In­dia plans to soften ap­proach in Kash­mir

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Mark Mag­nier re­port­ing from new delhi

In­dia an­nounced a new po­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tive for the trou­bled Kash­mir re­gion Satur­day in a bid to ad­dress a sum­mer of un­rest that has left more than 100 civil­ians dead, some as young as 9, and hun­dreds in­jured at the hands of se­cu­rity forces.

The eight-point plan is a tacit ac­knowl­edge­ment that In­dia’s hard-line ap­proach has not worked. It in­cludes free­ing hun­dreds of stu­dents and stone-throw­ers from de­ten­tion and re­duc­ing the num­ber of bunkers, check­points and other fea­tures of In­dia’s se­cu­rity foot­print.

Schools and col­leges will be re­opened im­me­di­ately, com­pen­sa­tion of $10,000 per death ex­tended to the fam­i­lies of vic­tims and a fund es­tab­lished for in­fra­struc­ture. Two teams will also be formed to ad­dress the con­cerns of Kash­miri res­i­dents.

Di­vided Kash­mir, which is claimed by both In­dia and Pak­istan, has been the cause of two wars be­tween the neigh­bor­ing nu­clear pow­ers since they gained in­de­pen­dence in 1947.

An­a­lysts in Kash­mir said the cen­tral govern­ment’s ini­tia­tive was a step in the right di­rec­tion but didn’t go far enough.

“They fall short of ex­pec­ta­tions,” said Sheik Shaukat Hus­sain, a law pro­fes­sor at Kash­mir Uni­ver­sity.

Though In­dia has of­fered to pay com­pen­sa­tion to the fam­i­lies of those killed since June 10, it isn’t will­ing to in­ves­ti­gate or pe­nal­ize those re­spon­si­ble, he said.

The army and el­e­ments within the In­dian govern­ment would fiercely re­sist a in­quiry on the killings, mak­ing it a po­lit­i­cal non­starter. Any in­ves­ti­ga­tion prob­a­bly would face crit­i­cism that it could de­mor­al­ize the army and send a mes­sage that demon­strat­ing and oth­er­wise break­ing the law is jus­ti­fied.

On other counts, an­a­lysts said se­cu­rity forces may have pledged to re­duce their ur­ban foot­print, but many ar­eas out­side towns may see lit­tle change.

It was not clear whether the of­fer to free stu­dents and demon­stra­tors, re­port­edly 255 youths, ap­plies to those ar­rested for rock throw­ing that took place months and even years ago.

Hus­sain said re­ports were cir­cu­lat­ing in the val­ley a week ago that se­cu­rity forces knew a pack­age was com­ing and had stepped up their de­ten­tions so they’d have higher num­bers for the re­lease. The al­le­ga­tion could not be ver­i­fied.

The govern­ment plan also says noth­ing about a de­mand by hard-line sep­a­ratists that In­dia ac­knowl­edge that Kash­mir is a dis­puted area, rather than claim it as an in­te­gral part of In­dia.

Mod­er­ate groups said they would not re­act im­me­di­ately. “We will dis­cuss and look at our op­tions,” Yasin Ma­lik, chair­man of a fac­tion of the Jammu Kash­mir Lib­er­a­tion Front, told lo­cal jour­nal­ists.

Ae­jaz Ahmed, 25, a stu­dent and pro­tester who lives in Sri­na­gar, the sum­mer cap­i­tal of the In­dian-held por­tion of Kash­mir, said that the pack­age was a de­cent first step, but that the Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act, which gives the army and para­mil­i­tary broad le­gal im­mu­nity for its ac­tions, should be re­pealed.

“Some points are good but oth­ers are use­less,” he said.

Armed mil­i­tancy in the In­dian-con­trolled Kash­mir val­ley and in­fil­tra­tion from the Pak­istan-con­trolled side by in­sur­gents peaked in the 1990s. In re­cent years, res­i­dents have turned to stones rather than guns to voice their re­sent­ment and de­sire for in­de­pen­dence.

But the In­dian se­cu­rity force in the val­ley, which num­bers half a mil­lion, was trained, or­ga­nized and equipped to fight and kill guer­ril­las. It has largely failed to shift gears to match the re­duced threat.

Se­cu­rity forces have main­tained their use of high-pow­ered weapons and blunt force de­spite calls to train them to re­spond to civil­ian dis­tur­bances, em­ploy­ing wa­ter can­nons, rub­ber bul­lets and tear gas.

Decades of life un­der a cur­few, check­points ev­ery 500 feet at which they are forced to show ID cards and wide­spread al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions have also in­ten­si­fied re­sent­ment among Kash­miris, par­tic­u­larly the young.

“Re­leas­ing those de­tained is a good move … that we wel­come with the depth of our heart,” said Javed Ah­mad Dar, a pro­tester. “But they are not ad­dress­ing the ba­sic prob­lem, the core point be­ing that Kash­mir is a dis­puted area.” mark.mag­nier An­shul Rana in The Times’ New Delhi Bureau con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Asif Has­san

Pak­istani ac­tivists march in sup­port of Kash­miris.

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