It is now more than a month in the curfew in Kashmir valley following the killing of the young separatist leader Burhan Wani by the security forces. 58 people have died so far and over 3000 injured, over 100 have lost their eyes or badly damaged by the pellets used by the security forces.
The situation which is earlier confined to South Kashmir has spread to north also this time. The PM has said after one month that Vajpayee’s path will be taken in solving the Kashmir issue. Seeking a dialogue with people of Jammu and Kashmir, PM said that the dialogue will be on basis of Insaniyat, Jamooriyat and Kashmiriyat.
PM Vajpayee had not come to a solution but he had taken a lead in coming and working towards a solution. There were two aspects to it. He had reached out to Pakistan, however Kargil followed soon after. He also reached out to the Kashmiri leadership and the separatist leadership. Apart from being a great statesman, he was also an eloquent speaker who used the words of insaniyat. Even with all the hatred and violence, he would speak with affection in Kashmir. What he said is not only important. He followed it by setting up an institutional framework. The PM, the Dy. PM, the National Security Advisor in the Vajpayee government were fully conversant with the situation inside Kashmir. This is the tradition of PM Vajpayee. The institutional framework was set up to bring to the table the dialogue of all sections of the Kashmiri leadership, the mainstream leadership and the separatists leadership reaching out to them and assuring the objective that there should be friendship and not enmity.
The PM has invoked the Vajpayee formula and follow the footsteps
The Vajpayee formula was of engagement and he had a belief that the permanent confrontation with Pakistan should end and in Kashmir we must move forward. It was a gradual process and Vajpayee went about it very systematically. To begin with, the said that there must be free and fair elections In Kashmir in 2002, the elections reaped unexpected results due to free and fair elections. Vajpayee had also agreed to engage with the separatists. In between, he approved of engagement with the militant outfit- the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Majeed Dar faction. On his own initiative on the occasion of Ramzan, he called for a unilateral ceasefire. So, this all is part of Vajpayee approach.
Viewpoint of Kashmiri Pandits
Burhan Wani was not a leader of Kashmir but a militant who attacked Indian forces and Indian army. They are in conformity with PM’s follow of Vajpayee policy on Kashmir. But, in last 25-27 years, no one has thought about the Kashmiri pandits, so any dialogue with the local civil society will be acceptable to them. But simultaneously, talking with separatists who are getting support from Pakistan, is not acceptable and appropriate method of dealing the Kashmir issue.
However, the Kashmir situation is worsening day by day in last 27 years inspite of 2002 elections. Because of call from separatists, the locals are taking to streets or indulging in activities which make them killed. Because of Kashmir violence, there are Kashmiri migrants who are protesting in Jammu but, there is no mention about them of the problems they face.
The statement of the PM has been well received by the governing coalition of J&K. According to separatists leader, they will be watching how the developments will take place in next few days, what are the policy initiatives of PM and how will he follow them.
The basic difference between personality of present PM and PM Vajpayee is that PM Vajpayee could establish a degree of trust for himself in Kashmir and in Pakistan. Vajpayee’s hand of friendship speech consequent to which he went to SAARC summit came in Kashmir. He never accepted that Kashmir belongs to Pakistan. It was a very pragmatic move that had support from people on either side of LOC. Here was the man who was betrayed by Kargil war after his bus ride to Lahore., but was still persistent at his efforts at peace. The minar-e-pakistan visit of Vajpayee was a paradigm shift in the ideological positioning of Sangh parivar. That memorial is the memorial to the Pakistan movement.
Now the question is to reduce the trust deficit. Any dialogue as against no dialogue at current stage will be successful. There has to be an element of unilateralism to be shown by centre towards Kashmir which will be an act of generosity, it will be demonstrating a sense of accommodation for hurt people of Kashmir. Everybody will have to be spoken to. No party should decide which the other party should government speak to or not. Leave that to wisdom to government. Often, popular democracy is mixed with institutional democracy.
The PM is expected to face resistance from within the sangh parivar and party. If he were to take concrete step in reaching out in a manner in which Vajpayee did, also helped by mr. Advani, it will reap positive benefits. It is time to persuade them to come on board and let the dialogue continue.
The situation now is such that it will be necessary to maintain the same spirit as PM Vajpayee but not necessarily in same manner. Whether mainstream, separatists or sections of Kashmiri society- they will have to be engaged with dialogue because the young people who have taken to streets are against the old political leadership which have betrayed them and has not done anything for them. They are against the central leadership, state government and even the separatists. That is the trust deficit. The current generation of facebook don’t see any good in talking. So all those who are for talks and restoring peace in Kashmir must come together. It includes every section of Kashmiri as well as Indian society who should try and reach out to all Kashmiris, including Kashmiri pandits, Kashmiri Sikhs and few Kashmiri Christians along with young Kashmiri muslims.
In 2008, there was trouble over the amaranth land dispute, in 2010 there was serious protests and demonstrations in which 120 boys were killed. Somewhere today, it is worse than all than before. Kashmir can change overnight. Even if all looks good on surface, there is something happening underneath. One can feel an emotion of anger, discontent and alienation. Somehow in Delhi, when things look alright, they are happy with status quo and the status quo never favours us but the other side because sooner or later something will happen and change and then it will be exploited.
Today, Pakistan is all over Kashmir. The shots are being called by the Lashkar and the Jaish. Earlier, Pakistan had lost the plot in Kashmir and now, they have been invited again in Kashmir because what has happened in last month. There was simmering discontent already because engagement with the Kashmiris had stopped. Burhan wani was an accident. If it would not have happened, something else would have triggered the violence. When the engagement with the Kashmiris stop or with Pakistan, then there is going to be surety of trouble.
The situation has become very complex now. Government of India is trying to make an honest assessment of the situation- what is ailing Kashmir, why are people frustrated, why they do what they are doing. The PM says development is the solution, the CM talks of giving jobs etc. but at the ground level, the situation has not changed. Some talk of Kashmiri pandits, some about separatism, some militarism. There are talks of establishing separate pandit colonies, sainik colonies, and temporary shelters for labourers coming from Bihar, UP etc. This is looked at with suspicion in Kashmir. The Muslim majority state of Kashmir is being threatened of its majority status and thus, they are angered by it.
Before any political process starts, there has to be confidence building measures. It would begin with stopping use of killings, stop use of pellet guns indiscriminately and in extreme law and order situation. Today the young Kashmiri generation is on roads. Who invited them? How can there be a dialogue process with violence at other end?
Kashmir cannot be an integral part of India on paper. The intervention has to be done with respect to clear understanding that Kashmir did not merge into the Indian state. It signed the instrument of accession and there was a mechanism built by article 370 on how there would be an interaction between state and centre. Hence, certain terminologies should not be used in public discourse as far as government is concerned.
Talk to all the stakeholders including separatists. India should must talk to Pakistan as not talking will aggravate the situation further. It’s a long process and points will evolve once talks are initiated.
Connecting the dots:
Kashmir has been on boil again. Killing of one militant does not trigger such anger and hence there is a possibility of discontent on larger issues in Kashmir. You have been appointed as the interlocutor by Government of India, what will be your steps to bring valley at peace?