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Mainstream, VOL LV No 25 New Delhi June 10, 2017

Start Dialogue in Kashmir

Saturday 10 June 2017


by S. Sudhakar Reddy

Kashmir is again in the news. Actually it is always in the news. Mainstream media is generally giving the official version, except in exceptional cases. Kashmir is really burning. The Kashmiri people are being branded as perma-nent agitators. Generations of Kashmiris are habituated to this situation. The Srinagar by-election exposed the hollowness of the adminis-tration’s claims that everything is normal except in some pockets. Only seven per cent of people voted in the election, 93 per cent boycotted it. People voted in large numbers earlier in local bodies elections, a reasonably good number in Assembly elections, and when separate Parlia-ment elections are held only a small percentage are voting. Can it be taken as a no-confidence on the Indian Parliament by Kashmiris as it failed to implement Article 370 of the Indian Consti-tution? Or is it because of the timing of the election. The by-election was caused with the resignation of the PDP’s elected member, expressing anger at the PDP-BJP State Government’s policy to solve the problems of Kashmir.

The situation in Kashmir dramatically changed after the killing of Burhan Wani, the local Kashmiri youth who allegedly had turned a militant. Now the second commander, who is also a local Kashmiri youth appointed in place of Burhan Wani, has also been killed and several thousands attended his funeral.

Earlier militants or armed terrorists used to be imported from Pakistan as intruders but it is a matter of serious concern that after seven decades maybe a few but the local youth are joining armed militancy and they are getting sympathy and support.

Kashmir has been a permanent problem with Pakistan from the day of its accession to India. Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly passed a resolution that it will accede to India with Article 370 which gives a special status to Kashmir. It assures internal autonomy. This was accepted by the Indian Union and incorporated in the Indian Constitution. Once accepted, it was never implemented. A part of the beautiful Valley of Kashmir is under the occupation of Pakistan.

There was always a section, though small, which wanted to join Pakistan. A little bigger section was for independent Kashmir. Probably a larger section wanted to be part of secular India than theocratic Pakistan, with Article 370, and with special status and acceptance of Kashmir’s identity. But why and when did the drift start? Who is responsible for it?

Undoubtedly implementation of Article 370 is having some problems. It may bring some such new demands from the North-East States etc. That is to be tackled separately. But we assured internal autonomy and that needs to be honoured. Before the Partition neither Mohammad Ali Jinnah nor the Muslim League could ever get the support of the Kashmiri people. The extraordinary leadership of Sheikh Abdullah could preserve the traditional secular values in the Valley. Many separatist leaders were targets of Pak terrorists and eliminated along with the integrationists. Over the years the separatists have been divided, united, redivided and become weak. Their credibility has also gone down. But in recent years, the miserable failure of consecutive J&K Governments, changed the situation. More and more people are turning to be separatists. The clashes between people and the security forces are increasing. The opportunist PDP-BJP alliance is a miserable failure and the situation has further deteriorated.

Several rounds of dialogue were earlier initiated but never was a concrete decision taken. Now another round of dialogue is necessary to save the situation.

The Union Government says it will not discuss with the separatists. If it wants to discuss with only the political parties that will be a futile exercise. It should discuss with all stakeholders with a promise to implement Article 370.

People versus Security Forces

The Army of a country is used to defend the borders and the nation from the enemy. It is not to be used against its own people. The police and other security forces are to be used to control the law and order in any part of the country. Due to the infiltration of militants and Pakistani terrorists, the Army was used along with the security forces. Now for decades the Army is continuing to maintain law and order and many a time the people and Army are at loggerheads. The use of excessive force, killings under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act have alienated the Army from the people. There are demands to withdraw the AFSPA and Army.

Recently on the day of the Srinagar polling, one citizen, who was coming back after voting, was caught and tied to a military jeep as a human shield from stone-pelters and this generated a huge controversy. An enquiry was ordered. But meanwhile Major Gogoi, the officer who tied the human being as a shield, was given a gallantry award and it was defended by General Rawat, the Chief of the Army. The Army is certainly facing a difficult situation but tying up a citizen as a human shield will not send good signals to the Kashmiris.

General Rawat’s Comments

General Rawat made some unfortunate comments on that occasion. He asserted that “any country where the people are not afraid of the Army, will be doomed and in Kashmir it is a dirty war and different tactics are to be adopted” etc.

The enemy should be afraid of the Army. People should respect the Army, love the Army and should not be afraid of the Army. People fearing the Army is a colonial concept. Fear will lead to anger. Why should it happen? The Army should gain respect and admiration through exemplary behaviour.

In Kashmir it is not a war on our own people. It is the question of maintenance of law and order. The stone-pelters belong to the angry mob but are not terrorists. They should be dealt with in a different way. A wedge between the angry masses and terrorists should be created. It can be done by winning the people by instilling confidence in them. If they are treated at par with the enemies, it will be driving them to the enemy’s camp. Hence a dialogue is necessary.

Pakistan is a failed state. It is unable to control the Islamic terrorists. A section of the Army supports them. An independent Kashmir will not survive.

But if it is to be an integral part of India, India should create the confidence that the state is secular. If it is Hindutva India, it will not convince the Kashmiri people. It should also create confidence on implementation of the constitu-tional guarantees to the people of Kashmir.

In a seminar at Delhi recently a university Professor commented: “I prefer to be in secular India than Islamic Pakistan. But if the choice is between Hindutva India and Islamic Pakistan, I prefer the latter.” This may be the feeling of the people of Kashmir as well.

Kashmir should be saved before it is too late. Only dialogue will help. We tried a military solution but it did not work. Strategically important Kashmir, beautiful Kashmir should be saved with honest efforts but not with any narrow-minded outlook. The solution should be political, not military.

India needs not only Kashmir as a territory but with its hard working and tested lovely people. Let wisdom prevail on the rulers to help save Kashmir.

The author is the General Secretry, CPI.

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