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Mudda panellists discuss effect of move on forces; conclude government doing the right thing as number of local militants has fallen and confidence building measures have borne fruit as well

On Republic Day on Friday, the Border Security Force refused to exchange sweets with Pakistan Rangers as a protest against its recent violations of the ceasefire between the two countries. Meanwhile, government interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma has called for pardon for first-time stone-pelters even while Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has actually done so. Now Mufti wants second-time offenders, too, pardoned. This is even as JeM chief Masood Azhar dubbed India as his “enemy number one”. Will this step of the Kashmiri CM affect the morale of our soldiers?

Saturday’s Mudda debated this topic with Congress spokesperson Ajay Verma, BJP spokesperson Ashok Thakur, defence specialist Major General Ajay Kumar Asthana (retired), foreign affairs specialist SK Dutta and journalist Govind Pant Raju. Anant Tyagi moderated the discussion.

Major Gen Asthana said that stone-pelting stopped during the apple season and also when demonetization took place. This proved it is not spontaneous but a paid activity. “But since the pardon is a confidence building measure of the central government, let us not connect it with the morale or duties of the Army,” he said.

The Congressman disagreed with the timing of the pardon.

Datta spoke up to praise the NIA investigation and the seizure of passports of separatists Shabir Shah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

“It is my considered view that two-time stone-pelters should not be pardoned,” said Asthana.

Raju said if a student is seen throwing stones two days in a row, he cannot be termed a terrorist. “The Mehbooba Mufti government wants to pardon all stone-pelters. That is her political aim. But it is unlikely that pardon will actually be handed down to even all of the 4,500 first-time stone-pelters,” he said.

Asthana felt that a grant of pardon to all stone-pelters will lead to infiltration by more terrorists. “Even we know that all Kashmiri citizens are not terrorists. When Abu Dujana was killed, the ordinary women raped by him were happier than the Army. Even our army has set examples of tolerance. Nowhere in the world will you see an adult woman slapping an armed soldier and the soldier taking it quietly,” he said.

“With summer coming, infiltration will increase but the people, too, are happier due to government’s inclusive schemes. With its confidence building measures and schemes, the government is going in the right direction in the valley,” Raju said.

Datta posed questions as to what has been the track record of the Congress vis-à-vis Kashmir. “For instance, who gave clemency to Shabir Shah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani?” he said.

“If the incumbent government does good work in this most challenging area, it is our duty as a responsible opposition to welcome it with open arms,” Verma was forced to acknowledge.

“Results have started coming due to synergy between Army, police and government forces. Local militancy has been successfully reduced. Eighty percent of militants are now from JeM and LeT,” the retired Army officer said.

“The government is also creating jobs in the state which is fetching better results,” Thakur said.

Compiled by Sucheta Dasgupta

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