed the return of peace and progress in the valley and other parts of the State.

Therefore, in the 2008 Jammu and Kashmir elections, notwithstanding the poll boycott given by militants and separatists, people turned out in large numbers to exercise their right to franchise, and elected a new Government.

Nevertheless, during the reign of the People's Democratic Party and the Congress coalition Government, Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti started making demands for troops reduction, repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and the withdrawal of the Army and Border Security Force (BSF) from the civilian areas of the state.

At that juncture, Omar Abdullah and the National Conference also endorsed these demands. In this connection, bunkers of the Army and BSF were removed from Srinagar and other areas, and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was deployed in cities to maintain peace in the state with the coordination of the State police.

After the last elections, a coalition government was formed between the Omar Abdullah-led National Conference and the Congress. Immediately after taking over as Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah announced that the State Government has initiated the process of repeal of the AFSPA. Later, he commented that the duty of maintenance of law and order in Jammu and Kashmir would be entrusted with the State police.

Chidambaram’s Visit
Recently, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during his recent visit to Srinagar said that that the task of maintenance of law and order in Jammu and Kashmir would be entrusted to the state police, and the CRPF would be withdrawn from there in a phased manner.

In wake of this announcement, a demand was raised in various parts of Kashmir that the CRPF should be withdrawn from the state. Meanwhile, in wake of the incident of rape and murder of two women in Shopian, followed by an incident in Baramullah, peace was disturbed in Kashmir valley. Thereafter, the process of withdrawal of the CRPF from Baramullah was set in, but peace has not yet returned there, and the State police are not in a position to control the situation.

In view of these ground realities, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has now admitted that the CRPF cannot be withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir straightaway. Prior to it, there is a need to raise the strength of the State police, provide it the required number of firearms and equipment, and also impart further training to it. The State police are not in a position to handle the situation likely to be created with the withdrawal of CRPF.

Now that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir are improving and infiltrators are being killed in border areas, and people have started reposing faith in the military and security forces we can ill-afford to take suicidal steps such as reduction of troops, withdrawal of CRPF, and the security forces, for this is bound to aggravate the conditions in Kashmir and the country.

Proxy War Waged
In fact, abnormal conditions are currently prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir. From across the border, a proxy war is being waged, thereby the Pakistan intelligence agency Inter-Srevices Intelligence (ISI) in the form of terrorism. Even at present, approximately 1,200 Kashmiri and foreign terrorists are active in Kashmir who can create disturbance at an appropriate opportunity.

It is not possible for the state police to tackle terrorists in remote areas and much less in urban areas. Omar Abdullah has, therefore, realized now that it is not yet possible to withdraw the CRPF in order to maintain law and order in the State.

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