The central and state governments are said to be working on an Eid
package to defuse unprecedented tensions in the Kashmir Valley but
separatist leaders do not seem to be enthused. With the cycle of
street protests and firing by security forces taking lives and
challenging the authority of the Indian state, there is pressure
on officialdom to restore normalcy in the dominantly Muslim
Everyone agrees that this is easier said than done, considering
the huge gap between what any government can offer and what
separatists will accept to call off anti-India demonstrations that
began in June.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has disclosed that
the harsh Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives
sweeping powers to security forces, could go in as many as six
Informed sources here said the idea was to repeal AFSPA from
Srinagar, Ganderbal and Badgam districts of the valley as well as
Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts in the Hindu-majority Jammu
The intended package also includes providing 50,000 jobs to youths
in the state besides a rehabilitation policy for surrendered
And while his father and central minister Farooq Abdullah is
dismissive of hardline separatist Syed Ali Geelani, Omar Abdullah
admitted that Geelani "is a factor" in Kashmir and cannot be
But the proposed package is not making Geelani change colours. The
pro-Pakistani politician has said that only the acceptance of five
conditions can lead to a meaningful dialogue with New Delhi.
These include accepting Kashmir as an international dispute,
repealing 'draconian laws’ like AFSPA and Public Safety Act,
allowing a UN agency to supervise demilitarisation, releasing
political prisoners, and withdrawing cases against those arrested
for stoning security forces.
The sources told IANS that New Delhi and the state government were
seriously working to meet at least four of Geelani’s conditions to
enable the veteran leader to scale down his protest programmes.
The protests have literally held the valley hostage for three
months, with 69 people dead in clashes with the security forces.
In the process, even the Pakistan-backed armed separatist campaign
that has left thousands dead since 1989 has taken a backseat.
"The release of political prisoners and youths arrested for stone
pelting is a decision only the government can take," said an
But given the volatile atmosphere in the valley, the security
forces believe that their withdrawal from some areas could prove
to be a gamble and should be decided in a hurry.
"Security forces are not deployed for fun. They are deployed after
an informed and careful appraisal. If they are withdrawn, the dice
might fall either way," warned a paramilitary officer.
For his part, Geelani has made it clear that New Delhi has to
accept that Kashmir is an international dispute.
"Unless India accepts Kashmir as an international dispute, meeting
other four demands totally or partially will not change our stand
on the ongoing Quit Kashmir movement," Geelani told some reporters
The other Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, recently announced
a two-member committee to forge unity with Geelani and Jammu and
Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik.
"At this crucial moment in our struggle for freedom we must close
our ranks and forge unity to strengthen the people’s movement,"
Mirwaiz Umer said in a statement.
Geelani has asked the Mirwaiz to adopt a resolution endorsing the
former’s five demands before unity moves can be seriously
While mainstream politicians, including Mehbooba Mufti of the
People’s Democratic Party and Mehboob Beg of the National
Conference, have welcomed the proposed Eid package, its impact on
reversing the present cycle of violence cannot be safely
"Negotiations and reconciliation are always welcome especially in
the tension-driven valley. But if anybody expects it would work
like magic and bring peace, he or she would be inept and naďve,"
said an editor here.
"If the package fails to deliver, what will Delhi do next?" he