Centre believes separatists have nothing to offer in Kashmir dialogue

The government has enough inputs to be “101% convinced” about Pakistan’s role in the current unrest in Kashmir.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:September 9, 2016 2:08 pm
Senior separatist leader of the hardliner faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Syed Ali Shah Geelani waves to his supporters outside his house as he arrives to participate in a march towards an army base in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. A strict curfew, a series of communication blackouts and a tightening crackdown have failed to stop some of Kashmir's largest protests against Indian rule in recent years, triggered by the killing of a popular rebel commander on July 8. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin) Senior separatist leader of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Syed Ali Shah Geelani outside his house in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Even as situation in Kashmir region shows no signs of improving, the Centre isn’t ready to engage with the separatists, including the All Party Hurriyat Conference leaders since, believing that they aren’t in control and have nothing to offer.

“So much so that if these people (jailed APHC leaders) had met the all-party delegation that went to Kashmir, you never know what the reaction of the people (against them) might have been. It (talking to them) will yield nothing as this juncture,” said an official.

The official also added that any move to engage with separatists will happen only after the “primacy of the state” is firmly established. This, the Centre believes, is necessary to check attempts to topple the state government through violence. The government has enough inputs to be “101% convinced” about Pakistan’s role in the current unrest in Kashmir.

As for dealing with the current unrest, especially in view of the fact that Eid is around the corner, the Centre is of the view that while the average citizen should not be inconvenienced, even going the extra mile to ensure safety of the common Kashmiri, there won’t be any softening in its stand on how to deal with separatists and those questioning the authority of the state.

“There is a distinction between separatists and people. As far as people are concerned, we have full compassion. But when it comes to dealing with separatists, there is no scope of the government of India blinking,” the government functionary said.

While it is concerned about radicalisation in Kashmir, which it feels started in 2010 when Kashmir began a gradual shift from “from Sufism to Wahabism” mainly due to growth of new centres of indoctrination in the Valley, the Centre feels that Pakistan-backed separatists have changed their strategy to play the victim card.

“Due to this change in strategy, this time, apart from the political, there is a religious angle also to the protests, The space for those who are political and believe in peaceful engagement has shrunk. They want to set up a theocratic state. .. These people use schoolchildren as shields, indulge in violence, force the security forces to respond and then say that atrocities are happening… play the victim card,” observed a senior government functionary.

He, however, stressed that security forces are using “maximum restraint” and the government is helping with the medical treatment of injured civilians.

The Centre is also unhappy with the role being played by a section of the electronic and social media, which it says, is needlessly hyping the “excessively humanistic grounds”, as a result of which the state is being “weakened.” “Such media sends the wrong signal to the public. It should be avoided,” said a source.

However, any hope of grant of any kind of autonomy to the state has also ebbed. Reversion to the pre-1953 status, when the Central government and many national institutions had a very limited role in the state, is completely ruled out.

The Centre is also of the opinion, backed by strong inputs from the all-party delegation that toured Kashmir recently as well as discussions with the delegations of political parties from the trouble-torn state that held meetings in Delhi recently, that any move to grant any kind of autonomy “at this stage” will serve no purpose.

“What pre-1953 status are you talking about? Do you want to undo what the governments of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi did to bring the state closer to the Union of India? It is not an option. Autonomy also wouldn’t find any takers in the present situation,” said a senior government functionary.

It also is of the opinion that changed circumstances, mainly due to growing internal pressure on his government from the Army and opposition parties, may have resulted in Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif changing his stance from a positive engagement with India to a more hawkish Kashmir-centric stance.