Last week, after two decades CASO returned to South Kashmir when more than 30000 troopers scanned dozens of villages in the centre of South Kashmir after militants released series of videos and attacked police at various place. So far militants are enjoying upper hand in many pockets of South Kashmir and villagers are putting their lives at risk to save the militants whenever there is search operation based on intelligence inputs.
This change has taken place in past few years and militants have been able to cultivate good network in rural areas of South Kashmir that has send alarm bells ringing within the security establishment who want to gain control at an earliest and for that purpose the security experts have suggested return of CASO as they feel this strategy will contain spread of militancy to other peaceful areas of the Valley. However, at the same time government should never give free hand to security forces that will further alienate the common masses instead should try to win hearts of people and start engagement with the people who have genuine grudge with the government or the security forces especially youths. It seems that government has now taken a decision to go tough especially after series of meetings were held in New Delhi and Srinagar. The union minister, Rajnath Singh has already hinted that situation will be normal within one year and peace will be back. During the visit of Union Home secretary —Rajiv Mehrishi to Srinagar the Union secretary has conveyed to officials to adopt a tough line especially in south Kashmir. Though officially neither centre nor the state government will accept that the new strategy is being adopted. The Army chief in a recent interview has already said that that CASO is one of the options that will not be used frequently in the areas where militant presence is more; he, however admitted that things that will alienate militants from civilians will be adopted. However change of leadership in the police and shifting of officials from south Kashmir is an indication that government will be reviewing its security strategy. With Amarnath yatra beginning next month the government both state and the centre want all the areas of the south Kashmir be properly sanitised as the yatra route passes through south Kashmir and any incident could further complicate situation not only in the state but also across the country.
The military action doesn’t yield positive results every time and this could also backfire and keep pot boiling as the situation is simmering. Kashmir can’t be resolved through military solutions that have been even acknowledged by top army officials who have served in Valley but it needs a brave political engagement like Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had initiated when NDA government was in Centre and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Ministet. Infact the tenure is still remembered by the people of the state and termed as the peaceful period in which graph of violence was at its lowest ebb. During that period many people friendly initiatives were taken that even brought India and Pakistan closer. The opening of Srinagar – Muzuffarabad road – the start of Cross LoC trade are still considered one of the biggest Confidence Building Measures (CBM’s) that have been taken so far to improve the ground situation.
The military solutions will pave way for more bloodshed especially when young boys who are in their teens are holding guns and are glorified on their death by the masses. Instead of fighting them government should rely on negotiations so that these boys are brought back and motivated to dissent from the path of violence. Though through CASO the movement of militants and their supporters will be restricted however it can’t bring peace for the long time as so far neither Centre nor state government has taken steps to address the genuine issues that are faced by people in different parts of Kashmir.
The editorial appeared in print edition of May 17 to 23-2017.