There will be some light at the end of the tunnel is a cherished belief of mine and hope which gets some substance when some good news comes from Kashmir. The report that investigation by State police had confirmed that Farooq Ahamad Dar an innocent Kashmiri who was tied to the bonnet of Army Jeep and paraded had voted in the Lok Sabha poll instead of having encouraged a group of young men to pelt stones and thus endanger the lives of the poll staff.
Such fair investigation by Kashmir police is rare and even more rare is the verdict showing that the guilt was on the part of army and not the local citizen. After such a verdict the least that army can do is to offer an apology and an assurance that such act will not be repeated. This will go a long way in restoring the healthy relationship which had existed between the army and locals in Kashmir. It was this bond which helped the army in the past to deal with Pakistan’s attempts to create trouble in Kashmir.
The State Government should also give proper compensation to Dar who was detained and humiliated for no fault except to have ignored the call for boycott of poll and exercised his democratic right to vote in the elections . The offiicer concrned who was commended for his action should be warned to keep his desire to resort to such actions in check which are not justified under law or civilised code of behaviour followed by the Army. There is no reason to believe that the morale of officers who have always upheld highest traditions will be affected by such action. As its ability to admit a wrong will only help in making the will of Army strong.
The ability to stand firm even when provoked and under stress has been one quality of army which had made Indian Army unique while in case of other countries in Asia and elsewhere they could not resist the temptation to play politics or assume power at the slightest provocation. The official circles in Delhi of late have started showing some signs of change. The declaration by Union Home Minister Raj nath Singh after visit to Kashmir that they were open to hold talks with all and had no intention to go against wishes of people on article 35A which allows only state subjects to own property in State has created a favourable atmosphere in the State.
If Chief Minister Mehbooda Muftis vision is to come true that green shoots indicating return to normalcy and peace are visible in Kashmir is to come true. In this context appeal by group headed by former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha which recently visited Kashmir that the Government should start a dialogue immediately with all stake holders in Kashmir .should be followed The group not only had civil society members but also few like Wajahat Habibullah who have full knowledge of Kashmir and its leaders.
The realisation necessary on the part of decision makers in New Delhi is that they can deal effectively with Pakistan only if in the first case we are able to set our own house in order. Essential part of it is to bring back normalcy in Kashmir. Many top Army Commanders who have served in Kashmir have made no secret of the fact that army can deal with aggression from across the border, but as far as internal situation is concerned it has to be taken care of by political leadership of State and Center. In this connection we should remember the initiative taken by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh. Once the situation returns to normal in Kashmir a dialogue can start with Pakistan from a position of strength.
To start with the Government of India should announce appointment of a pointsman , a to be assisted by some experts to initiate the process. State Governor an old hand could help in starting this process.But the issue is can we expect a honest appraisal from Prime Minister and admission that force alone can not resolve Kashmir problem. There is also need for a heeling touch.
At present there is an element of fear and alienation towards authority which needs to be changed. The tourism industry has been hit hard and there are no industries which have led to mass scale unemployment among the educated youth. Traditional industries have also reported shut downs. Continuous shut down of markets and education institutes on one pretext or the other has created chaos.
There is need to realise that majority in Kashmir was not happy when pilgrims to Holy cave of Amarnath were attacked or an army officer on leave to attend a wedding in family was kidnapped and killed. The killing of a police officer in Jama masjid or others was also condemned. But at a same time people are not happy about firings on unarmed protesters, use of pellet guns and excesses by police or paramilitary forces. There is need to make a fresh to bid overcome the tragedy which the Kashmiri people have gone through for over a year.