TRUE, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir had never eased fully even as the State went through the motions of the Lok Sabha elections. Yet, the latest incident of heavy stone-pelting on Security Forces in Bandipora area injuring as many as 47 men offers re-emergence of ominous signs of how the situation is far from having been brought under control. When the Security Forces went to the area to control law and order situation following the alleged rape of a three-year-old girl by a local youth, the locals gathered in large numbers and pelted stones at the men in the uniform.
One officer was seriously injured when a stone hit him straight on his head. This incident is of a serious nature and calls for a very serious application of mind by the authorities to bring the situation under control. For, when the mobs of street goons target Security Forces on their legitimate duty, then it is obvious that the situation needs an immediate and serious handling. A couple of weeks ago, when the demand came up in J&K to hold Legislative elections immediately, we had insisted that such a risk could be taken only after the situation is brought fully under control and no untoward elements are allowed to hold the State to ransom. The Bandipora incident of stone-pelting shows a lot of work is still to be undertaken to ease the situation.
The incident highlights a harsh reality that anti-social and anti-national elements are still active in the State and are ready to pick up stones and hurl those at the Security Forces that are under instructions to observe self-restraint while under such attacks, despite the fact that they can open fire in self-defence. No matter those instructions, the Bandipora stone-pelting indicates how tough the job of the administration is to defeat anti-national elements in Jammu and Kashmir. It is not difficult to imagine how helpless the Security Forces must be feeling, having been weighed down by instructions of self-restraint. They have the weapons plus the training to take care of such situations.
But they are framed by official instructions that make little sense at one level and much sense at another. But when as many as 47 personnel get injured, some of them seriously, then the mental condition of the personnel present on the spot can well be imagined. During the Lok Sabha elections, things appeared to have calmed down a little, but not to a desirable extent. The Bandipora stone-pelting was really heavy and the Security Forces could do little to stop the urchins on the street hurling stones. There are reasons to feel that the situation in Kashmir needs a tougher and no-nonsense handling by the administration. It is obvious that separatist forces are very active in the State and do not miss a chance to create obstacles in the path of the administration to establish control and law and order.
It appears that the anti-national elements were not interested in bringing the situation under control following the ugly incident of rape of a three-year-old girl by a local youth. Hence the very heavy stone- pelting to block the Security Forces from doing their job. The most unfortunate aspect of the Kashmir situation is that many political parties are hand-in-glove with the separatists and go out of the way to protect and support separatism in whatever manner. It is this political backing that has strengthened separatism in J&K. Even though it is true that a military handling alone may not solve the problem, more powers to the Security Forces in tandem with a stronger administrative machinery would help ease the situation to a large extent. The fairly good voter-turnout during the Lok Sabha elections shows that the separatists are beginning to lose some ground. A more organised and forceful push against separatism may yield better results. It is the task of the leadership to offer that final push.