J&K Normalisation: Time to win hearts and minds, and help Kashmiris adjust to new political reality

The Union home ministry’s decision to withdraw more than 10,000 security personnel from Jammu and Kashmir is welcome. The troops had been deployed in the erstwhile state before August 5 last year, when the central government had nullified Article 370 of the Constitution that gave J&K special status. In all at least 40,000 additional troops were deployed to J&K before the Article 370 nullification move, to thwart any major instances of violence engendered by the revocation of statehood and special status.

But a year on, things have pretty much settled down in J&K. True, terror attacks are still taking place in the valley. But their intensity and scale have come down. Besides, the additional troop deployment was never geared towards completely eliminating terrorism in J&K which requires a sophisticated, multi-dimensional approach. Its sole purpose was to ensure that the situation doesn’t go out of hand with massive civil disobedience and anarchy in the wake of special status revocation.

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That purpose has already been served and it is now time to slowly restore normalcy in J&K. The massive security deployment from last year coupled with the Covid lockdown this year has derailed normal life in Kashmir. From businessmen to students, every section of Kashmiri society has faced considerable hardships over the past 12 months. It is time to ease up and reach out to Kashmiri civil society. This process should also include freeing all political detainees. For, ushering in prosperity and defeating terrorism in J&K can’t be achieved through security measures alone. We need to win over the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people, make them stakeholders in prosperity and help them adjust to the new political reality of a Union Territory. Article 370 is done and dusted. Let’s all move on.