B L Saraf
In the last fortnight, a number of developments have come to be noticed which tend to give a sense that peace may be round the corner. The Valley, in particular, has gone through a long spell of violence and turmoil. These developments give us a hope.
First, Governor Satya Pal Malik struck a blow for the peace. He went public with his statement that the Central government was ready to hold talks to restore peace and stability in Kashmir, and held out a hand of reconciliation to all the stake holders. Soon after, we had Mirwaiz Umar Farooq reciprocating the gesture, albeit embellished with usual ‘ifs’ and ‘ buts ‘. What however, marks it out this time is that the ‘ifs ‘ and ‘buts ‘ seem to be set forth more in ritual than as articles of obstruction.
Then came a big surprise. Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited Kashmir to take stock of the situation and there was no call for shut down, in sharp contrast to the earlier practice when Hurriat and separatist elements would, religiously, ask people to shut down the business, if a political functionary or a Central Minister would land in Srinagar.
Is it a matter of coincidence or by design that we get a broad hint of reconciliatory tone in the statements of both – Governor and the Mirwaiz. Governor has down played the shrill noise raised for the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A and underlined the special nature of relationship between State and the Centre. He assured people that it won’t be disturbed.
Similarly, there are numerous conciliatory points discernible from Umar Farooq’s media interview. While talking to a local daily (DE June, 21) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq emphasized the need to end the bloodshed in Valley He said ” Centre should take initiative to start the stalled dialogue process in the State and all such sincere efforts would get desired response.’ He went on to say ” … We will never shirk from our responsibility and will respond in appropriate manner.. any initiative aimed at to take State out of turmoil would be welcome by all sections of society in Kashmir.”
Invoking his position as the religious head of the Kashmiris, Mirwaiz said he doesn’t want his future generation to get consumed in this unending conflict and pleaded for ” some sort of middle path to be explored ” to end the impasse.
It is important to note that Mirwaiz laid due stress on intra regional issues and said that another dimension of the process should be intra- regional dialogue between Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. He has realized that the mistrust between the regions doesn’t augur well for the State.
On the displaced Pandits Mirwaiz sought to make his position clear. He would not like Kashmir issue linked with the return of Kashmiri Pandits. He wanted them to come to their houses and offered his help in whichever way it is required Very encouraging words, indeed. While Pandits may appreciate his concern for them, Umar Farooq will do fair justice to their cause if he cares to realize what they have gone through in the last three decades. For them – may be for many Kashmiri Muslims also – Kashmir has under gone a sea change, socially and politically – unfortunately not for the better. Suffice it to say for the moment, Pandit’s ancestral dwelling places as also their immediate neighborhood have disappeared beyond redemption. Under these circumstances to tell Pandits to go to the old places doesn’t carry a meaning.
It is interesting to note that in departure from the past view, Umar Farooq has conceded role to the NC and PDP in the peace process. He wanted them to be taken on board when the political process begins. In turn both Farooq Abdullah and Miss Mehbooba have welcomed Mirwaiz’s statement. It is surely a good sign.
It is good that Mirwaiz has spoken. It is not that he has not been speaking. In fact by virtue of his position as a religious head in Kashmir he has been speaking regularly. But the tone and tenor of his statement made to the news paper encourages us to say ‘ he has really spoken.’ Nonetheless,given the past experience one must keep his fingers crossed.
It seems that Mirwaiz has come to realize the futility of Azadi slogans that he has off late started mainstreaming his activities. He has spoken about drug abuses and other social ills that have afflicted Kashmir society.
It is matter of satisfaction that Hurriat is willing to talk to the GOI – a far cry from the day -in 2016 – when they didn’t open the door of their houses, in Srinagar, to the leaders like Sita Ram Yachri, Ram Vilas Paswan and others who had come calling from Delhi. It is encouraging to note that Avinash Rai Khanna, BJP’s national vice president in charge Kashmir has expressed his party’s willingness to carry forward the dialogue legacy of late Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Some keen Kashmir watchers say, probably not without a reason, that by offering talks Hurriat wants a breather from the Centre’s onslaught. The prevailing scenario in Kashmir has made us weary and cynical that we see conspiracy and double speak everywhere. True, in the past many an optimist had to suffer disappointment. It must, however be noted that every one of us – G OI included- has an invaluable stake in durable peace. Resumption of talks wouldn’t mean any relenting on pressure on the armed militants or the money launderers. We will have to assess Mirwaiz’s offer in the background of Governor Malik’s willingness to initiate dialogue in Kashmir. This could be a gesture in reciprocation. It must be welcomed. This situation has not developed all of sudden. Center’s interlocutor appointed much earlier had not shut his shop. It was only in dormancy. Dineshwar Sharma was at work which is, probably, showing now.
Peace seems to be the flavor of the season. However given the endemic unpredictability of Kashmir and vagaries of the seasonal weather nobody can say, for sure, how long will this flavor keep our atmosphere fragrant: and when will it be blown far away, allowing a re -entry to the pungent smell of blood and gun powder?
(The author is Former Principal District & Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf