J&K Minus 370: Govt’s New Security Challenges Demand Sensitivity
Attempts to demoralise the local police force will be made right in the beginning and must be effectively countered.
There was a time when potential constitutional and administrative changes in J&K drew tremendous debate. Past governments tended to follow status quo due to too many presumptions of catastrophic impact and legal constraints. Spurred by reports of impending geopolitical changes in the neighbourhood and possibility of attempts by Pakistan to recalibrate its relevance in J&K by acts of intense violence, the Government of India on 05 Aug 2019 took the momentous decision to revoke Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution. These provisions, conferring special status on the state in different ways, were abrogated by very detailed background study and research which authenticated the legality of government’s action.
Simultaneously, much against the rumoured and expected trifurcation of the state into three administrative entities, it decided to separate Ladakh from J&K and gave it status of a Union Territory (UT) without a legislature. Effectively, only bifurcating the state it maintained the homogeneity of the Jammu and the Kashmir regions by retaining them together as a single entity but downgraded to UT status with a legislature.
Bifurcation And Long-Term Aspirations of the Region
Someone obviously applied a lot of ground knowledge to these decisions. While the revocation of special status and citizenship rights provisions have effectively and legally brought the region under full Indian status just like any other state of the Union of India, it is the administrative measures which need appreciation.
The aspirations of Ladakh have been fully met. The retention of Jammu and Kashmir together signals the necessity to prevent any fractures on the basis of religion or majority and minority related issues. The people of the two sub-regions may have differences on many issues but they, too, realise their mutual dependence.
Within a nation there are no losers and no winners.
In fact, I have always advocated that peace in Kashmir will ultimately come through the route of initiatives by people of Jammu. The Central Government appears to have read the long term sentiments in this regard instead of just looking at short term gains.
Sulking Populace and Demotivated Polity Good for Nobody
There are three areas of impact based upon these decisions. These are the political, security and administrative domains. Politically, almost entire nation less Kashmir Valley has appreciated the decision. The political community of J&K has been largely marginalised and the the major parties reduced to the status of parties of a UT where central oversight will be much higher. The right to rule, of course, by democratic exercise rests with the parties.
We are yet unaware whether any decisions on delimitation are in the offing. If elections for the new J&K UT assembly are held without delimitation the possibility of the BJP forming a government on its own may yet be remote. For this, it has relied on Sajad Lone and his People's Conference giving it support. Lone himself has been placed under detention and the future of any such alignment could now appear doubtful. Although, in politics nothing can be ruled out.
It appears that with more legal research delimitation will need to be resorted to if the BJP has to make use of its strong presence in Jammu. The political follow up to these momentous decisions cannot just remain static with a sulking populace and demotivated polity. None of this will be good for India. If full integration, as applicable to all other states, is expected then sooner than later a suitable campaign of rapprochement with both will need to be drawn up.
Outreach to the Negatively Disposed Section of Kashmiris
Elation need not be a one-time affair and restricted just to the courageous decisions. There exists in Kashmir a quiet and inexpressive community of people who would be supportive of the arrangement. The political and social environment needs to be seeded with positivity right from this moment before there is any effort of Pakistan and others to try and influence those who have been psychologically negatively impacted. The latter obviously forms a larger majority. Who is to do the outreach to this community is a question which should engage the government and all right thinking citizens. That outreach must begin now.
Momentous decisions take time to sink in. There is likely to be some impact but exaggerations will rule social media.
The celebration mode in the rest of the country must not treat this as a victory over the people of Kashmir. Within a nation there are no losers and no winners. These are temporary moments in time which must give way to more prudent thoughts of taking everyone on board the vehicle of the nation.
Security Forces Must Avoid Violence in Streets At All Costs
It is in the security domain that the impact of the decisions will be most felt. Currently, Kashmir is seething and much of it is under curfew. This will probably continue till Independence Day. The Prime Minister will have some positive messages to convey. There will be efforts at rabble rousing but the internal security arrangements in place must robustly contest these.
The threat from improvised explosive devices or IEDs against convoy movements will be on the increase.
The Separatists are reasonably marginalised but Pakistan's capability of seeding discontent and exploiting it must not be underestimated. With some degree of drying up of illegal finances and other networks stamina in the streets would probably run out.
What Pakistan and anti national elements would wish is blood in the streets, like in 2010 and 2016. That is something the armed police forces must avoid at all cost. The J&K Police (JKP), one of the best police forces of India must be fully trusted and given the required tasks it is expected to carry out. Attempts to demoralise the local police force will be made right in the beginning and must be countered through effective police leadership.
LoC & Convoys Likely to Become More Vulnerable
There could be a spurt in local recruitment and even without too many high profile terrorist leaders efforts to revive terror will be made. This could take the form of combination of street turbulence and terror with terrorists assuming the role of instigators. Mob control and a moratorium on pellet guns will be helpful to retain balance.
The threat from improvised explosive devices or IEDs against convoy movements will be on the increase. This is an area of relative weakness on which all security forces will need to focus the awareness
It is the LoC which will witness enhanced activity with Pakistani efforts to activate multiple infiltration routes. Vulnerable posts will need reinforcement as much as the counter infiltration grid. Artillery and mortar exchanges will also continue at least till 17 Sep 2019 and beyond when the UN General Assembly meets and Pakistan will raise issues connected to J&K.
Momentous decisions take time to sink in. There is likely to be some impact but exaggerations will rule social media. Pakistan's ISI & ISPR are likely to be hyper active. Ultimate success lies in converting these political initiatives into people's success. That has not yet entered into the discourse of discussions. Eventually the delivery of sound governance and full security will bring the people's support. Then there will no looking back.
(The writer, a former GOC of the Army’s 15 Corps, is now the Chancellor of Kashmir University. He can be reached at @atahasnain53. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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