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Valley pill: 'utmost harshness'

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav has said that security forces will continue to respond to militants in Kashmir with the "utmost harshness" and asserted he expects a calm summer in the Valley.

By Sankarshan Thakur
  • Published 9.04.17

New Delhi, April 8: BJP general secretary Ram Madhav has said that security forces will continue to respond to militants in Kashmir with the "utmost harshness" and asserted he expects a calm summer in the Valley.

"We cannot allow militants and terrorists to have a field day, we will go after them with the utmost harshness, I should say... this summer will be relatively peaceful," Madhav told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview on a wide range of subjects, from Yogi Adityanath to cow vigilantes to the political state of play in the second half of Narendra Modi's term as Prime Minister.

Madhav, a key architect of the ruling PDP-BJP alliance and Kashmir watcher, said the Mehbooba Mufti government was "hands-on" over quelling violent militancy and promised no let-up in their pursuit.

"At the same time, we have to win hearts and minds, we have to deliver development. Let me tell you, we are not against the Valley people. Were that so, we would have choked them. On the contrary we want them to prosper, and as the Prime Minister has said, tourism is the way, not terrorism."

(Srinagar is set to vote on Sunday to fill the Lok Sabha vacancy resulting from the resignation of Tariq Karra. Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah is the joint National Conference-Congress candidate, supported by Karra who had defeated him in 2014 but later quit the PDP and his parliamentary seat to join the Congress. Midweek, Mehbooba's rookie younger brother, Mufti Tassaduq Hussain, will face the vote in Anantnag against G.A. Mir of the NC-Congress combine. The Anantnag Lok Sabha seat was vacated by Mehbooba upon becoming chief minister.)

Mehbooba herself completed her first year in office this week. She had a turbulent debut run, faced with widespread street violence following the killing of the Hizbul Mujahideen's cult militant, Burhan Wani, last July.

Close to a hundred died and more than 10,000 were injured in protracted battling between stone-throwers and pellet guns through last summer and autumn.

Madhav wouldn't agree that the winter lull in the Valley has been broken by upgraded anger and protest, with entire villages, women and children included, coming out to disrupt security operations and shelter militants.

"Yes, we have seen such protests but I disagree these are entire villages. Yes, youth are coming out, I agree. They are mostly misguided youth fed on propaganda. In some cases, women have also come out to persuade militants to shed arms and surrender. We have to be careful about judging these things."

Asked pointedly why local populations were emerging to disrupt operations by the army and other security forces in a manner not seen before, Madhav said: "There is a lot of propaganda, as I said. Another aspect of it is also that we are going hard after these elements. If we sit at home and do nothing to counter them, there will be no protest. So this is a result of our acting tough, which is why you see a number of encounters taking place."

Madhav flagged pockets of south Kashmir, the home base of Mehbooba and the PDP, as the "limited trouble spots" causing recurrent concern.

"I am not denying there is a problem. But this problem hasn't come up during the last two years of our government; it has been there for a long time. Actually, of the 16 Valley districts, only six are troubled, the rest are peaceful. These are known pockets, and we are determined to deal with them."

The chief provocateurs and troublemakers in the Valley, Madhav argued, were not Kashmiris but Pakistanis.

"We are facing an uphill task on the social media front in Kashmir. Pakistan is heavily using social media to transmit its message. In this atmosphere we must be judicious and not be quick to jump to conclusions and label every Kashmiri person as a Pakistani or demand proof of their patriotism on a daily basis," he said.

"A lot of social media engineering happens from across the border, images and locales are manipulated."

Referring to a recent incident in which a local cricket team is alleged to have donned Pakistani colours, Madhav said: "Some of these things can be true and police have and will take action. But what I am saying is, we should also be conscious that such images can be distorted and played in a wrong way."

He also iterated the allegation that the Valley's stone-throwers were motivated by money: "This is an old story and it is true. Perhaps the rates became higher in 2016 than they were in 2010 (the previous summer of strife), but they are paid by agents within the Valley and from across the border. What is happening is a completely sponsored movement."

Part of the task of the Mehbooba-led coalition, Madhav said, was to counter "Pakistani propaganda".

"We have to tell the youth they are misguided, that they are being used as pawns. Look at the separatist leaders, they are quite happy to have their relatives, sons and daughters and grandchildren take up government jobs and earn money while they throw these youngsters into hellfire. Their duplicity has to be exposed, that is our challenge."