Where is the political will?

Kashmir: Elusive Peace

By Poonam I Kaushish

The travails of picturesque Kashmir continue. Political India is in the midst of loud cantankerous cackle on Kashmir. All busy dissecting, debating and deliberating on the ceasefire and elusive calm in the Valley amidst rising anger, notwithstanding the ‘visible’ signs of normalcy. Which at best of times, mean the absence of ‘abnormalcy’, as fragile status quo translates to a state of no war, no peace!
Over two months 65 militants deaths in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts, 28 security personnel and 78 Pakistan violations along the LoC, despite the one month long unilateral ceasefire during Ramzan declared by the Centre, the dance of death and destruction continues unabated. With both the Centre and State using the olive branch-coercion-curfew paradigm to quell incidents of stone pelting, intermittent bloodshed and killings.
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. From the security point of view, this is a big success but the bad news is that ground reports suggest local youth are still joining the militant ranks. Of course, one cannot expect miracles overnight as the K problem was not created in a day and nor will it end by applying populist balm to extract an extra mile, no matter if it creates more problems than it solves!
Undeniably, permanent peace remains a distant dream for the people of beleaguered Jammu and Kashmir, raising a moot point: Can the olive branch of ceasefire address the sense of alienation? Can the Government muster the political will of taking hard decisions? Does it have any long term plan to deal with the situation? Can it tackle the emotional outburst? Put a rest to the pro-Azadi slogans?
No, not in today’s scenario.
Sadly New Delhi has treated Kashmir as a problem of real estate and experimented with various permutations and combinations by wielding the big stick against trigger-happy militants and stone pelters. In the hope that its policy of more of the same, more Rashtriya Rifles, more BSF, CRPF, money and material would somehow yield dividends. However, little effort is being made to see whether the policy is getting us anywhere.
We can keep the land. But, importantly, how are we going to keep the people? Prevent innocents caught in this conflict from being killed? The crux of the issue is that while not a few Kashmiri seeks exclusion from the Indian State, New Delhi believes in inclusion leading to violence.
Remember, Kashmir is not a law and order problem of a few miscreants holding the population to ransom through terror. Nor is it merely a territorial dispute with Pakistan that can be resolved by enforcing draconian laws. Essentially, the problem is political and mainly of a people who feel estranged from the Administration.
No effort is made to instill a sense of security among the people. Alongside, the money meant for public development finds its way into private pockets and the material is used for individual betterment. A vicious circle resulting in disillusionment. Worse, New Delhi and Srinagar continue to take knee-jerk actions instead of learning the art of firm management and containment.
Alas, Kashmir’s awaaz gets lost in the din of our netas rhetorical speeches. Prospects of peace have been marred by mutual mistrust by mainstream and separatist politicians. Till both realize and acknowledge each others’ role in State policy, a consensus on peace and the way forward will continue to elude us.
New Delhi would be foolish not to realize that economics is no guarantor of peace or to win people’s hearts. Till a political solution is found, there is no hope in hell for a return to normalcy as deep distrust runs through the complex strands of the Kashmir imbroglio.
What next? True, the ceasefire has put trouble mongers on the back foot as they are finding it difficult to create an anti-India hype and attract more youths to its fold. Whether the peace tune plays out or not, a start of a political process is desirable which cannot take off without preparing a political-socio-economic pitch. As it stands whether the “return” efforts to misguided youth and amnesty for stone pelters succeeds in motivating them to shun violence and lead a normal life, needs to be watched.
With Kashmir in its present flux, the Centre and State have to walk a tight-rope. The State Government and politicians have to stop passing the buck to the Centre and take responsibility for their actions. By continuously blaming New Delhi for all that is wrong in the State the polity is only harming the people, a fruitless exercise.
High time all concerned address the “trust and Government deficit” in the Valley. Indeed, the deficit is so enormous that innumerable measures seem to be negated even before they can be initiated or have little impact on the ground in normalising the situation.
Simultaneously, the Centre and Hurriyat need to walk the talk which should be without any pre-condition, albeit talks only within the ambit of Indian Constitution or solely on independence. Both need to win back confidence. This is the only way to bring a lasting solution to Kashmir as imposing conditions has stalled chances of peace for over three decades.
Asserted Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, “There is overall improvement in the law and order … there is no problem in any dialogue with Pakistan but it has to stop promoting terrorism first.” Certainly, he addressed the internal and external dimension of the ‘K’ dispute by reaching out to Islamabad and separatists. The question however remains: Is the reach enough to be productive?
The Centre needs to think out-of-the-box, a fresh approach and embark on a new track of a concrete hard-nosed comprehensive long-term policy. Less of political romanticism and more of practical calculations. The sooner we realise this, the easier it will be for finding a panacea to the Kashmir imbroglio.
Simultaneously, wounds need healing as promises by successive Governments offering peace remain unfulfilled and the only hope these people have is hoping for the impossible. Granted, one cannot expect dramatic success overnight. Also, granted that winning the minds and heart of the people is not easy.
The need of the hour is imagination, innovation and impetus. Remember, 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. The Prime Minister needs to take the leap of faith and connect with Kashmiris. The question NaMo needs to answer: Does he have the political will to cut through the welter of vested interests that arrest purposeful action? Ultimately, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed. ——– INFA