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Removing bunkers is evocative. But Kashmir's calm calls for more than symbolic gestures
There was much symbolic value in the dismantling of the CRPF bunker from Srinagar's Amirakadal bridge, which had stood there since 1990, through the years of militancy. When the all-party delegation visited Kashmir in the troubled summer of 2010, it recommended that heavy and visible security be withdrawn from areas where it was no longer required. The government has already removed 44 such bunkers. The stated aim of the Omar Abdullah government is to shift the state's responsibility, as far as possible, to its own police.
That said, the Centre needs to take its actions closer to its intentions. How does it plan to progressively reduce troops in the state, and what concrete change on the ground will allow it to do so? Militancy has been decreasing since 2004, despite the protests between 2008 and 2010. Would shrinking its troop deployment be linked to the violent incidents, or to the years of peace? The last two years have been incident-free, and there is no denying the fact that the Valley is noticeably calmer, and that the citizens are more invested in their own local contexts. Panchayat elections saw a record turnout, in defiance of the separatists. Tourism has increased. The Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) could be carefully revoked, as least in selected areas, as a beginning.