The dictionary, sadly, does not place any timeframe on the term “phase”, and so there can be holding the minister of state in the PMO accountable if his claim that “militancy has now entered its final phase” in Jammu and Kashmir proves hollow. Sure there is need for morale-building pep-talk, but little purpose is served by refusing to recognise the reality that the situation in the Valley has deteriorated to a dangerous low. Hence it would be over-simplistic and myopic for Mr Jitendra Singh (and a few others) to believe that the widespread condemnation of the attack on the Amarnath pilgrims points to a reversal of the support militancy receives from a section of the local populace. There have been previous attacks on pilgrims which failed to provide “shock therapy”, events on the ground do not support the line that the “back of militancy” has been broken, nor too the oft-repeated claim that the people are “fed-up” with jihadi militancy. That even schoolgirls have been pelting stones to hamper the anti-militancy actions of the security forces testifies to the extent to which alienation has sunk, with the administrative machinery in the state on the verge of collapse.

The MOS is not alone in living in a fool’s paradise. Security agencies are now “going public” about specific militant leaders being involved in the latest strike, spelling out their bio-data, areas of activity, associates etc. If so much information was available why was no pre-emptive action taken? And how is it that that they were not taken into custody immediately after the pilgrim’s bus was attacked? The conflicting reports about the attack only confirm apprehensions that the security establishment is groping in the dark. As well as pointing to “surgical strikes”, “punitive retaliatory fire”, the belligerent warnings of 15 February, the “commended” use of a human shield all having had only marginal effect. The promise of more “muscle” after the horrific incident is unlikely to have more than cosmetic impact.

Mr Jitendra Singh, a key governmental player in J&K, would have generated hope and confidence in his “final phase” assessment had he indicated a revised action plan. High-level reviews in New Delhi, talking to the chief minister/Governor, the Army Chief rushing to Srinagar etc have all been tried before ~ without lasting success. A fresh Kashmir policy is something New Delhi cannot put off indefinitely. If it has ruled out a negotiated political settlement an alternative must be presented. The continuing stand-off with the Chinese at the Bhutan trijunction constitutes an added complication in the military-solution equation. The beaten-path of Governor’s Rule is, at best, “first-aid” and the Prime Minister is now called upon to exhibit his administrative and political acumen; his support-squad has proved ineffective. The drift in J&K is bleeding the nation.