21st February 1997
Reports that many Muslim families had been forced to leave their homes in the Valley in recent weeks is particularly disturbing when a popular government had been in place. The story of the exodus from the Valley has been one uninterrupted saga of suffering since the militants first struck in the Valley over eight years ago. Even so, there are important differences. In the earlier phase, the migration was triggered following attacks on members of one particular community with the aim of dislodging them from their roots. The Kashmiri Pandits have not still got an assurance of safe return to their homes. In the current phase, the victims belonged to the State's majority community; they have been founded out of the Valley for their political views. According to first person accounts emanating from Jammu, where the latest migrants were staying, the fact that they had either participated in the State Assembly elections last October or had supported the ruling National Conference appeared to have provoked the ire of the militant groups. The armed groups, now appeared engaged in attacking those who did. There is more to this than mere vindictiveness born of political difference. It represents an attempt to subvert the elected government by harassing or hitting at whoever was suspected of having supported the electoral process that brought the National Conference to power.
This, in effect, represents an open challenge to the credibility of the State Government. Worse still, it exposes the hollowness of the promises of security offered by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah to the Kashmiri Pandits in order to persuade them to return to the Valley. Chief Minister Abdullah's over-enthusiasm in tackling some of his political adversaries, even before he got the problem of militancy out of the way, should explain part of the difficulties he is now facing. It was partly the failure of the State Government to provide adequate security besides proper rehabilitation schemes that resulted in many former militants returning to the order of the gun. That was a tactical mistake even if the Chief Minister did not like the modus operandi of such elements. Instilling a sense of security among the people in the Valley now should be the top most priority task for the State Government. Rather than quibbling over who should head the joint security apparatus, the State Government should welcome whatever support it can muster in its fight against the militant groups. In fact, the credibility and effectiveness of the State Government would depend on how well it deals with this problem.