Colonel (retd) Anil Athale travelled to the Kashmir Valley recently to understand the ÃÂdynamics of the duel between violence and peaceÃÂ. In the third and final part of the exclusive series, he argues that though the pronouncements of the new US president-elect Barack Obama on Kashmir could muddy the waters further, we must make it clear to the separatists that secession is not an option.
The whole Amarnath land dispute episode was a series of blunders by the government.
It was never explained that the grant was only for three months, to set up temporary shelters to protect pilgrims and their Kashmiri helpers in case of bad weather. Four years ago, nearly 200 people died in unseasonal snow fall.
Immature young mainstream politicians started the initial mischief. The marginalised Hurriyat leaders, however, saw a golden opportunity and took over the agitation, pushing aside the novices.
But what aggravated the situation was the total inaction on the part of the state. The Governor was confined to Raj Bhavan and tongue tied. The Central Government was sleeping. The supreme leader was busy in Beijing watching the Olympics. The Prime Minister was busy with the nuclear deal, and the Home Minister was busy changing his clothes.
When the road link was disrupted and the crop of pears and babugoshas was rotting in the Valley, all that was needed was one phone call, a few flights of giant IL-76 transport aircraft of the IAF, and the Valley agitation would have fizzled out.
Even without the Kashmiri demand, the route to Muzzafarabad was slated to open anyway. The Hurriyat leaders soon converted the land issue agitation into demand for aazadi, or secession.
Image: Kashmiri nomads or Gujjars carry a pilgrim on a palanquin to the cave of Amarnath, in Pishutop, 114 km southeast of Srinagar, July 9, 2008. During the two-month-long annual pilgrimage, devout Hindus walk and ride ponies or palanquins to the cave - situated at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,700 feet), deep in Kashmir mountains to pray by an ice stalagmite they believe to be a symbol of Hindu god Lord Shiva. (Photograph copyright Reuters. Unauthorised replication prohibited.)
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