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Will Modi listen to his predecessor?

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Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not known for making fiery speeches. He is quite a soft-spoken person speaking through intelligence than mere words while making his point. But on Sunday (during his speech at Congress’s 84th plenary session) Dr Singh appeared quite a villain of his own image. In one of his most aggressive attacks on the BJP government at the centre, the former prime minister, besides mismanaging economy, disrupting social harmony and promoting corruption, accused Modi government of messing up the Kashmir case as well by his ‘jumla’ (rhetoric) politics. Though Kashmir was never peaceful, evening during Dr Singh’s rule (2008 peoples’ uprising is a case in point) but there always remained a hope in air as he never shut the doors of dialogue, both, at internal and external level. Dr Singh held two rounds of talks with Kashmiri separatist leaders barring Syed Ali Geelani. But for Mumbai 2008 attacks, the relations between India and Pakistan too remained peaceful, if not friendly. The LOC was peaceful and institution of dialogue active. But after the rise of Modi to power in Delhi, the scene altogether changed. Modi not only shut the doors of the institution of dialogue but also adopted a ‘tit-for-tat’ policy with Pakistan, and ‘crush them all’ with separatist leaders. There is no denying the fact that this policy helped BJP win election after elections in various states of India. But this fact can also be not denied that the situation in Kashmir had never been as horrific as today. The “crush them all” policy has fiercely proved counter-productive. Militancy which was residual when Modi assumed power has become conventional. More and more youth are driven towards gun. The alienation of common people too has touched new heights. The central government appears to have been caught in its own web. Is it paucity of ideas or the mindset problem that government looks only at uniformed people to save situation for them in Kashmir. More and more forces are pushed in to control the situation. They kill people with no fear of law. On March 5, soldiers shot dead five unarmed civilians at Pehlipora in Shopian dubbing them as over-ground workers (OGW) of militants. It is now difficult to draw a line between militants and civilians. Anybody can be killed at any place on any premise. It can now be said that there are no civilians in Kashmir. This notion is now projected and promoted by the political and media establishment all across India. Even judiciary is protecting security forces from being made accountable. Last month, Supreme Court of India stayed legal proceedings against an army Major under whose command three unarmed civilians were shot dead by soldiers at Ganowpora in the same district. Similarly another army officer Major Gagoi was protected and rewarded when he violated all norms of humanity and civility by tying a hapless Kashmir youth to his jeep in Budgam in April last year. Since 1990 when militancy erupted, almost seven lakh soldiers of regular army and paramilitary forces have been deployed in Kashmir to counter the insurgency. Though the militancy was curtailed to certain extent but it could not be curbed completely. Many army commanders (former) are on record to have said that “army can only contain militancy but it cannot end it up. There is a need for serious political outreach to make Kashmir peaceful”. Only recently the incumbent army chief Gen. BipinRawat was also heard raising similar voice. This is the most plausible thing one can expect from reasonable minds. Kashmir, in essence, is a political problem. It cannot be wished away. If left unresolved it will keep returning as a crisis with increased intensity. Militancy and military approach are the outcome of delay in resolving the issue politically. Government of India should have learnt from the past experience where military action not only failed to restore peace but worked as igniting force to add to the trouble. Prime Minister Modi should think beyond the advantage of poll politics. Sacrificing peace and countries other interests at the altar of party politics is the worst thing one can do to one’s country.