The Centre must use the opportunity, created by the decline in militant violence, to bring J&K closer to lasting peace
While it is heartening that there has been a significant decline in the number of terror incidents and recruitments to militant ranks in Jammu & Kashmir, it is still a long way to go before the wounds of the Valley are healed and the democratic process takes firm roots to provide a genuine sense of empowerment to the people. The Central government has claimed that the terror incidents in the Union Territory have declined from 229 in 2021 to 123 this year so far. Also, there has been a decline in infiltration of militants from Pakistan this year, compared with previous years, due to a robust security grid put in place by the Army. No doubt, an atmosphere of relative calm has kindled new hope, best illustrated by the uninterrupted school sessions, a rarity in the recent past. The onus is now on the NDA government to consolidate the positive signals and deliver on its promises of development, jobs, elections, and empowerment. With the delimitation process already completed, the announcement of Assembly elections in J&K is eagerly awaited. A return to the democratic process holds key to restoration of normalcy in the trouble-torn region. A sense of belonging cannot be nurtured without giving people the power to make choices, to list their grievances, to be heard. The gains from the nullification of Article 370 cannot fully materialise unless Kashmiris are made stakeholders in the development narrative. And that can only happen if J&K is able to elect its own politicians to manage its affairs.
As per the road map unveiled by the Centre in Parliament, the Assembly polls are likely to pave the way for the restoration of statehood — a longstanding demand by local residents and political parties. There should be no delay in sticking to the assurances made on the floor of the House. Cracking down on terrorism and bridging the trust deficit are prerequisites for the restoration of normalcy in J&K. The resumption of the long-delayed democratic process could serve as an effective antidote to the rise of militancy in the Valley. After the abrogation of Article 370, the political focus in Kashmir shifted to District Development Councils and grassroots development, a move that gave hope to the Kashmiris who have long had to deal with red tape. In the absence of credible follow-up actions and delay in holding elections, the people in the Valley continue to feel alienated. The Centre must use the opportunity, created by the decline in militant violence, to strengthen its narrative-building efforts and bring the region closer to lasting peace. At the same, the security forces must remain alert as Pakistan has opened a new frontier with its drone-driven activities, engaging the border forces. The government should never let an opportunity go on international platforms to expose Islamabad’s devious agenda.