When it comes to terrorism, the Punjab situation was worse than that of Kashmir. Attacks on security forces and civilians were almost a daily affair. India tackled Punjab issue with Iron fist.
Led by KPS Gill, it took a few years to wipe out terrorism from the face of Punjab. Indeed, methods adopted didn’t please human rights activists and few countries but if you look at the long term peace that followed, it was the right thing to do.
Similar methods were adopted by Russians in Chechnya, Sri Lanka against LTTE and Israel against Hamas. Needless to say, they achieved long term peace.
However, when it comes to Kashmir, we become soft. We are too much concerned about activists and sanctions and letting the situation drag for years instead of looking for a definite solution. Operation Sadhavana was launched in 1998 aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the people in the region.
20 years down the line, have we won any hearts and/ or minds? Kashmiris have become even more radical with more and more terrorists coming from the valley instead of across the border. We have been losing our jawans on an everyday basis. Stone pelters obstructing operations, attacking forces and their vehicles happens almost all the time. I am sure we are not heading for any solution with this approach.
So, what could have been done? Biggest mistake India did was to not act at the time of Kashmiri Pandits exodus. To claim land as ours, a state needs to have a population there who identifies themselves with us. Kashmiri Pandits were such people. But they were killed, raped and driven out from a part of their own country and we did very little to stop it.
India needed a strong political will backed by decisive military action but we failed as a state to protect the lives of our own people on land claimed and occupied by us. Appeasement, politics and soft approach cost us. Let’s face the truth; a substantial number in the valley refuses to identify themselves as Indians. Kashmir is now a problem much bigger than what it was in the late 80s.
What should we do now? Why are we letting the blood of our soldiers flow on Kashmiri streets when we have been able to win neither hearts nor minds despite 20 years of the soft approach called Operation Sadbhavana? If soft is the only approach we have, it’s better that we let go Kashmir instead of wasting our lives and resources over thankless people who reside there. If letting go Kashmir isn’t an option, which I am sure 99% of Indians will say, aggression is the only way for a definite solution.
Do what we did in Punjab. Kashmir is our land, our problem; we shouldn’t look for validation from the world for our methods. Yes, there will be criticism, sanctions and human rights cases but India is mighty enough to face it. Indians will stand together to face them. Let there be no mercy on terror and anyone who supports it directly or indirectly. Let there be fear. Lord Rama didn’t say “bhay bin preet na hoi” for no reason.