New Delhi: The ongoing troubles in Kashmir have attracted an unusually large number of scaremongering members of the “left-liberal” intelligentsia and the commentariat. Many of them have never visited the Valley or vacationed there at best as tourists. In any case, a majority of them have no notion of how Kashmir was at the commencement of the insurgency and how the situation evolved for the better with the predominant contribution of the Indian Army. This is a dark phase for Kashmir but not a hopeless one. Anyone who has known and seen what it was in the old days would be hardly convinced that the situation is irretrievable. This writer covered the Valley in its darkest moments at the start and highest point of the insurgency. Many things happened that could never be reported. But if the Indian armed forces ever brought Jammu and Kashmir back from the brink, it was then. The scaremongers don’t know the first thing they write about and their opinions drip with political partisanship. They ruin their own credibility more than they damage the state which is hopefully not their principal aim and objective.

India appeared the most vulnerable in Jammu and Kashmir during the short and bitter term of the late, unlamented Prime Minister, V. P. Singh. The Bofors scandal had virtually destroyed Rajiv Gandhi prior, and since he and Farooq Abdullah had sinfully rigged the 1987 election, the Lion of Kashmir’s son obviously considered his days numbered in the Valley. At the first hint of trouble in Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah fled the scene for the cooler climes of the United Kingdom. Dubai and the other fun destinations were as yet unknown then. Farooq has been Kashmir’s most notorious fair-weather politician.

To Farooq Abdullah’s dismay and envy, the man who became Union Home Minister under V. P. Singh was none other than Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. It was one of the few inspired decisions of V. P. Singh. When the Abdullah father and son (the Sheikh and Farooq, that is) were indulging in their favourite pastime of effecting political extortions from Delhi, Mufti Sayeed was singlehandedly flying the Indian flag in the Valley. Typical of the Nehru-Gandhis, they took for granted the yeoman service he rendered to the Congress party, and they insinuated betrayal when he joined the V. P. Singh opposition and then his government. The bitterness today of the Congress and of Farooq’s party towards Mufti’s daughter, Mehbooba, dates from that era. Since she has joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party, it makes them her implacable enemies. The Congress and the National Conference are so blinded by political hatred and untouchability that the wellbeing and security interests of Jammu and Kashmir scarcely matter for them anymore.

In 1989-90, it seemed the same way as now, but of course it was infinitely worse, with Jammu and Kashmir truly teetering on the edge. The Indian Army chief of that time was General V. K. Sharma, the younger brother of the legendary Major Som Nath Sharma, who was killed in the 1947-48 fighting. General Sharma recounted to this writer an incident involving V. P. Singh, then the Prime Minister, which shows how far India has travelled on the road to restoring normalcy in Kashmir. In General Sharma’s telling, V. P. Singh threw up his hands in plaintive despair in a conference with him, grieving that the situation was going out of control. Mufti’s daughter, Rubaiyya, had been kidnapped; the Kashmiris were marching in ever growing numbers to the UN office in Srinagar; and all of the Valley looked like a war zone, shrouded in blacked-out darkness, with stationary piquets mushrooming in the thousands in the state capital and in the countryside. There were daily fire-fights in downtown Srinagar and rocket attacks were common across the Dal Lake, in main Residency Road, and elsewhere. Countering the Prime Minister’s pessimism with soldierly resolve, General Sharma told V. P. Singh, “As long as the Indian Army is deployed, no force on Earth can separate Kashmir from the rest of India.” The army chief’s observations to this writer about V. P. Singh were far from complimentary, but they needn’t detain us.

General Sharma was as good as his word. Inch by inch, square mile by square mile, the Indian Army regained control over the Valley. Replacing the blown networks of the Intelligence Bureau was not easy, but the paramilitary forces at the time had brilliant leaders who were natural at intelligence collection. (It is not a coincidence that many of them had experience of anti-dacoity operations.) When P. V. Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister, the situation was further retrieved, and the late Rajesh Pilot played a stellar role in bringing normalcy to the Valley. Pilot was perhaps the only Central minister in this writer’s knowledge who worked riskily undercover to get some tricky deals done. A lot of the secret stuff that happened in Kashmir can never be discussed, but once you are armed with this knowledge, you can only scorn at the scaremongers, who base their analysis and opinions on shallow media reportage.

This is not to suggest that the current situation in the Valley does not require immediate relief and remedy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has full access to the great works done by his predecessors in normalizing Kashmir, including those by Atal Behari Vajpayee. He has to build on their magnificent contributions. It can be done. Kashmir needs separate and fulltime attention and tending. The Centre could begin by appointing a point-person for the troubled state in consultation with Mehbooba Mufti. Jammu and Kashmir is a work in progress. The militancy in the state has exceeded the length of a generation. It would require continued investments in political and social energies, wealth, and security assets. Jammu and Kashmir should be insulated from partisan politics. Elected governments must secure the cooperation of the opposition in the interest of the public. Indian public opinion seeks nothing less.