Is there a government in Kashmir?

Never before has a senior police officer been beaten to death in the way that Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Ayub Pandith was outside Srinagar’s most important mosque last week. It really is time for Jammu Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti to be sacked.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: June 25, 2017 2:35 am
mehbooba mufti, j&k govt, jammu kashmir cm, indian express Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti (Express photo by Renuka Puri)

When a state government cannot prevent a senior police officer from being publicly lynched it is time for that state government to go. Other police officers have been killed in Kashmir in recent weeks. The list of those who have died trying to save the Valley from being occupied by radical Islamists is alas very long. But, never before has a senior police officer been beaten to death in the way that Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Ayub Pandith was outside Srinagar’s most important mosque last week. It was in the early hours of the last Friday of Ramzan and his killers, like him, were inside the mosque observing the pieties of Islam’s holiest month.

So why did they suddenly turn on one of their own? Eyewitness reports indicate that some people became suspicious of his identity and, when he could not prove it, they dragged him out in the street, stripped him naked and beat him to death. As is usual, when there is an act of unspeakable horror we in the media blame it on ‘the mob’. When it’s a mob that can be blamed it reduces the enormity of the horror. So the first thing that needs to happen is for us to see the faces of the men who did this. Are they Kashmiris? Are they agents provocateur from across the border? Are they attached to a political group? Are they being protected by a political or religious leader? These are not questions that the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir ever asks because she is so afraid of annoying some of the religious groups who support her.

It really is time for Mehbooba Mufti to be sacked. Her record in office has been so dismal that it is pointless trying to give her another chance. The Prime Minister must also be aware that her mistakes, and there have been many, have begun to damage his own image. Congress party commentators are having a great deal of fun pretending that our Kashmir problem only began after the BJP became for the first time part of a government in Jammu and Kashmir. This is nonsense. The truth is that when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed joined hands with the BJP to form a government it was a brave and promising move that could have worked, were it not for his untimely death in January last year. After his death the decline began and by the end of 2016 the toll of dead security personnel was the highest in eight years.

These deaths cannot all be blamed on Ms Mufti but what is clear is that she has proved as incompetent in matters of security as she has in administrative matters. So it has seemed for at least a year as if there were no government in charge of our politically most sensitive state at all. Only when someone more competent takes charge can there be a serious attempt to end the spread of jihadist Islam.

Anyone still pretending that the recent violence is just another chapter in that long fight for ‘azadi’ is being idiotic. Most of the young people who attack soldiers and policemen and who shout vile slogans against India have no memory of why the movement began. Most of the throwers of stones are children too young to understand political
complexities. But, children can easily be brainwashed into fighting for religion, as we see from the child soldiers blowing themselves up to defend the remnants of the Caliphate in Mosul and Raqqa.

A new policy to deal with Kashmir must acknowledge the effects of the worldwide jihad and it must be specific to the four or five districts in the Valley where the problem exists. Here any more talk of ‘political solutions’ is madness. There is nobody to talk to except a handful of aging Hurriyat leaders who are too cowardly to confront the violent young jihadists who have taken over a movement they once led long, long ago.

Can there be serious political conversations with stone-throwing children? With jihadist groups who are financed by Pakistan? With mainstream political leaders who speak of autonomy and ‘political solutions’, but who would be killed like the Deputy Superintendent of Police was, if they were not protected by soldiers and policemen around
the clock.

If the tragic, awful lynching of DSP Pandith does not force major rethinking on Kashmir, there is every likelihood that the fragile possibilities of bringing peace back to the Valley will recede even further. By bringing the BJP into a
coalition government in Kashmir the Prime Minister showed that he was ready to take bold steps towards finding a permanent solution to our oldest political problem. It is time to admit that the experiment has brought failure and disgrace rather than hope and peace. It is time to move on and look for other ways.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @tavleen_singh

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