Amongst the simmering rumours in Jammu that Government of India may wilt under the pressures exerted by the sustained ‘Intifada’ in Kashmir Valley, the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on 15th August was a pleasant surprise. The portion of the speech addressed to the present problem in Kashmir Valley, demonstrated a graceful firmness. The speech resolutely communicated that the separatists machinations may lead them no-where and bring them nothing. It reiterated Government of India’s willingness and flexibility to talk to anybody and everybody on issues which are concerned with the betterment and welfare of the people of the state but only within the boundaries of Constitution of India. For the first time in the recent past ambiguous, misleading phrases like ‘autonomy’, solution within the confines of ‘insaniyat’ , ‘sky is the limit’, ‘stake holders’ or ‘rendering ‘borders irrelevant’ were not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech with regards to the Kashmir issue.
More than that, Prime Minister left no body in doubt that when he addressed the problems of the state, he had every region, and section of the peoples comprising the state of Jammu and Kashmir in mind and not merely Kashmiri Muslims. Last but not the least he stated clearly that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of the Indian nation. Those who thought that Government of India had already conceded that the state of Jammu and Kashmir was a disputed legacy and change of status quo, political and constitutional, was in the offing, have been forced to re-examine their conclusions. This statesmanly clearity was required at this juncture when separatists in the Valley are unleashing cycles of public frenzy.
But standing firm and merely appearing to be firm are two opposite positions. When the state gives an impression that it is only faking firmness then it is seen weaker than its actual weakness. Government of India over the years has many times given signals which undermined and even put to ridicule the firm steps it took to salvage the situation on the ground.
We all know very well that when Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah was removed from power for the first time and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad put in the saddle, the firmness and the clarity of vision of GoI was put to ridicule because it lost no time in sending emissaries to the arrested leader for reconciliation. It was only the threat of resignation from none other than Bakshi himself which put a halt to the move. His government stood firm and we had almost a decade of stable rule in the state.
So many of such incidents could be quoted which undermined the resoluteness of Government of India at times when it was required to be seen as well as felt. This time also, sending emissaries like Radha Kumar, Amitabh Mattoo or Wajahat Habibullah who have a pronounced position of granting concessions to the separatist politics in the state will jeopardise the entire positive and affirmative thrust of Government of India on Jammu and Kashmir which the Prime Minister underlined in his speech.
Also leaving rabble rousers and religious bigots like Ali Shah Geelani or Asiya Andrabi free to mobilise public by striking deals with them will eventually undermine the sanctity and the authority of the government at the helms in the state. Government will have to re-evaluate its policy formulations with regard to mass mobilisation drives. Allowing public demonstrations on the assurances that they will remain peaceful, or on the premise that they may serve the cause of public catharsis, will be self defeating.