Nobody should know it better than the prime minister that the country is not at war with itself in Kashmir.
Nations with legitimacy don't wage war within its territories and against the people who inhabit there.
India is fighting insurgency in Kashmir. Just as there is insurgency in the Northeast and in several parts of the main hinterland.
On Monday, even as the Parliament was debating the popular people's uprising in Kashmir, the Maoists killed eight security personnel in Bihar.
The Maoists engaged the police in day-long encounter, in which four of them died too. In contrast in more than ten days since the killing of Burhan Wani, one police personnel has been killed in the Valley.
The nature of the insurgency or revolt in Kashmir is different from what the government is facing in the vast areas of the main hinterland. One can understand the strategy of the response too will be different.
But there is one manner in which the response has to be uniform and alike. The government has to treat the people caught between the security forces and the active agents of the uprisings with same standard.
People form the bulwark of all insurgencies and rebellions. Insurgencies and uprisings fail when they lose popular support. The response to the uprisings, therefore, has to be built on the strategies taking into account the lives of the people.
The youth of Kashmir venting their anger against the government and the heavily-armed security forces are not armed. Stones are their weapons, not Kalashnikovs. In rare cases, they have used grenades too.
|Why is then that the government's response to stone pelting youth including some women and children is so disproportionate? (Reuters)|
Overall, they can't be accused of armed uprisings against the state. In contrast, Maoists have armed guerillas, which ambush police and do selective killings as part of their strategy against the state.
The armed Hizbul Mujahideen and members of terrorist organisations who sneak in the Valley from Pakistan have to be neutralised by the security forces.
But the stone-pelting masses are not engaging the police and the Army in armed street battles as part of the ongoing protests.
Even as the separatists and armed militants waging war against India are tied up in sort of symbiotic relations, the people are not the vanguard of terrorism and militancy in the Kashmir.
People are a vacillating lot, tilting from one side to the other depending on situations. The stone-pelting youths can be weaned away with proper and right measure of persuasion.
Why is then that the government's response to stone pelting youth including some women and children is so disproportionate?
Why is that the security forces have been authorised to use pellets that have done incalculable harm to the lives of the people who in most of the cases have been doing nothing except throwing stones?
None other than a former Army chief General Ved Prakash Malik has asked whether the security forces were trained in using the pellets they have been firing.
Were they trained to use the pellets against the people from a certain distance and not from close distance? It is something the government must find out.
He also slammed the government for deploying the CRPF by rushing them from areas where they were fighting the heavily armed Maoists to be pitted against stones-wielding mass of youth. It's a grave tactical error on part of the government with grave consequences.
If the response of the security forces has been disproportionate, the response of the government in Delhi has been callous to say the least.
After so many days of the current round of unrest in the Valley, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mentioned the K word twice in his statements.
Firstly, he expressed "unhappiness" over the media coverage of the protests. He is reported to have said that a militant, who was involved in terror activities and was working for disintegrating the country, has been portrayed as "hero" giving more traction to his followers to whip up frenzy.
Secondly, at the all party meeting he thanked the opposition parties for speaking in "one voice" on the issue of Kashmir.
Modi said, "Various parties have given statements on Kashmir events which benefited the country. This has sent a right message and I thank all the parties for the same."
On both the issues, the healing touch was missing from Modi's statements. He was more concerned with how media was covering the Kashmir protests and what the opposition parties had said than how much the youth and the people of the Valley had suffered and were suffering.
If Modi was indeed so concerned about the media coverage, he should have expressed deep concern over the television channels and news anchors that are treating the protests as war.
He should have spoken against the channels and anchors that have been exhorting the state apparatus and the people to wage war against the people of Kashmir.
If the government in Delhi is really serious about brining calm to the Valley, Modi should listen to the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury's words. "Where is the feeling of humanity which Vajpayee used to talk about?" Yechury asked in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on Kashmir.
It's the feeling of humanity that has been missing at the South Block. If India is not at war against its own people in Kashmir, the Centre has no other way but to apply the healing touch to retrieve the lost ground. Or be prepared to lose it forever.