J&K strategy needs rethink

Civilian Killings
By Insaf

North block should be in a bind viz its strategy on Kashmir. Civilian killings, migrant workers leaving the Valley, an exodus of dozens of families, including Kashmiri Pandits who had returned after getting jobs under the Special Scheme for Kashmiri migrants, clearly reveals that return of normalcy is a far cry. Shifting migrant workers to safe places or providing security in their areas is not an answer. According to reports there are 3 lakh-odd migrant workers in the Valley, mostly engaged by locals in private construction works, paddy and apple harvesting. The nagging fear among workers of now being targeted should make Raj Bhavan and Home Ministry rethink on its so-called development agenda. With another two non-locals killed on Sunday last, the tally of civilians killed is 11 this month, of the 28 this year so far. Worse, if these attacks persist, which weren’t seen during peak of militancy in 1990-2001, the outside work force will have no option but to leave, no matter the promises of safety being made.
Tweaking of strategy is critical as security agencies are gradually realising the shift in approach by militants who now target civilians, particularly members of minority community. It is realised by the police that the killings are being carried out by newly-recruited terrorists or those about to join the ranks, using pistols and this is attributed to “frustration of terrorist handlers” following a destruction of their support structures. Majority of the killings are being carried out under banner of “The Resistance Front, although the militants involved in the incidents belong to Hizb and Lashkar.” The bid to communalise the Valley is underway, which needs deft handling, as the message from the targeted killing is crystal clear: Pandits and outsiders are not welcome and it’s a fight for the rights of local residents. What is the way ahead. Home Minister Amit Shah has held security review meeting with top RAW, NIA and Intelligence Bureau officers; political parties are demanding restoration of statehood and an elected government and LG Manoj Sinha has stated: We’ll hunt down terrorists, their sympathisers and avenge every drop of innocent civilian’s blood… We remain committed to fast-paced development and will endeavour to build a prosperous and peaceful UT of J&K.” Easier said than done. Action not mere words is critical.

MP Communally Charged
Madhya Pradesh is getting a notorious reputation of becoming increasingly communally charged. This week saw the police trying to restore order in some districts following clashes between two groups and Home Minister Narottam Mishra having to elaborate that four persons were arrested, five detained and cases registered against over 100 people. On Tuesday last, in Dhar city, a dispute arose after members of a processionon occasion of Milad-un-Nabi, deviated from the permitted route; in Rajpur town of Barwani, a clasherupted over ‘objectionable’ song being played during a religious procession, and some people including a police officer were injured in stone-pelting; in Jabalpur, police had to lathi-charge and lob teargas shells after some persons threw firecrackers and stones at them while gathering for prayers to mark Milad-un-Nabi. And though Mishra said the police are on alert and monitoring the situation, communal violence broke out again on Wednesday night in Sendhwa town, Barwani, over a brawl during a Garba programme, following presence of members of different community. Over15 persons, including four policemen were hurt and at least two vehicles damaged, plus a case was registered against a mob of local residents, which attacked the cops for stopping it from vandalising a place of worship. Recall, the VHP hasthrough posters outside Garba venues warned: “entry of non-Hindus is prohibited” across 56 pandals, as it claims “non-Hindu men indulge in objectionable activities.” Provocation? The administration will do well to remember ‘a stitch in time saves nine.’

UP Dragging Its Feet
Will Uttar Pradesh stop dragging its feet and act? Or will Yogi Adityanath government continue to be tenacious? Signs of exasperation appeared on Wednesday lastwith a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, seeking details of recording of witnesses’ statements in the dastardly Lakhimpur Khiri case, in which 8 people died. Shockingly, of 44 witnesses only four’s statement had been recorded so far— over two weeks since the incident! Prompting the CJI to observe it can’t be an ‘unending story’ and his colleague saying “We think you are dragging your feet. So please dispel that impression.” Obviously, the government counsel’s explanation that courts were closed on account of Dussehra;there were several video clips which needed more asking; everybody was arrested (10 persons including the minister’s son Ashish Mishra) and a status report had been filed in a ‘sealed cover’, didn’t cut much ice with the bench. It’s concern was with the FIR regarding farmers’ death and not the counter FIR on those who drove the vehicles which ploughed into the farmers were lynched. Besides, it sought arrangements for witness protection as some could be ‘browbeaten.’ The government has a week’s time to complete the process. Will it, is anybody’s guess.

Targeting Christians
Hate crimes against Christians are growing in 21 States, particularly north India, in past nine months. A fact-finding report ‘Christians under attack in India’, by Association of Protection of Civil Rights, United Christian Forum and United against Hatereleased on Thursday last documents that of 305 incidents of violence against Christians, Jharkhand, UP, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh recorded 169, with Karnataka adding 32. The hate crimes seem to be increasingly compounded by rallies/slogans against the community based on fears or anxiety over ‘religious conversions’: October 3, over 200 unidentified persons, belonging to local right-wing groups, vandalised a church in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, attacked those assembled for Sunday prayers; October 10, UP police in Mau district arrested several people following complaints from a Hindutva group; earlier this week in Karnataka Hubali district, Bajrang Dal and VHP members entered a church singing bhajans; alocal BJP MLA blocked a highway demanding the pastor’s arrest; August 29, a group of over 100 people allegedly beat up a 25-year-old pastor at his house in a remote village in Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district, etc. Time for North Block to protect India’s secularism and not be like an ostrich buried with its head in the sand.

Bollywood Drug Drama
Maharashtra’s Bollywood gets national attention. With superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son’s Aryan arrested by the NCB, among 20 others, though he was not in possession of any drugs, and his bail petition turned down by a Mumbai sessions court on Wednesday last has raised a number of questions. More so as the judge observed “on the face of it”, Aryan was indulging in “illicit drug activities on a regular basis” and his WhatsApp chats also showed, prima facie, that he was in touch with drug peddlers. But most questions emanate from NCP leader and Minister Nawab Malik, who on Thursday demanded to know what was the NCB’s Mumbai region chief Sameer Wankhede doing in Dubai and the Maldives with his family during the pandemic lockdown and threatened him with jail for “concocting drug cases against Bollywood personalities”. He claimed on Thursday last: “It’s very clear all this ‘vasuli’ (extortion) took place in Maldives and Dubai. I am releasing those photos. What was he doing in Maldives-Dubai, he must answer.” While photos are awaited, the message that goes out is that attempts were being made to implicate certain film folks in fake cases and parade them before the NCB. The war between NCP and NCB is another addition to the drama, and will be watched for the climax. — INFA