Raouf Rasool

Re-cultivate public trust

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The situation in Kashmir continues to remain chaotic. The reason being that none of the different actors active in the political amphitheatre seem to have drawn necessary lessons from what has happened here thus far. While those pitted against it are always ready to latch on every single opportunity to precipitate a crisis for the government, the latter too continues to show similar insensitivity and belligerence which has already cost it much of face and credibility.

It is really unfortunate that unmindful of the changed times and situations, both sides have accorded their respective politics the honour of status quo. And it is the ordinary people who have to suffer unnecessary and avoidable trauma that comes as necessary collateral because those in the leadership roles are resistant to change.

Take for instance the use of force against the people. As the hindsight has it, even though it has always been a readymade trigger for public anger and unrest, yet the State has continuously refused to use it sparingly and with calculated moderation. State has the legal right to use force whenever it deems it fit, but this use of force has to be legitimate if it has to get away with it without creating many other problems. History bears witness the State’s use of force here has always been viewed as “illegitimate and excessive” by the recipient population, and has as such been the cause of constant turmoil in Kashmir. Despite this being how it is – the State has constantly failed to evolve with ways and means which could undo this popular perception about its use of force. This is despite the fact that each time the State forces have resorted to use of deadly force against the civilian population, it has set in motion a chain reaction, setting off recurrent waves of angry public reactions, which in turn result in more use of force and subsequently more public anger and resentment. We have seen this happen repeatedly -- it is a vicious circle and both people and the governments have fallen into its trap, and both have attracted huge damages.

It goes without saying that peace and normalcy can’t be expected to return to any conflict-torn society unless and until the State is able to re-establish its monopoly over the use of force in a legitimate manner, and of course under terms agreeable to the population. It is because of these reasons that it is essentially important for the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi to understand that they can’t go on using force on people, without actually being accountable to them.

In a conflict-ridden state like Jammu and Kashmir, the image and role of the government and its police and other “security forces” becomes all the more important for their overall behaviour and attitude has a big bearing on the contours of peace or confrontation. More humane the State and its armed forces, better chances are there for peace, because corrupt and abusive policing does to conflict what air does to fire.

Any government’s power and authority are at risk of facing credibility crises in the absence of rapport with its domestic subjects, which also undercuts the public commitment to it and its institutions. It is also a major contributing factor for the public’s alienation and leads to a variety of damaging reactions like sharpening the religious, regional and ideological divides. In Kashmir, courtesy its credibility crises, people have lost faith in the government and its institutions, and are now openly defying its writ. Mind it no single party or dispensation but all successive governments are collectively responsible for it!

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