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Thursday November 14, 2019

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! - Anniversary Special

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It is now a year since we launched your magazine and we wouldn't be here without you and your tremendous support and encouragement. Here is wishing you all a very happy first anniversary and with all our thanks. So much has happened in the last one year that the headlines don’t seem the same at all. And most of all, there is something deeply disturbing in the manner the governments of India and of Jammu and Kashmir have responded to the stone throwing mobs. They are, after all, only stone throwing mobs, nothing more, nothing less. And for that rallying crowd to have the two governments in apoplectic fits is a poor testimony to both governance and national priorities. It is one thing to be sensitive to public opinion, but another to buckle and betray a complete absence of balance. The state government can be accused of the former, while the government of India is guilty of the latter.

When the first stone came to be pelted sometime in June they were assumed to be part of the Kashmir Valley’s political routine, a public reacting to an innocent's violent death, or a particularly heavy security clampdown. When the death toll grew, there was a sense of something new at play, a different group of players, a new set of agendas. But as the stones multiplied and the venues changed, it became obvious that this was nothing more than another enactment of the Valley routine, fiery public demonstrations, stone pelting, police jeeps on fire, independence slogans et al. The players are the same, so are the venues and the slogans. Nothing has changed, so why should the governments respond in such a seething manner!

What has indeed changed is the reversal of years of gains imposed by the Army and the security forces led by a rejuvenated Jammu and Kashmir Police. In every insurgency the local police has to play the pivotal role and once J&K Police began to, the contours of insurgency changed. No longer could the militants, the few local or the largely Pakistani ones, run through the state as they once did. This was because the local police had got its network up and running and was beginning to deliver results. While the Army had pretty much cleared up the countryside, it was the J&K Police that delivered the urban centres. What was left should have been cleared up by political initiatives.

It is difficult to imagine this is the same state that just recently had its first municipal and panchayat elections in decades. The same state that had provided remarkably peaceful polling for the parliament and assembly elections. Which only suggests that obviously the will of the people to participate politically is there, all it needed was a government to play politics to end. Unfortunately for the valley, for India, we did not have that. Instead there was a political drift when it came to Jammu and Kashmir. What with the government of India declaring in January that the Naxals would be finished in three months. Governance is not being unifocal, especially not when it comes to matter of security, terror and insurgency.

All these are ingredients of the J&K pot and must be tackled in a systematic manner. Knee jerk reactions are just what the insurgents want and which they have gotten with both governments in a bind over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. That is a fig leaf, for the people are not going to be taken by such tokenism. And the Army is not going to gain in confidence of the government. Insurgencies are, after all, political problems and can only be solved through governmental initiatives. The Army can deliver the table, served, but it is for the political authority to eat it hot. Cold food in the valley is past its time.

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