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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 110

Mufti’s de-militarisation politics

By Sarla Handoo - Syndicate Features

Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, has been demanding troop reduction in Kashmir, withdrawal of Armed Forces Special powers Act and vacation of security forces from civil properties. The arguments given are that situation in the state has improved warranting such a step and that it will send a positive signal to the people and give them a sense of security.

As much as the PDP is hell bent on its demand, threatening even a withdrawal of support to the coalition government, the Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Center and the Congress party are against it. They feel that such a move will in fact step up insurgency and thus increase insecurity among the people. Quoting figures, Mr. Azad has said the number of infiltration attempts from across the LOC in the first two months of the current year have already shot up from 11 last year to 21 this year. With summer approaching and snow melting on the mountains, infiltration bids are bound to increase.

Clearly there is a mismatch in perception. What PDP thinks will increase a sense of security among the people, the Congress says will further endanger them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told the Mufti that reduction of troop strength at this point of time can result in a roll back to the dark days of the 90’s. He has, however, promised a review of the situation in the summer, depending upon the level of militancy in the state. But this does not seem to convince Mufti Sayeed.

Mufti sahib was Home Minister at the centre at a time when the crisis in Kashmir broke out. In fact, some people even attribute escalation of militancy in the state to the centre’s decision to release dreaded terrorists in exchange for the safe return of his kidnapped daughter. He is not unaware that though the situation in Kashmir has improved vastly, we have not reached a situation to afford reducing the strength of the security forces. He knows that cross- border infiltration increases traditionally during summers, which is just approaching. He also knows the broader perspective of the problem as Kashmir is on the agenda in the Indo -Pak dialogue and the fourth round is going to be held shortly. He can not be oblivious to the fact that his demand will have repercussions in the North -East, which is facing a similar problem. Why is he making a demand, which he knows, is unacceptable?

One is bound to link his demand with the elections due in Kashmir next year. Is he addressing the electorate by playing on their sentiments?

True, there have been certain excesses by the security forces. No one can condone the ghastly episode of DNA tests of exhumed bodies revealing that they were not militants but innocent people who had gone missing. One has to hang one’s head in shame over such incidents. Unfortunately, the reports of people going missing in the state are a quite a few, though no one is sure about their number. One has also to take note of the fact that many Kashmir youth have gone across for training in militancy and are still there.

The answer to this problem is to deal with such elements in the security forces sternly. You don’t cut away the foot when it is the shoe that is pinching. The state government has, in fact, for the first time, undertaken a thorough probe into such cases, which should be appreciated.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, even the National Conference is not politically in a position to oppose the demand for reduction in troop strength in the state. Although the Congress has been keeping the National Conference in the frame, its president Omar Abdullah has been forced to say that he will not be by the side of the government if the PDP withdraws its support.

Numerically, Congress has 43 members in a House of 89. The National Panthers party has already announced support of its four members to the Government. Differences within the PDP are also surfacing.

In the short run, is the PDP serious about bringing down the alliance government when it has still more than a year to go? When the Mufti insisted to lead the coalition government for the first three years, when it was formed as per the agreement reached between the Congress and the PDP, did he visualize such a possibility?

There is no doubt that the Mufti is an astute politician who knows his game well. But politics at the cost of national interest will not be appreciated.

- Syndicate Features -

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