An observation of former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma spotlights the contrary pulls in the Modi government on Kashmir problem. In an interview to The Hindu, he said that the ‘fear of guns has to go. There can be no solution under the shadow of the gun’.
Sharma was appointed on October 23 as a Special Representative by the Modi government to start a dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to find a solution to the persisting problem. The announcement was made by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in pursuant to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech in which he had specifically pointed out that the Kashmir problem could not be resolved either by bullets or by abuses and that a solution could be found only by embracing them (Kashmiris). Modi’s observation was welcomed by all parties in the Valley including the moderate Hurriyat Conference.
However, two days after Rajnath Singh announced Sharma’s appointment as a Special Representative, Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat announced that the Army’s operations in Kashmir would continue ‘unabated’ in spite of the government’s attempt to have a dialogue with the stakeholders of the strife-torn State. Gen Rawat also said that the appointment of former IB chief would have no impact on the Army’s activities in the Valley.
This was contrary to the Prime Minister’s promise of no bullets or abuses but embracing. Now the Modi government’s Special Representatives has specifically pointed out that the fear of guns has to go as there can be no solution under the shadow of the gun. Sharma may be the government’s emissary for exploring the ways to restore peace in the Valley but Gen Rawat’s threat cannot be just brushed aside as he is supposed to enjoy full confidence of Modi. It was not the first time that he had issued a statement with political overtones; even earlier he had been issuing similar hawkish statements supposedly with the approval of Modi, or at least unchecked by him. No other Army Chief had in the past addressed press conferences and issued statements on issues which should be addressed by the political leadership. Once even a neighbouring country was constrained to ask if the Army Chief was expressing the views of the government.
A significant hint Sharma dropped in his The Hindu interview is that the present Kashmir problem started after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. He said, “When I became the IB chief in December 2014, Kashmir was not the problem…. Kashmir became a problem during the latter part of my tenure. Though there were problems initially, we did not expect the kind of unrest that happened in 2016.”
BJP, and Narendra Modi as its leader, always viewed the Kashmiris with a suspicion and always believed that only the bullets can bring them to their senses. Ruthless suppression of trouble-makers was what was reportedly recommended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. This apparently boomeranged and the situation in Kashmir at one point appeared to have gone beyond control. Sharma’s candidly expressed views on the Kashmir problem give a hope that he may try to win the trust of the people of the valley in order to find a lasting solution to the problem. But will the BJP’s 65-year-old prejudices and Modi’s apparent support to army’s not so discreet operations allow him to complete his mission?