The current instability in Jammu and Kashmir that had commenced in late 1989 has seen many ebbs and flows. The situation has recently deteriorated and needs to be stabilised quickly.

The Kashmiri’s have now started killing their own, commencing with the young Kashmiri Army Officer - Lt Ummer Fayaz and now six policemen of J&K Police including the SHO of the police station. This not only shows their desperation, but how the ISI of Pakistan as well as their henchmen- Hurriat members and other overt and covert agents, have indoctrinated the youth and have poisoned their minds. It is a matter of great regret that the politicians of Kashmir, including the Chief Minister have not found the time to even pay their last respects to those killed in cold blood. How disgraceful!

The only response of local political leaders, including the Chief Minister, is ‘talk to them’. Who is them and if talks were what were needed, what were these political leaders doing till now? Even earlier Kashmiri political leaders had their foremost interest in continuously increasing their own power and pelf and not in good governance. They have also been getting sustenance from the leftist-liberals and other anti-national elements, who have their own warped agendas.

When the militancy started in Kashmir in 1989, all political leaders ensconced themselves in well protected bungalows and stopped governing, thus permitting the militants/insurgents to have a free run. This included the pogrom against the Pandits and other non-Muslims. It appears that the Mullahs, particularly of the Wahibi variety, want to continue urging the youth to commit cold-blooded murder, knowing well that it is ‘Haram’ and murdering their own kin, which is doubly ‘Haram’. It was Karl Marks who had opined that ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’ and these Mullahs, at the behest of their mentors in Pakistan are doing the same.

Unfortunately, both the central and state governments have been on an appeasement spree and have taken no initiatives to convince the youth that nothing will be achieved with violence. A revisit of the political bungling of the past, as well as the responses of the nation, tell the story in its totality.

Nehru bungled by first going to the UN; then accepting Plebiscite; and finally being persuaded by Sheikh Abdullah to add Article 370. Shastri grossly erred in reverting to the status quo on the Cease Fire Line (CFL) after the 1965 war. After India’s decisive victory in 1971, Indira Gandhi missed a golden opportunity to enforce a permanent end to the problem.

VP Singh was blackmailed into releasing several terrorists, so that the present Chief Minister’s sister, taken as a hostage could be released. This was a decisive victory for the insurgents. Rajiv Gandhi erred in getting elections rigged through Farouk Abdullah. The UPA government that followed reinstated Farouk and continued the appeasement policy!

Much was expected from Vajpayee but he slipped badly when he allowed the hostage swap during the Kandahar hijacking and then was back-stabbed (Agra and Kargil).

The next UPA government, in both tenures showed little interest in J&K, as they were too busy in other activities!

Modi had unilaterally extended his hand to make peace with Pakistan, till he realised that it was the powerful Pakistani Army that sabotaged all overtures. However, within Kashmir, his link-up with PDP to form a coalition has been a major mistake.

At the state level, three Abdullah’s, two Muftis’ (the senior Mufti twice) and a host of others have ruled the state. Not one provided good governance, but kept asking for additional funds. Today, per capita infusion of funds in Kashmir is ten times higher than in the rest of India!

Sheikh Abdullah spent eleven years behind bars for treason, yet Nehru released him and made him Chief Minister! His son, brought militancy/insurgency/ terrorism to the state during his 1986-1990 tenure. As soon as Stability was achieved during Governor’s rule, Farouk was brought back as a bad penny!

The problem is politico-military-administrative in nature, needing a holistic solution in accordance with a comprehensive plan. While doing so, we need to ignore the whining of the ‘bleeding hearts’ of all varieties and biased utterances of their fellow-travelers. The ‘change’ must emanate from the highest political level and must be carried out in a cohesive manner.

The political leadership needs to take actions commensurate with the drastic change in the ground situation; mere tinkering will not work. This implies governing in earnest, with political leaders fanning out in their constituencies, ensuring that people-friendly projects move; give assurances; motivate the polity and deliberately stop politicking.

The policy of appeasement and allowing anti-nationals to instigate the populace with religious motivation must end. This will close the window to Pakistan that it has used to create mayhem and havoc in the state by exporting Wahabism, which is alien to Kashmir’s ethos.

From late 1989, when the Valley started boiling, army was the lead player. It stabilised the situation by 1996 and elections were held.

There was a spurt in infiltration from Pakistan following the 1999 Kargil War but the army stabilised the situation again. Having made no headway, Pakistan changed tack and commenced instigating local youth through highly emotive use of social media and liberal cash payments, to interfere in anti-insurgent operations, including by resorting to stoning.

What is now needed is use of Smart Power (mixture of Hard/Soft Power), devoid of any appeasement. Simultaneously, political/ administrative initiatives must explain pitfalls of violence and confrontational approach; and motivate the youth to shun violence. Additional jobs must be created, including massive recruitment in the Territorial Army (TA) and police.

Complete clamp down on the Hurriat; charging them with sedition; and taking them out of the state are a must.

Placing the state under Governor’s Rule for a finite period is a good option, considering that the people have lost faith in the political dispensation. Before doing so, a change of Governor is a must, as the present incumbent has become stale after nine years in this appointment. He should be replaced by a dynamic personality, who is completely knowledgeable about the state, so that he can generate confidence in the populace. I am not being parochial, but in troubled times, only experienced army officers fit the bill, as they did during 1989-90; 1993-98; and 2003-08, as also in Assam and elsewhere.

An all-party consensus is a must, as the issue is not a party issue, but one that affects the entire nation. Opposition parties need to play a constructive role and not continue with their divisive acts!

The central government needs to set up an exclusive ‘Department of Perception Management’, under a dynamic non-bureaucratic head, comprising of media and technocrats, for countering the vicious propaganda of Pakistan’s ISI and should produce and air programmes both in conventional and social media. Such a department must not be placed under any intelligence organisation or any uniformed force, as it will then have no credibility.

There should be no talks with anyone at this stage, but responsible individuals and organisations, which can wield influence with the alienated youth should be identified. The “liberal pseudo seculars” who falsely cry for “human rights” need to be ignored. They need to be attached to army and CAPF units operating in Kashmir to feel actualities on the ground. It is only then that they will realise that a soldier is the greatest victim of “human rights”.

We need to ignore biased world opinion and take decisions in our national interest only. Our media needs to change and shun sensationalism. It can and must play a highly constructive and unbiased role in all security-related issues. It needs to remember that publicity is ‘oxygen’ for all insurgents and hence need for reports to be circumspect.

With a view to ensure that massive funds being given are spent properly, an organisation, minus politicians, needs to be set up under the Governor, to spend the funds on productive and people-friendly projects. Money works, provided it is utilised correctly.

Imposing strict “Rule of Law” is of paramount importance. Anyone acting against the national interest must be dealt with expeditiously under the laws of the land. A combination of carrot and the stick policy is needed. A highly professional Kashmiri Muslim Police officer, if appointed as the DGP will achieve wonders.

Finally, at the appropriate time, remove Article 370 after explaining how the state is suffering in every aspect of life on account of this Article.

(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)

(The views are personal to the writer)