Ignoring separatists not an option anymore: Hooda

Suggests adopting ‘muscular approach’; calls for keeping Army out of public eye

Srinagar, Apr 20: As Kashmir lives between internet gags, student protests and civilian killings, an ex- Indian-army-top-notch has come out suggesting both the J&K government and the Centre to do something about the separatists, who, he claims, cannot be ignored anymore.
Former GOC Northern Command Lieutenant General D.S. Hooda, considered as a ‘security’ expert on J&K, Thursday gave his own slew of measures to counter the current situation in the valley in his article published in a national daily.
As per Hooda, “the middle ground” in Kashmir, which he claims would have offered some solution, has “disappeared” and that the governments should not look for “final solutions” but find a way to bring “semblance of calm” in the valley.
This, he claim, can be done by dealing with both Pakistan and the separatists in Kashmir.
“Let us also clearly accept that Pakistan and the separatists are not going to easily change their tune. This is where we have to be muscular — not against our own people. What steps are appropriate is for the government to decide, but things can’t be allowed to drift along,” reads an excerpt of the article ‘Valley’s lost middle ground’.
Hooda adds that “focus should be given to the separatists”.
“Decide on one way to deal with them and carry that through. Ignoring them is no longer an option.”
For Pakistan, the former GOC says that it would be “poor strategy” to hope that the present Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa would be “less hostile” than General Raheel Sharif, and that “infiltration would reduce”.
“We have to take our own steps to improve border management. A smart fence is required immediately — but we are yet to even execute a pilot project,” he writes.
On current “video-war” in Kashmir, Hooda specifically mentions the video in which a seemingly five-year old child is seen walking around alone in a group of troopers in an unknown street in Kashmir.
“He (the child) struts, shouts, glares at them and then attempts to kick a jawan three to four times. The jawans are calm and take the incident in good humour. For me, it was like staring at the future of Kashmir, knowing the critical importance of somehow rescuing this boy from himself,” says Hooda.
Claiming that army is squarely in the “centre of public discourse” in Kashmir these days, Hooda says that this “visibility is detrimental to a force involved in counter insurgency operations”.
“Keeping it out of the public eye will enable it to quietly go about its work,” he says.
The former Army General, interestingly, goes on claiming that even after what happened in 2016, the army, through its operation “calm down” in September that year, “still commands respect among the population of the state”.
Hooda, in the article, called the recent meek voter turnout and subsequent deferring of Anantnag by-polls as a “setback for the largest democracy in the world”.