In government circles, they’ve given the blueprint for Kashmir a snazzy name: ‘The MSD Plan’. That’s short for Modi-Shah-Doval. The last-named, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, is a man who likes to be known both for his periscope view of things, and for his passion for the nitty-gritty and hands-on fieldwork. The design and architecture of the present security blanket over Kashmir has his imprint. Doval had made regular visits to the Valley prior to the momentous decision on Article 370 and bifurcation. On his table were case-studies of past protests in the Valley that had spiralled out of control—the 2008 Amarnath land transfer controversy, the 2010 summer of unrest following an alleged fake encounter by the army, and the prolonged violent uprising in 2016 after the killing of Burhan Wani.
All those agitations had seen clashes between protesters and security forces that left over 150 dead and hundreds wounded. This is what Doval wanted to avoid at any cost. A series of hard decisions flowed from that logic: the suspension of phone and internet services; the imposition of Section 144 along with a substantial infusion of additional security forces; and taking local political leaders, who could become rallying points of protests, out of circulation. Separatist leaders, including those belonging to the Hurriyat Conference, had already been marginalised or arrested. Popular anger may have yearned for release and expression, but Kashmir simply had to hold its breath.