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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 36, New Delhi, August 27, 2016

Whither Kashmir?

Sunday 28 August 2016


New Delhi is finding Kashmir more ungovernable by the day. A mindless, thoughtless, directionless government is talking about Kashmir in several voices. One day, Finance Minister and No. 2 in the government, Arun Jaitley, says Kashmir needs development which was denied for the past sixty years by the Congress and National Conference governments. The very next day the Prime Minister contradicts him and says development alone cannot solve the Kashmir problem. One day Jaitley says the boys pelting stones are ‘aggressors’ and they need to be dealt with ‘firmly’. The next day the Prime Minister says all those who lost their lives were ‘part of us’. One day Jaitley says Pakistan is behind all protests. Next day the PM thanks the Opposition delegation from Kashmir for giving him ‘detailed information about the ground situation’. Do not his party and the intelligence agencies keep him informed of the ‘ground situation’?

New Delhi says there will be no talk with the ‘separatists’. Does the government really believe that normalcy can be restored and political dialogue resumed without the participation of those it chooses to call ‘separatists’? These are the people who are daily defying curfew and orders under Section 144, daily clashing with the security forces and daily getting killed by bullets or permanently blinded by pellets — pushing all prospects of peace further and further away. These are the people who have forced the police to flee from 33 out of 36 police stations from four districts of southern Kashmir, namely, Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantanag even as hundreds and thousands of people are daily holding ‘azadi’ rallies right under the nose of the security forces. The present dispensers of India’s destiny must be living in a fool’s paradise if they think that all these thousands can be labelled ‘anti-national’ and dealt with accordingly. Injustice at home cannot be justified by citing the injustice Pakistan is doing to its own people in Balochistan or PoK.

The Prime Ministers and his senior colleagues in the party and the government will have to go a long way, understand the sentiments of the Kashmiri people and find out that causes that have brought about such a deep schism between the people of Kashmir and the Government of India. Narendra Modi and his colleagues will have to get rid of the heavy ideological baggage they have been traditionally carrying, to get close to the people of Kashmir and win their confidence.

Which way lies the solution of the ‘Kashmir problem’ and what actually is the ‘problem’? In a perceptive interview given to this journal in its Independence Day number, Shujaat Bukhari, editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir, spoke of the continued denial of political rights to the Kashmiris, of thrusting sham elections on the people. He accused the Congress and National Conference coalition government of throttling democracy and not allowing people to restore their faith in the democratic process. In the face of a long list of betrayals and deceit by Delhi, Pakistan found it quite easy to provoke the Kashmiri youth to launch an armed struggle. Bukhari pointed out that the unrest stems from the political dispute that needs to be resolved. His prescription was: recognise Kashmir as a political problem. Reach out to Kashmirirs. Talk to them. Listen to them. Introspect yourself how you are creating space for unrest in Kashmir as you don’t recognise the problem on the ground. Indeed, the first step to unravelling the Kashmir knot is to recognise it is a political problem and involve all political elements in the negotiations.

The media can play an important role in preparing the climate for a political dialogue. Unfortunately, a major section of the pro-Establishment media is unashamedly and blindly toeing the official line. In their chest-thumping and competitive chauvinism they have gone to the extent of labelling the two Communist Parties and the Janata Dal (U) as the ‘real culprits’ who are blaming the Central Government and not Pakistan for what is happening in Kashmir. To them, the long-term integration of the Kashmiri youth is crucial to foil their collective radicalisation. But during this process, Indian democracy will be forced to sacrifice some freedoms for the security, unity and integrity of the country. In other words, unfreedom should be welcomed to secure freedom! It is this mindset of the ruling dispensation that is the biggest obstacle to win over the people of Kashmir and put a permanent end to decades of confrontation and conflict.

August 23 B.D.G.