Historically, the struggle of Kashmiri people is very old, and the recent wave of atrocities were born during 1947-48 War, which was the moment when Kashmir became a “disputed part” of India and Pakistan. Since then Kashmir has become a battleground for three competing nationalism: Indian, Pakistani and the aspirant Kashmiri nationalism. The Indian official position, armed or otherwise, against the Indian rule is a handiwork of Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, regards Kashmir as its “Jugular Vein” and holds that India has occupied Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir by military might which is against the underlying logic of partition. Kashmiris think that they have historically been deprived of agency over their own political dispensation by two feuding nations, India and Pakistan.

The long-drawn armed conflict in Kashmir has claimed thousands of lives and made the economy bleed, and has posed grave threats to the country’s security. It was in 1989 when the insurgency was born, as an indigenous mov against the corrupt governance and autocratic rule of Sheikh Abdullah. Externally, too, Kashmir has long been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan; the two nations have fought four wars over the valley. The insurgency has ruined the normal functioning of the state, and has forced New Delhi to notify the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as a “disturbed area” and invoke controversial and draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) to maintain peace. Though New Delhi tried to occasionally reach out to Pakistan and even to Kashmiris over the years, but for some brief periods of hope, peace has not prevailed in the Kashmir valley.    

Problems in Kashmir

People of Kashmir have always suffered the most whatever the situation may be. Right from 1947 they have faced the hardship, which was because of both India and Pakistan claiming the disputed land and in the process people had to migrate from one place to another, they were denied their basic rights like schooling, speech and many more which made people anti govt. Govt in order to ensure law and order had to take many steps which had violated the basic right of people, and also generated hatred amongst the population. Unemployment is one of the maj factors which have increased the rising No. of insurgents. People are fed up with armed forces carrying out regular checks and disturb their daily routine, no individual ever want to come out of his house at 0400hrs and get his house checked. The months long curfew, cut off in internet network have become common in the valley, so why would people support the government?

Armed forces have always remained on toes when it comes to Jammu and Kashmir, be it for internal security or external threat. Initially when army was called in the state it was difficult to operate as insurgency was on peak and it was difficult to distinguish between terrorists and civilian, so there was a need of special power, which came in the form of AFSPA. When army was busy eliminating terrorists and bring back the normalcy in the state they willingly or unwillingly violated the human rights and this had major impact on the population, the perception of the population changed and they started looking at army as another enemy. We cannot blame the army for the conduct, it was the part of the population who forced to take such actions.

Both state and central Govt have not been that effective with regards to development in the state. State Govt which was run by few families and was corrupt and on ground the development was minimal, industries were less and this led to unemployment and thus increase in no of insurgents and support to terrorists. Removal of article 370 and 35A was one of the important step taken by the central Govt, which was not liked by many people in the valley and their outcomes will be decided by how Govt functions hereafter.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The foremost challenge for New Delhi is rebuilding trust. After the removal of article 370, it has created an impact on Kashmiris of all persuasions, incl the pro-India voices who have always remained neutral in this conflict. Govt should act to rebuilt the trust deficit and to win over the confidence of the Kashmiris, that will create a sense of oneness among the Kashmiris and will help change their perception towards New Delhi.

Due attention must be given to address rural economic distress created. The issues like electricity, problems of farmers where an environment is created so that they are able to sell their products to outside and to ensure higher rates given.

The issue of unemployment can be resolved by generating more jobs by developing industries, boosting tourism, encouraging local art and craft and opening their markets. Education to all will help in reduction of unemployment and also play a major role in perception management. Establishment of modern higher education institutions and IITs in its new UT will help creating more opportunities for youth. Govt should announce new set of attractive scholarship for Kashmiri students.

Armed forces have another important role to play. Conduct of operations should be people friendly and ensure minimum collateral damage, better the soldiers conduct themselves better the response received from the population and ultimately will help in further operations and build a good image of our armed forces in the population which is the need of the hour.

Perception management should be top priority of our armed forces when they operate in the areas as neutralizing the terrorists would never end terrorism but changing perception of the people would ultimately result in eliminating terrorism. In order to change the perception of the population, govt and armed forces should take part actively, that is ensuring education to all, increasing employment, providing basic amenities to locals and work towards improving their lifestyle. Media, both print and social media plays a very crucial role in changing the perception and should be used effectively. WHAM activities should be inculcated in our plg as it is a maj perception management factor.

Govt and armed forces have an important role to play when it comes to Jammu and Kashmir. What the population wants should also be considered when the decisions are taken, after all they are our own people.

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