Interlocution over Kashmir

Col J P Singh
Kashmir is in limbo. How long it will be is anybody’s guess. Destinies of people and nations change in moments. Against the run of play, the moods change. When few events start coinciding, the time turns around for new narratives. For last few weeks the govt is looking at the new possibilities in Kashmir because militancy part of it is being handled effectively. Although one can’t claim authoritatively what Kashmiris want but can make some logical guesses from various inputs. They definitely want a permanent end to the conflict that has strangled their lives for  three decades. They also want a peaceful resolution of its main causes. They want end of violence and persistent fear of gun. They want to live in peace. They want the mist over uncertainties of accession & merger to disappear. They are fed up with false promises of Azadi and want restoration of peace and communal harmony. They want tolerance and pluralism to be restored. They are looking at the opportunity that 21st century is offering to the world. They are looking at galloping India. In a globalised world, where the borders have shrunk, pity that they are hostage to the separatists agenda and the armed violence. They are hostage to the politicians’ agenda. They are denied the benefits of mobility and prosperity. They certainly want to be masters of their destinies. They want a life of respect and dignity. They long for democracy and rule of law.
While the nation was talking of democracy, Kashmir was talking of autonomy. Now that India is striving for development, Kashmir is striving for Azadi. Azadi and autonomy debate becomes more interesting when the issue is reignited by Congress leader P Chidambaram stating that Kashmiris actually seek greater autonomy when they demand Azadi. Amidst the debate, NC resolution states, “We will continue to strive for the restoration of autonomy and restoration of Article 370 to its original and pristine form while condemning those divisive forces who are opposed to the sovereign constitutional guarantees extended to the people of the state”. Dr. Farooq Abdullah said, “Kashmir joined India out of love but everything was snatched from them. Kashmir cannot be won by force or cow downed by guns”. Earlier he had assured his party’s full support to the separatist Hurriayt which is under the NIA probe for illegal funding of militancy in the valley. “Promises made to the people must be fulfilled. We want present uncertainty, violence and bloodshed to end. We want to live with dignity and honour”, said Omar Abdullah. Amidst this loud cry, center has appointed an interlocutor over Kashmir who has commenced his job in the state. PM Modi’s statement that ‘Na goli se, na gaali se, bat benegi gale lagane se’ is the silver lining. A stage is set for an interesting agenda to embrace Kashmiris. Hence coalition govt is energised by the dialogue process by the interlocutor. In the winter clouds there seems to be a silver lining. Something tangible should come out of this interlocution.
Mr. Dineshwar Sharma is the interlocutor over Kashmir. He is mandated to deliberate over the Kashmir imbroglio. Speaking to the media, Mr. Sharma said, his focus would be to prevent the valley’s youth from falling prey to false online propaganda. Youth and student are the future. They have to take Jammu & Kashmir forward to new heights in the next few years and that is why it is necessary to remove their misconceptions at the earliest”. Focused vision on the youth & students is the silver lining to my mind. That is what had been missing in the Kashmir narrative so far. Here lies the hope. Mehbooba Mufti and various other organizations have rightly welcomed the initiative. Dialogue with all the stake holders, in any case, is in the agenda of governance of the coalition. It strengthens her position as a partner of an ideological opposite party.
Politicians say, ‘Kashmir is a political issue. Unless dealt with politically there will be no peace’. Hence all the political dispensations will talk to Mr. Sharma. Surely he will bring consensus among them given the reputation and standing he has in the valley. Let us see what solution comes out. Separatists and some others won’t talk. Hence there are challenges before him. Many issues have been dealt with by earlier interlocutors headed by late Sh. Dileep Padgaonkar. That compendium can be a guide in the dialogue progress.
Dr. Farooq’s acknowledgement of Pak right over its occupied areas has created lot of heat but clarified that Kashmir is integral to India. Certain things should be clear for the interlocutor. Alienation runs very deep in the valley. It is accumulation of 70 years of love and hate, more hate, relationship. Anger still bubbles in the minds of people in all the regions though manifested differently. In the valley, agitations and violence start at the drop of a hat on which militancy thrives. The alienation of the masses increased because of active social media which has radicalized  youth. Something has to be done against social media warfare before reaching out to the youth.
Madarsas are a fertile ground for radicalization. A peep into Madarsa Culture may be on his agenda. Added to this is unemployment; already under the preview of the govt. Article 370 provides special status to J&K. No law passed by the Parliament applies in J&K. Article 35A doesn’t allow even a child to acquire property of her mother if she maries an outsider and hence nobody comes to J&K to settle. While the Kashmiris can acquire property anywhere in India and settle, vice-versa is not allowed by 370 & 35A. This one way mobility hinders integration of J&K with the rest of the country. Article 35A is also gender discriminatory. It alienates people of Jammu & Ladakh. This phenomenon should be dealt with seriously under interlocution.
Separatists are seeking freedom from India. ¾ districts around Srinagar is the epicenter of militancy. Srinagar is close to LoC. Pakistan therefore keeps fueling militancy. But Pakistan doesn’t approve of Azadi as has been stated by Pak PM during an interview to an English Daily. Ruling out Azadi, he said, “right to self determination is the only option before Kashmiris”. It means either India or Pakistan. Farooq Abdullah has once again shattered the dream of Azadi by dropping another bombshell stating that POJK is Pakistan and Kashmir is India. Hence a different realisation is simmering in the valley. It calls for re-evaluation of their past 70 years blind faith in Azadi.
When Pakistan is not an option for Kashmiris and Azadi is not acceptable to Pakistan; other option is to fully integrate with India as per wishes of founders of J&K Constitution. Article 1 of the state constitution stipulates that J&K is and will be an integral part of India. It is a mirror. Mr. Sharma must show it. Within the constitution, regional autonomy may also be considered by the new interlocutor. It stands recommended by previous interlocutors.
Hurriyat has out-rightly rejected interlocution. They are missing a golden opportunity to put across their view point. Being separatists they want to be separatists. By dictionary, ‘Separatists are a group of people within the country who want to separate from the country and from their own govt’. Hence why and who will talk to them. Any interlocution is always within the framework of a Constitution. Hence Hurriyat is not at all a stake holder in any interlocution over J&K now or future. It is bitter pill for both sides which will have to be swallowed.
According to the instrument of Accession, J&K relegated powers related to the defense, foreign affairs and communications to the Indian Union. That was on 26 October 1947. Thereafter Presidential orders issued from time to time have diluted various privileges enjoyed by J&K legislature and the judiciary.  NC wants restoration of pre 1953 position of autonomy. PDP wants self-rule. Hurriyat wants Azadi. Interlocutor is not here to turn the clock back. He is here to look at the future. He has started on a positive note even though he doesn’t have a magic band to resolve issues as per his own admission. But he has not drawn any redlines either leaving the field open for the run.
Expectations have risen all over India that peace may atleast be in the offing. At the very least, Mr. Sharma provides a hope. Talks will be held within the frame work of constitution. Nobody can refute that. Nor even Kashmiris. Right now the task for the interlocutor is to talk to any and everyone. On the govt side there is a clear change in its body language. It is upto us all to take a step in the right direction.