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Step Forward


Ambassadors of sixteen countries, including the USA, are on a two-day visit to J&K. This is an attempt to further ‘normalise’ the situation in the embattled union territory. The ambassadors are from countries that are, by and large, ‘agenda-free’ with regard to India’s internal politics. As such, they are unlikely to deliberately spark controversies that feed anti-Indian propaganda, here and abroad. It is also an attempt to provide the people of J&K an opportunity to communicate their misgivings in an uncontroversial manner. The ambassadors have been briefed on the security situation by the Army. They have also interacted with some local leaders and members of civil society. There are, of course, many unspoken elements of this initiative, but diplomats are trained to read between the lines and report back to their respective governments.

It is quite obvious that, after having faced a lot of flak on international fora after abrogation of Article 370, the Modi Government is desirous of correcting the narrative that has come to be accepted abroad. People who have been generally ignorant of the situation that has prevailed in J&K for decades believe there existed a ‘normal’ earlier. If statistics regarding terror acts, police action against stone pelters, radicalisation, etc., are to be considered, this part of India has never been more peaceful. At the same time, the local people will have also come to realise the value of all that they took for granted, earlier, delivered at heavy human cost by India’s democratic system – the much lamented internet services are the least of these.

Things would improve much faster if all Indians, at least, would accept there is no going back to the past, and the only way is forward. What shape that would take within the parameters of what Parliament has decided is for all stakeholders to decide. Ever since ‘militancy’ took virulent form, J&K lost an historic opportunity to develop on the back of India’s growing economy. Those who wish to go back to the turmoil of the past in the name of an imagined concept of ‘political’ rights are not helping the ordinary people of the state. Going by the recent emergence of more sane voices, admittedly few, indicates that realisation is beginning to dawn in the UT. The inexorable nature of the change has to be driven in, the faster the better. The trouble makers should be made to understand that, no matter how much the democratic upheaval in the rest of the country, their time is permanently gone.