Home » india news » Centre's carrot & stick policy in Kashmir: Relaxes curbs on separatists amid encounters of militants

Centre's carrot & stick policy in Kashmir: Relaxes curbs on separatists amid encounters of militants

Riyaz Wani | Updated on: 3 April 2018, 18:34 IST

In Kashmir, the state government has decided to relax the curbs on the activity of the separatist trio Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. And they were duly allowed to attend the Friday prayers at their respective mosques. In case of Geelani, it was first time in five years that he could visit his neighbourhood mosque. But just two days later, the government once again put them under house arrest in the wake of the killings of thirteen militants, three security personnel and the four civilians in Shopian.

However, the sources in the government say the fresh curbs are only temporary and were imposed in view of the extra-ordinary situation prevailing in the state following the major security operation in South Kashmir.

J&K DGP SP Vaid has already said on record that the separatists were free to engage in political activity and go wherever they liked. There was a rider though: “they would not create a law and order problem, nor make anti-national speeches”.

And the day after the government decision as the separatists were allowed to go about their Friday prayers. Though there was no law and order problem, in their speeches the separatists didn’t live up to the expectation of the government. The speeches by their very logic were anti-national in nature. Geelani said that the Delhi’s rule in Kashmir was temporary and “it will go one day”.

Mirwaiz urged people to remain “committed and steadfast” in the struggle for Azadi. And Malik called for replicating “the separatist unity of the nineties,” to strengthen the struggle. Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai who recently succeeded Geelani in the separatist outfit Tehreek-i-Hurriyat refused to appeal his militant son to return, saying “there were sons of others also out there”.

But overall, the trio remained guarded in their words. One could hardly hear the kind of belligerent anti-India rhetoric one is used to hear in Geelani’s speeches.


Policy shift on Kashmir?

The real significance of setting the separatists free is in the evident shift in New Delhi’s policy towards the state. After experimenting with an iron-fisted policy towards the state in the past four years, NDA government seems to have finally come around to try some engagement and outreach. And letting separatists carry out their political activity is the first step in this direction.

“More decisions are in offing,” said Dineshwar Sharma, the centre’s interlocutor on Kashmir. “You will see a change, a big change”.

Sharma, however, stopped short of urging separatists for the dialogue, saying it was up to them “to take a call on this”.

Importantly, the BJP has gone along with the decision. “India is a democratic country and they (separatists) have a right to carry out activities democratically. Lifting curbs on separatist leaders is a part of Confidence Building Measure,” said Ashok Kaul, the BJP’s J&K spokesperson. “Separatists have been asked to carry out activities peacefully. This has been conveyed to them before the decision to lift curbs was taken”.

This is first time that the BJP has favoured a concession to the separatists, which is a major departure from its hawkish and strictly integrationist policy on the state.


What's cooking?

What explains this sudden and dramatic shift in the approach towards Hurriyat. As Sharma and the BJP’s response to the freeing of separatists underlines, the centre is also in the loop on the decision. The rethink, said a senior PDP leader, has been forced by the constant efforts by the state government to get the Centre to nuance its approach. “And the Centre has understood our case for some modulation in its response to the situation in the state,” said the leader.

In her recent speech at the convention of the 64th Travel Agents Association of India in Srinagar, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had called for exploring new ways to deal with the situation in Kashmir.

“Our country has left us alone,” she told an audience of major tourism players of the country. “There are many ways to deal with a situation, only gun is used in Kashmir”.


Rise in militancy


Sources in the government say that another reason for the decision to relax curbs on separatists, is the growing trend of the local youth joining militancy. There is now some acknowledgment of the fact that the trend may be in part being driven by the vacuum created by the absence of a separatist political process.

“Physical absence of the separatists from the scene has let a certain extreme kind of discourse flourish and influence the thinking of youth,” said a politician. “We hope letting separatists peacefully advocate their point of view will offer an alternative to mindless violence”.

In recent past, Kashmir has witnessed some uptick in violence, claimed in part by the militants allegedly owing allegiance to Al Qaeda and ISIS. Also there are reports of more local youth taking up arms, as the Sunday’s Shopian encounters bear out. Last week, the son of the top Hurriyat leader Sehrai too joined militancy, first such case in the past thirty years of the separatist movement. Following the development, the state government had allowed Mirwaiz, Geelani and Malik to hold their first joint meeting in the past 30 years.


First published: 3 April 2018, 18:34 IST