PUNE: Lt Gen (retd) DS Hooda, the former commander of Jammu & Kashmir-based Northern Command of the Army, said terrorism in Kashmir was the ‘least’ of the problems and that Pakistan is not responsible for all the problems there. The commander also believes that Hurriyat needs to be ‘sorted out’ before peace can return to the Valley.
Hooda was speaking about the Kashmir problem at an interactive session at Patrakar Bhavan on Monday. The event was organised by NGO Sarhad.
“There has been a lack of political will when it comes to solving the Kashmir issue. Terrorism in Kashmir is a very small issue as a handful of militants are active in the Valley and the Army can handle it on its own. However, there is a need of greater, mature political will to address the dissatisfaction growing among the youths of the Valley. Over 40,000 people have been killed. Only tough approach won’t work, we need to go to the root cause. We must understand that Pakistan is not always to be blamed for all the problems in Kashmir,” said Hooda, during whose tenure the surgical strike was conducted by the Army in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Noting that social structure in the Valley is breaking down, Hooda said that the younger generation is not listening to elders and is coming out and pelting stones.
“The youngsters are frustrated and change in governments in Pakistan, India and Jammu and Kashmir in 2013-14 also contributed to it. BJP-PDP government in the state didn’t perform as per expectations and this added to the anger of people. Pakistan and separatists took advantage and intensified their malicious anti-India propaganda. The frustration of people came out after the killing of Burhan Wani last year. People came out on the streets in large number and unfortunately, there was mishandling in terms of maintaining law and order and the use of pellet guns caused injuries and anger spread through social media as images of victims with pellets were shared extensively,” he claimed.
Hooda said that after the 2014 floods in Jammu and Kashmir, the rescue operation carried out by the Army was good, but later the process of rehabilitation and compensation slowed, which is one the contributing factors for people’s dissatisfaction towards the government. “People think that the government does not care for them. We need to engage the youths, who constitute over 70 per cent of the Kashmir’s population. This generation hasn’t seen any peace in their lifetime. Most of them were born after 1989 when Kashmir slid into unrest. The moderate voices are being subdued. Instead of separatists, the government must talk to civil society including NGOs, teachers, traders associations among others. At present, there is no point in talking to separatists. People in the Central government say that they will talk only when there is peace but without talks, there won’t be peace. A strong will power is required to enter into peace accords with people of Kashmir,” Hooda said.
MEDIA DIVIDING KASHMIR AND INDIA
Hooda said that it appears today as if ‘peace’ has become a bad word and only ‘ward’ and ‘conflict’ grab the media attention. “A section of media is always screaming and shouting and creating a divide. In fact, it further alienates the youngster who thinks that that’s how rest of India looks at us. This media narrative is widening and deepening the divide,” said Hooda, adding that separatists were taking advantage of the situation by compounding fear among the locals. “These days, peace has become a bad word. Words like war and conflict grab the media attention and they become headlines. A moderate voice is shouted down when he talks about peace as if he’s committing a crime,” said Hooda.