Op-Ed: Time for tough call on Kashmir

How many times have we heard these words – or variations of them – after a major terror strike in the Valley in the last three decades? “I strongly condemn this dastardly attack. The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain. The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of the brave martyrs.” “A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators.” It is as if our leaders, irrespective of which party is in power at the Centre, mechanically read out from the same script tucked away in a government file without meaning a word of it.

Does anyone really care for the ‘strong’ condemnation or the promise of a ‘befitting’ reply? By now, we have reconciled ourselves to the harsh reality that terror attacks of the kind that took place in Pulwama on Thursday will keep happening and our leaders will keep repeating their tired lines after every such attack. We also know that it would be business as usual in a couple of days and that retaliation, if any, would come against political opponents and not against the terrorists who keep taunting the Indian nation with frightening regularity.

Already, there are signs of that. Here is what the MoS in the PMO Dr. Jitendra Singh told Rahul Shivshankar of Times now within hours of the attack; “This is also an occasion when we should come out and seek action against those who have been apologetic about these terror activities and their perpetrators in recent times.” The Editor of the hyper-nationalist channel then came up with this hare-brained suggestion; “Why don’t you ban politicians, who whip up a hate psychosis against the forces, from contesting elections?” And the minister endorsed the thought thus: “Let these politicians, who are so much deeply sympathetic about these terrorists, give up their security cover!” If this is how our leaders propose to ‘fight’ terror, should we be really surprised that the enemy across the border laughs his heart out and dismisses the boasts of a ‘befitting’ reply with the contempt it richly deserves – and starts planning the next outrage?

All that we have to show by way of a ‘fitting’ reply in all these years is a ‘surgical strike’ in 2016 after the Uri attack the outcome of which is still shrouded in mystery. Even if we accept the claims made by the Modi government in toto, it only goes to prove that this isolated action failed to put the fear of god in the enemy and deter it from pursuing its nefarious agenda.

The Pulwama attack, however, is cause for consternation as much for the high casualty (44 at last count) of CRPF jawans as for the fact that it was perpetrated not by a terrorist who managed to sneak in from across the border but one of our own, Adil  Ahmad Dar, a disenchanted youth from Kakapora in South Kashmir. This suggests that the problem lies inside territory that we insist on calling ‘an integral part of India’ and not in Pakistan. Let us stop deluding ourselves that terrorism in Kashmir is the handiwork of a few jihadis pushed across the border into our territory by the Pakistani forces or that the support for them is restricted to a minuscule section of the ‘misguided’ youth in the Valley. It is time we realised that terrorism in Kashmir will not end till we have lakhs of disenchanted youth ready to take up the gun – or an explosive laden SUV as in the present case – and die for their cause – the ‘independence’ of Kashmir – no matter how many terror modules we bust and how many terrorists we kill. Experience suggests that every terrorist killed gives birth to 10 (may be even more) terrorists.

It is about time we stop this long-running charade and take the tough call on the Kashmir question that we have kept postponing since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister. Let us hold the plebiscite as mandated by the UN resolution of 1948 and find out whether the people of Kashmir are willing to remain ‘an integral part’ of India or not. If they don’t, let us grant them the independence they have been fighting for without getting overly sentimental or worked up about it. Keeping such a large number of people in subjugation with the barrel of the gun is an unworkable proposition in the long run, as we ourselves have shown by winning independence – albeit without using terror as the weapon, thanks to the Mahatma – from the greatest power on earth at the time.

Isolated terror strikes may not stop altogether because we know Kashmir is just a ruse and the real aim of the Pakistani establishment is to dismember India. But such a step will at least take away the one plank that Pakistan has been using to embarrass us in international forums since 1947. We can then take the moral high ground and go all out against the rogue country with all the might at our command without having to fight with one hand tied behind our back as we are having to do now.   

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)