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Kashmir Muddle: GUNS OR ROSES? HAVE YOUR PICK, By Poonam I Kaushish, 16 Aug, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 16 August, 2016

Kashmir Muddle


By Poonam I Kaushish


The travails of picturesque Kashmir continue. Today, the Valley is again under siege of stone pelting mobs and curfew, following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the ‘poster boy’ of a new phase of homegrown Kashmiri militancy. Even, as the Centre and State remain  clueless about how to bring about normalcy. All falling pack on trite syrupy peace overtures, which total zero!


While Prime Minister Modi invokes Vajpayee’s mantra of ‘insaniyat, jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat’ to reach out to the Valley, Home Minister Singh blames Pakistan vowing never to part with an inch of Kashmir, the Congress talkes of winning the hearts and minds of the people and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti urges Modi to “apply balm on the wounds” of the State.


All failing to realize that the problem was not created in a day and nor will it end with New Delhi centric remedies of populist balm. In fact, the recent violence once again highlights the Centre’s inability or should one say myopic limitations of total dependence on force to deal with the Kashmiris sense of alienation.


Always blaming Pakistan, its home-bred Lashkar-e-Taiba, separatists and youth weaned on Islamabad’s diatribe. Miserably overlooking that the fault rests squarely at its doorstep. Of both New Delhi and Srinagar’s failure to understand that if Kashmir is demanding azadi it is because they have failed to convince the stone-pelting youth, born post 1947, that it is a part of India.


A generation bred on constant years of strife and violence has not only overcome the fear factor, but is also politically aware of its rights, alert to the fundamentalists demand for self-determination and the denial of the same thanks to violence. Their angst is not merely against the violence. It is about a deep-rooted desire for a political solution to their long-festering problems. Encompassing, the right to self-determination. 


Part of the genesis of the problem is that since Independence, the Centre’s  overall response to the strife-torn State has been of pacification, hoping that the problem would dissipate. Overlooking that peace cannot be measured by a decrease in infiltration from across the border or the number of killings and economic packages.


Moreover, New Delhi has treated Kashmir as a real estate problem and experimented with various permutations and combinations by wielding the big stick against trigger-happy militants. In the hope that it’s policy of more of the same, more Rashtriya Rifles, more BSF, CRPF would yield dividends. With little effort being made to see whether the policy is getting us anywhere.


Forgetting, Kashmir is not a law and order problem of miscreants holding the population to ransom through terror. Nor is it a territorial dispute with Pakistan that can be resolved by enforcing draconian laws. Essentially, it is political and of people who feel alienated both from the State Government and Centre.


What next? The time has come for both New Delhi and Srinagar to post-haste address the “trust and Government deficit” particularly in the Valley. Indeed, the deficit is so enormous that a good number of measures seem to be negated even before they can be initiated or have had little impact on the ground in normalising the situation in the State. 


Notably, even as Modi wants Kashmir to attain new heights of development, wants to empower every panchayat there and create employment opportunities for its youth, New Delhi would be foolish not to realize that economics is no guarantor of peace or to win the hearts of the people.


Till a political solution is found, there is no hope in hell for a return to normalcy in Kashmir. Efforts need to be made to take the administration closer to the people. Work on development projects should be intensified. The sense of alienation among the youth addressed with newer employment avenues being made available.


Said a senior Union Home Ministry official: “It is imperative that the State Government tackles these problems immediately. Until the people of the State are with you, nothing can make Kashmir militancy free.”


True, consolidating the gains of the past ten years, and deepening the peace in the State, will require an enormous and sustained effort, since Pakistan continues to vigorously support terrorism and disruptive activities in the State.


Till a political solution is found, there is no hope in hell for a return to normalcy in Kashmir. This is underscored by the fact that the distrust runs through the complex strands of the Kashmir imbroglio. Any talk of a new chapter, peace et al would be incomplete without Pakistan, India’s spoilsport ménage a trios.


Granted, one cannot expect dramatic success overnight, notwithstanding the right noises of ushering in peace and normalcy. Also, granted that winning the minds and heart of the people is not easy. Deep mistrust and lack of confidence is apparent. New Delhi needs to desist from falling in the trap of ‘more of the same’ over and over again in anticipation of different results. The need of the hour is imagination, innovation and impetus


Remember, as Russian poet Arseny Tarkovsky wisely said, Kashmir is not a place where destiny seems to shadow events like a madman with a razor in his hand. Nor is it a toy to be frittered, twisted, discarded or dumped. It is a national issue, which transcends political planks, ideology, philosophy and thesis.


New Delhi has to leave no ‘stone’ unturned to further its national interests and make Kashmiris’ truly feel they belong to India. The Kashmiris’ too need to rise to the occasion. Keep above populism, cheap gimmicks and petty politics and give peace a chance.


What Kashmir needs is a long-term plan, a fresh approach and a concrete hard-nosed comprehensive policy. Less of political romanticism and more of practical calculations. Given the stakes, the many players and the shifting sands of geo-strategic political equations, there are many ifs and buts which do not make a whole. As long as Pakistan remains in the equation, a solution is impossible.


The Government must get active in information decimation. A common platform should be evolved between the constituents of the coalition on the areas they would wish to be addressed in the public outreach. The political leadership needs to reactivate the grassroots contacts which captivates people and keeps them pegged to local issues.


Ultimately, we will have to go by the wisdom of UNESCO’s basic tenet which states: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed”. The sooner we realise this, the easier it will be for finding a panacea to the Kashmir imbroglio.


The need of the hour is for the Centre needs to think out-of-the-box and embark on a new track. The time is ripe to heal wounds. The Prime Minister must take the leap of faith and try to connect with Kashmiris, hear their arguments patiently and flesh them out. Else, the calm that eventually obtains will be an illusion.


The question Modi needs to answer: Does he have the political will to cut through the welter of vested interests that arrest purposeful action?  -------- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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