be kept open and opportunities seized.
But the new government’s area of emphasis should be the internal dynamic, which needs to be clearly understood. Internal cleansing and strengthening can temper the possibility of external exploitation. The sense of alienation in Kashmir is real. It runs as deep as it did in 1989, if not deeper. A pro-Pakistan sentiment has given way to a pro-azadi sentiment, but that is because the situation has been allowed to drift. The initial part of the internal conflict saw the employment of India’s military hard power, without which J&K would have been lost. As the military space came under control, there was a need for the civilian space to be energised. When the assembly elections of 1996 took place, everyone assumed it would be the panacea for all ills, that the introduction of a democratic narrative would sufficient to galvanise the civilian space. That did not happen. The situation continued to flounder, with no real internal effort to return the citizens of J&K to being citizens of India. The sense of alienation was never seriously addressed. The longer this situation is allowed to fester, the more it will strengthen the separatist cause. The army presence provides the adhesive that has been so essential in the absence of serious initiatives to address the alienation. What are the issues that need to be flagged?
First, it is essential to maintain stability in the streets in the run up to the assembly elections. That means contentious issues must only be discussed for options and dialogue must be opened with diverse sections of people, including the youth. No triggers must be set off. Article 370 is a trigger and must not be allowed to divert the agenda even before the government settles in. It is essential for the PM to set up an advisory body under his direct control and with sufficient access to him, because there is a dearth of understanding about these issues at the Centre. A public information and perception management system, on the lines of the one followed by the army, albeit at a tactical level, must be set up to facilitate the flow of information and outreach, spreading the PM’s intent of goodwill and reforms to bring better administration to the state. J&K lacks an information link to rest of India because of thelimited national print media. This needs to be addressed.
Second, it is well known that Central funds have never been insufficient for J&K but there has been little accountability for them. Perhaps, a ministry to look after J&K, modelled on the ministry for the development of the Northeast, is in order, or at least a separate department under the PMO.
Strengthening the state’s administrative capability, channelling the best human resources from the rest of India, could help replicate the Gujarat model in J&K. This could find wide acceptance among people, especially the youth. J&K longs for the Modi touch, a fact even his detractors will admit.
Third, the PM must demand to be informed what our …continued »