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How strange? Can release of separatists and fighting militants go together?

How strange? Can release of separatists and fighting militants go together?

Author: A. N. Dar
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: December 6, 2002

Strange though it may sound, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed himself has come to be in a siege. His much publicised but controversial programme of releasing some of those in jail, a promise which helped him come to power, is being severely tested. The day he released Yaseen Malik the separatist leader shouted severe condemnation of Mufti, even questioning his representative capacity and challenging him to fight an election against him. This could be glossed over by a chief minister as the stand of a separatist who did not want to show that he was going to compromise in return for his release. But Mufti's challenges did not end up with that.

The chief minister had hardly settled down to fulfilling his common minimum programme when other challenges in the shape of daily violence confronted him. On the very day of his swearing in the militants bombed his house and sprayed bullets and bombs in many other areas. Violence continued every day till it came to be the turn of the famed Raghunath Mandir in the heart of Jammu. The militants knew that it would hurt Jammu the most and with it the rest of the country which had voted actively against the old regime and made it possible for the new government to take over.

If the feeling grew that the state government was releasing the separatists while terrorist violence took place public opinion in the country would turn against the Mufti government in no uncertain manner. The spread of this feeling would go against any step in lowering tension by releasing some of the separatists. That could spell the end of any desired step that the state government wanted to take.

This is what the separatists and those who disfavoured him politically want to happen. Their sights were clear; they knew that this kind of violence would not be accepted in the country. The government could not go on releasing jailed separatists while temples were being destroyed and people were being killed.

Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is seasoned enough as a politician to know that the country would not accept this and with the Gujarat election only a few days away, the Congress, his coalition partner, would be put in an embarrassing state. He has a bad record to look back on when the release of militants after the kidnapping of his daughter Rubbiya is said to have set off militancy for over ten years. You may be able to bear all this but any politician who cares about the pulse of the people would know that the people in Jammu and the rest of the country would not be able to take it.

Already controversies have arisen between the Centre and the state government over the wisdom of releasing the separatists and whether there has been proper coordination between the two. This is not much to be surprised at. In such controversies, politics plays a part and there is much temptation to blame each other and score points. But there is a limit to this because human lives are involved and so also the morale of the country while it fights terrorism.

The parties constituting the present coalition government fought the elections to bring about a new order into play. While both want to fight terrorism, the means they choose are different from the previous regime. The present regime would try to bring succor to those who have suffered in the militancy. As Mufti Mohammed Sayeed argued, those who have become orphans or lost their jobs or houses because of militancy, why should they have to suffer. It is to bring solace to them that a part of the common minimum programme is addressed. Giving them relief is not only a humanitarian job but it would also bring down the political temperature.

Let us be clear that this kind of a programme would not end terrorism. It would be a travesty if the Kashmir government releasing those against whom there are no severe charges has to fight violence too. Those against whom there are specific charges should not be released. At the same time they should not be kept in jail endlessly without bringing forward any charges. Not only would they become heroes and ``Nelson Mandelas'' but also gain unnecessary popularity. This should be one aim of the common minimum programme.

The other aim is to create conditions in the state which will end terrorism but not by adopting the tactics of bullet for bullet. Is this needed while fighting the terrorists? They have to be chased and killed wherever they appear.

We cannot have a stable society if terrorism continues and the terrorists are able to kill and loot and get away. No government can last like this. It has to fight terrorism.

One method of fighting terrorism is to see to it that the terrorists most of whom come from Pakistan do not receive support from the local population. How can this be done except by having on your side people who feel that they are not acted against and there is a government which is fair and human. The one charge that worked against the Farooq Abdullah regime was that he was unconcerned with the woes of the people.

The common minimum programme wants to remove the irritants that have crept into the way of life of Kashmiris during the years of militancy. Many of the irritants are perhaps nec-essary when you are fighting the militancy but many of these could be and should be eliminated so that the citizens live more peaceful lives.

Take the cases of making searches of homes. Anyone who knows the lives of the people of Kashmir would conclude that searches are disgraceful as they intrude into the lives of private citizens. Yet what would the security forces do if they do not go in for searches to look for he terrorists? Searches become inevitable but these hurt the privacy of the people. No rules can be laid down on this. Yet what an enlightened government would do is to reduce them to the minimum. Similarly there have been cases of militants walking under a burqa go give the impression that a woman is passing by. But under the burqa a militant can be holding a bullet and when the target comes by, he shoots.

Now what are the security forces to do? They must see whether there is a woman or not. This will have to be probed but this must be done carefully and judiciously.

The minimum programme tries to see to it that the irksome measures are minimised. If this results in weakening the local support of the terrorists, the back of terrorism would be broken. This is also the way of fighting terrorism.

So the people should not mind while the state government tries to end the local support by keeping a satisfied people who are not unnecessarily troubled and whose woes are taken care of.

Let us not argue that if a person is released from jail, this would lessen terrorism. Pakistan cannot be taken in by Mufti's initiatives. Mufti should know this. Pakistan would not give up its programme. But good governance, being fair to people who have been detained without charges and giving succor to the victims of the militancy can reduce the local support the terrorists enjoy. That is also a way of fighting terrorism.

Will Mufti succeed in this.

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