Kashmir policy in place, finally
10 June 2002
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: The Centre appears to have finally firmed up its Kashmir policy to ensure greater credibility to the forthcoming Assembly elections in J&K. Geelani's arrest under POTA is a pointer in that direction. It was preceded by the arrest of another Hurriyat leader, former JKLF chief Yasin Malik. Obviously, the Centre has toughened its stand against any kind of dialogue with the 23-party conglomerate ahead of the Assembly polls. The government is expected to open up channels for reconciliation and accommodation after the installation of a new government in the state. This could include discussions on greater autonomy and greater decentralisation for accommodation of various political strands under the aegis of a new popular political dispensation. On its part, the ruling National Conference is set to put the autonomy issue at the top of its campaign agenda. Several fence-sitters, especially from the splinter political formations headed by former militants, may prefer to join the 'autonomy bandwagon'. This would save them the task of going against public opinion. The Kashmiri people are apparently craving for an end to the decade-old blood-letting and economic misery. The ongoing rethink amongst the indigenous Hizb-ul-Mujahideen ranks is also a pointer towards the new political permutations and combinations that will occupy centrestage in the next few months. Moreover, in a bid to recover from a precarious situation, one of the principal proponents of peace, Shabir Shah, may also find it easy to co-opt his cadres within this Kashmiriyat strand — an euphemism for greater autonomy for Kashmir within the existing constitutional framework of the country. Geelani's arrest comes at a time when the Prime Minister is slated to visit the valley one more time in coming weeks. He is expected to reassure the Kashmiris that they will have a 'fair and free' poll. He may also have substantive discussions with major political formations to ensure greater participation of the people in the coming polls. Four killed in Pakistani shelling An Army jawan was among four persons killed and eight wounded when Pakistani troops shelled Indian positions overnight in several sectors along the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu division, official sources said. Six houses were also damaged and 13 cattle perished in the firing from across the border, they said.