The Soldier Skirts The Target

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Lt Gen Hooda (Retd) articulates same old acceptance of soft separatism in Kashmir. He misses the main issues

On June 21, Lt Gen DS Hooda (Retd) wrote an article on a news portal titled In ‘pressure cooker’ Jammu and Kashmir primed to explode, restoration of statehood may offer much-needed release. Lt Gen Hooda is a highly decorated soldier. He is former Northern Commander, Indian Army, under whose leadership India carried out surgical strikes against Pakistan in 2016.

His analysis: Neither did Kashmir erupt as many predicted nor did the Valley usher in a new era of economic development after it became a Union Territory, proving both the assessments wrong.  You can read the write-up here

The write-up by Lt Gen Hooda (Retd) is a good articulation with an empathetic heart. But it misses the main issues. It has a sense of the same old acceptance of soft separatism. Emotions rule the roost in kashmir – pathos rules while logic is ignored. The emotional pressure release will have a temporary relief. Kashmir needs real action.

While the write-up rightly talks of the economic and social challenges that need to be ameliorated, it somehow pins all this on political activity. Statehood or UT politics won’t impact economy – it will impact governance to a level. Those who know J&K administration – know that it is seriously moth eaten and needs surgery that is possible only under a UT. That’s finally happening.

Economic activity will be the real pressure release. Economy is a function of Covid easing out, coupled with good governance. The article shows that the author has less inputs of the administrative efforts being made. The long term efforts, if executed well, will show results in two to three years.

A simple comparison is the electricity supply in a severe winter gone by – the administration did well after a long time. That gives hope of concerted efforts showing results.

Bureaucratic arrogance and inefficiency are a common grouse for Kashmir and Jammu. That needs to be addressed. What is a better vehicle for this – State or UT? Tough to answer.

Gen Hooda missed to notice the muted opposition to tourism and other economic activity by the same soft separatists and their proxies in media. Return of economic activity is not high on their agenda.

Also, Gen Hooda forgets to talk about the calls for restoration of Art 370 and 35A – the same calls being made by Pakistan. He fails to note that a new Hurriyat lobby is taking shape by selling victimhood to Kashmiris and the world.

PAGD – the entire lot together in DDC elections getting a majority is no breaking news. Two years ago, they would have together cornered 99% votes. This time, despite the ungainly alliance, they lost to new small-time young leaders. This shows that people are looking for an option. If we give them time, these new alternatives will gain strength.

Elected leadership is a good idea, no doubt about that – that’s the basics of democracy. However, the present lot has shown incompetence and complicity in making the situation go from bad to worse in 30 years.

J&K deserves and will get statehood. The assumption that giving statehood will be a pressure release is a wrong appreciation. It won’t stop the demands for revocation or azadi. It is more important to kill rumours like bifurcation – that was a job done well.

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