The army, specially the Rashtriya Rifles, has done a wonderful job of winning over the civil population. Army run goodwill schools are extremely popular. The real issue in Kashmir is not Aazadi but unemployment and presence of lumpen elements in cities like Srinagar, a ready fodder for agitation and violence (not unlike the storm troopers of Raj Thackeray in Mumbai).
The problem is exacerbated by rising population and lack of investment in industry or agriculture. The Tatas may have excellent hotels in Colombo, London or the Maldives but they have none in Kashmir. Increasing pollution may destroy KashmirÃÂs famed saffron crop and affect horticulture.
These issues can be addressed only if we have an effective Governor who makes it clear to the separatists that secession is not an option. India has both the will and the means to remain in Kashmir indefinitely, whatever the one novel wonder and some faint hearted columnists in Delhi may think sitting in their drawing rooms.
But our government for some reason is unable to make its case forcefully, and this is compounded by an irresponsible media.
It is time the government of the day shed its diffidence, stopped getting influenced by parachuted journalists and self styled Mohalla leaders, and acted tough with the miscreants to ensure long term peace and prosperity of the people of Kashmir.
Image: A residential public school at Pehalgam built by the army. (Photograph copyright Anil Athale. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.)
Also read: Why Pakistan wonÃÂt leave Kashmir alone