The trouble-torn Kashmir valley is on the edge with the Centre’s decision to deploy an additional 10,000 paramilitary personnel. The alarm bells are ringing across the sensitive border state following reports that the NDA government was preparing the ground for removal of Article 35A that provides special privileges to the permanent residents of the state and bars non-J&K residents from buying property and getting jobs. Though the Union Home Ministry said the deployment was part of a routine induction and de-induction process, it has spread fear among the people of the valley which has witnessed escalation in violence in recent times. According to Union Home Ministry’s figures, over 600 terrorists were neutralised during the security operations between 2016 and 2018. The spiral of violence and the resultant human tragedies form the harsh realities of Kashmir. Though the security forces have gained an upper hand in tackling the militancy, aided by improved intelligence gathering methods and coordination among various agencies, the fundamental question remains whether the military solution is the only way forward to restore permanent peace in the valley. Ever since the Supreme Court started hearing a bunch of petitions challenging Article 35A, there is a sense of disquiet and apprehension over the possible removal of the special constitutional provision.
With turbulent circumstances surrounding its accession and a history soaked in blood, Kashmir is home to multiple political and social realities competing for attention. It is as much a story of unkept promises and betrayals as it is of turning into a laboratory for religious war being whipped up by a hostile neighbour. The sense of alienation gripping the valley is a reality that cannot be wished away by the Centre. The growing number of civilian casualties in security operations, the stifling restrictions on movement of people and the shrinking job opportunities for the youth are the hard realities on the ground. At the same time, the steady transformation of ‘Azadi’ sentiment into a radical Islamist movement, the growing public support to terrorists and their glorification are the worrying dimensions of the Kashmir imbroglio. While Pakistan continues to push terrorists across the border to fuel unrest in the region, what is more worrying is the growing radicalisation of the local youth. The ground beneath Kashmir’s feet is indeed slipping. While there can be no simplistic solutions to end the turmoil, a fresh beginning has to be made to restore peace in the valley and resume talks with all the stakeholders including separatist groups. The battle against ideological indoctrination can’t be won by military crackdown alone. Only a political initiative can serve as a balm to the bruised valley. However, in these times of muscular hyper-nationalism, the voices of moderation may get drowned.