Kashmir situation is a multi-layered problem. Peeling off these layers by revisiting history,without prejudice on the real issues involved can help in a better way forward. Question is whether the naive political leadership of BJP and its trouble shooter Ram Madav are knowledgeable enough to set right the delicate Kashmir affairs or make it more murkier. JK is under Governor rule now.The Governor N N Vohra, unlike many of his predecessors in office has the experience to play safe. He has been keeping his eyes and ears open in the skullduggery and ruthless power play games in Kashmir over the last 10 years.
After the fall of PDP-BJP coalition Government Mr Vohra is in full administrative command -what are the prospects of Kashmir entering the permanent era of peace for a meaningful resolution of the imbroglio in the backdrop of the following:
In Modi regime of last more than four years Kashmir situation worsened. People feel cheated, hurt and betrayed. The militancy has escalated. Border with Pakistan became almost war zone with daily exchange of heavy artillery firing on both sides resulting in heavy casualties of civilian population and displacement. In the Valley and elsewhere the death toll of civilians, and security personal is high. The militants ranks swelled despite many top militants liquidated.The BJP-PDP political experiment failed. Mainstream political space shrunk. Anti India campaign and radicalisation gained huge currency as a narrative ,the socio-cultural institutions got destroyed and the spiritual ethos imperilled.
One of the causes of the new age turbulence is attributed to the betrayal of democratic expectations and the promises made by PM Modi and BJP in the run up campaign in 2014 elections. The youth had participated in large numbers in the electoral process in the 2014 state Assembly elections and voted out the incumbent government. The so called North-South pole alliance Government of BJP-PDP was a positive consequence of the promises.Now the ground reality is that the Government failed the people. How to win back the trust and goodwill of all the sections and respect their aspirations is a challenge in Kashmir?
Challenge to validity of Article 35-A of Indian Constitution before the apex court after sixty years is seen as RSS brain child and yet another concerted plan of Sangh Parivar to promote its divisive agenda and erode Muslim majority character of the JK State.It has further made separatist sentiments/movement stronger-and regional/ communal polarisation deeper—say the moderate educated Kashmiris.
What the Government is up to is not clear? So far It has operated with the belief that past policies of dealing with the issue were too soft. There was need to show the Kashmiris that militancy will not work and that they could not expect any political mileage and concessions through violent means.So after hammering the separatists by systematically killing their militants, moving aggressively against their overground workers and curbing the stone-throwers, the conditions in the Valley remained grim in the past year particularly not just for the militants, but their supporters and the average citizens. What the Government seems to be saying is that “we can give you more of this, until an opportunity for a way out is found. It has signalled that it is willing to undertake a dialogue through an ex-IB chief. Kashmiris have debunked such an approach by refusing to talk to the centre’s pointman.
Kashmir analysts opine that Kashmir is a political problem that calls for an out of box approach. Kashmiris are fatigued of violence and loss of innocent lives. The societal psyche has convinced itself that separation from India is impossible and impractical. A dignified exit route from the current turmoil is the new mantra the Kashmiris are craving for.
A comprehensive process to resolve the issues instead of dithering is the way out.whether PM Modi and BJP has the mind to attempt a policy shift in Kashmir affairs or wait till after 2019 general election results is the buzz in the Valley
The Government should acknowledge that use of military force alone is not a solution to the complex situation of Kashmir. It has to be a blend of engagement and dialogue with all the stakeholders. It is the psychological, attitudinal, social, political and economic grievances that need to be addressed. Therefore, the Government should worry more about winning back the trust of the people and let the terrorism be handled by the security forces. The unabated turmoil and political turbulence in Kashmir is rooted deep in the denial of justice, disrespect to legitimate aspirations and frequent skullduggery resorted to by New Delhi, says the average Kashmiri.
Governor’s rule may bring some success to security forces in eliminating top militant leaders. How to tackle the rising recruitment to the militant ranks of even highly educated youngsters remains a big question? It is reported that since Governor rule more than a dozen educated youngsters have joined militant ranks. Militancy in the Valley also seemed to be changing qualitatively with fidayeen (suicide) attacks taking place over and over again.The militancy in the Valley, however, also seems to have developed an autonomous raison d’etre in the absence of a comprehensive policy.
The changing character of the insurgency/militancy is a serious signal that an urgent policy correction at all levels of governance, and a strategic shift, is urgently needed to prevent escalation and further radicalisation.
Kashmir”s intelligentsia is surprised that New Delhi’s policy and its political managers are so incompetent, apolitical and naive, as not to be willing to leave any space or room for the Kashmiri leadership to exert a moderating influence that could prevent youngsters from taking up the gun.
In the name of self-determination people have no voice of their own and the emotions are controlled and charged by proxies. People know the disastrous consequences of the harm Pakistan and terrorists have done to the current and future generations of Kashmir. But the anti-India sentiment that has grown over the years is so strong that people refuse to see the logic.
There is, the big elephant in the room—Pakistan. Like it or not, any solution of the Kashmir issue requires a two track process involving the domestic separatists,all the stakeholders and the Pakistanis. Despite Country’s best efforts to isolate Pakistan,Islamabad retains the ability to play spoiler in the process through its jihadi proxies. But as of now, New Delhi is firmly against any diplomatic process with Pakistan, so, one can be sure mainstreaming Kashmir will act as a red rag to the Pakistani bull. Unless, of course, New Delhi plans a parallel initiative with Islamabad.
Tourism, education, health services, law and order, developmental activities and public grievances system have collapsed or stand completely eroded. Democratic institutions have been marginalised and discredited. Drugs, black marketing of essential goods, smuggling of timber, hawala and fake currency have become the backbone of a parallel conflict economy. Everything needs to be put in order by Governor under his rule parallel to the political reach out process.
New Delhi needs to approach the issues keeping in sight the fact that India’s strategic interests are intertwined with the goodwill of the Valley’s ordinary people including Kashmiri Pandits, and not the land alone. Kashmir deserves consensus support of all the political parties and civil society groups for peace and peaceful life and liberty to its current and future generations before the new age violent unrest and upsurge gets further out of hand.
Dealing with the Kashmir affairs with out taking all the stakeholders on board would be politically a wrong move. The Union of India needs to act now and engage with the youth of today and Kashmir’s leadership in a serious dialogue. Political dialogue with all the stakeholders is an internationally acknowledged jurisprudence for conflict resolution. For New Delhi, it would be the prudent and astute political approach for a resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio.
The Prime Minister’s political and diplomatic efforts so far have not brought peace in Kashmir. He needs to take a call and prioritise Kashmir as it deserves urgent attention. Prolonged Governor rule only be yet another temporary measure, it cannot substitute democratic process and elections the cardinal rule of the Constitution. Unless there is a well considered comprehensive back up political plan to resolve the imbroglio Kashmir may remain in perpetual boil.
(The author is Senior Advocate Supreme Court of India Chairman Kashmir Policy & Strategy group)