Kashmir: Road Ahead
By Poonam I Kaushish
Insanity, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, said Einstein. Apply this to Kashmir, and one doesn’t need to be an Einstein to figure out that he had got the equation right, again!
In April 2015 J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed credited the BJP-PDP alliance as a new ‘show of dreams’ to change the destiny of the turmoil wracked State. Three years later the dreams suffered many blips wherein soon its ‘Agenda on Governance’ document was in tatters plunging the strife-torn State in a political crisis resulting in Governor’s rule.
Today tensions in the Valley are rising with resumption of cordon-and-search operations by security forces to flush out terrorists resulting in more anger on the streets. Last week four top militants were killed, yet our netagan continue to engage in petty tu-tu-mein-mein. The BJP accuses Congress of speaking the separatists language, the “army killed more civilians than terrorists” and ‘independence is Kashmiris first choice’ (Saifuddin Soz’s comments). Counters the Grand Dame “Kashmir will be listed among one of the biggest failures of the Modi Government.” QED.
Undeniably, the Hindutva Brigade will sell Mehbooba’s ‘dismissal’ to underscore Modi’s muscular approach towards separatists and their sympathisers in the Valley and across the border. It will also tap into the alienation of BJP’s voter base in Jammu who felt the Party was pandering to the wishes and desires of the PDP and soft pedaling hard security issues.
Indeed, the fall of the PDP-BJP Government has given a free hand to the Centre to directly deal with the situation in the State where borders have heated up manifold thanks to Pak-sponsored terrorism, militancy is at all time high and bloodshed continues in the Valley, making it an uphill task to run the State smoothly. Alongside, India and Pakistan’s leadership have compounded the problem by turning Kashmir into a badge of their respective national identities.
Moreover, there are essentially two competing nationalisms at work, at variance. The Kashmiri version which seeks separation, exclusion and the Indian description that insists on inclusion. Not a few Kashmir watchers aver the mistake New Delhi makes is to ignore the deep roots of separatism and the complexity of political consciousness in Kashmir which separates issues of immediate governance, after years of debilitating strife, and that of the larger tehreek or ‘movement’.
What next? More than more of the same, money, men and muscle what Kashmir needs is an emotional package, a parcel that will allow Kashmiri agitators to give vent to their grief and frustration, their anger and even their hatred. A wrap up which will treat them with respect, restore their dignity and try and heal the accumulated humiliations. Healing, by itself, will not be a solution, but it will be a beginning. The need of the hour is for India to connect with Kashmiris.
Towards that end all Parties, BJP, Congress, NCP, PDP etc have large student/youth wings which should send youth delegations to visit Kashmir and spend time with Gen Next just listening to them. Parties women ‘s wing should do likewise despite provocation by Pakistan and its agents to ensure that the emotional connect does not take place. Certainly, there will be bad eggs, but one hopes Kashmiris will not spurn a genuine hand of friendship or treat it with violence.
For the medium term the Government needs to put in place an educational package, not only formal but educating the people of Kashmir’s reality. An example: Azaad Kashmir or Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Pakistan has sold the idea that Azaad Kashmir is really azaad. But this is a lie.
Alas, for over 70 years the Indian Government has not even tried to expose the myth that Azaad Kashmir is a misnomer. It is not only not independent but does not even enjoy the powers of other Pakistani provinces, let alone the autonomy enjoyed by J&K. Any wonder an ordinary Kashmiri continues to shout pro-azaadi slogans thinking he is going to be independent like Azaad Kashmir.
Complicating matters, a new generation of students born in the early 1990s has taken to the streets and they are not going to go back home empty-handed. Brought up under the shadow of violence and guns of security forces and terrorists, their hopes for a better future remain unfulfilled. They are educated, jobless and angry.
True, while some are paid to shout azaadi slogans and hurl stones at security forces, others are worried about the lack of resolution of core issues and the Government’s inability to resolve the socio-economic challenges facing the State.
Primarily, the successful resolution of insurgencies requires a three-pronged approach: governance, development and security, along with perception management. While the security situation has improved, poor governance and lack of adequate socio-economic development continues to hamper efforts to put an end to ISI and Pak-sponsored insurgency. New Delhi would be wise to realize no insurgency world-over can be solved by security forces alone.
Remember, Kashmir is a symbol of India-Pakistan’s inability to compose their differences and live in peace. Kashmir is thus both cause and effect, which makes it so difficult to conceptualize a solution. Warfare, depopulation-repopulation, patience, good Government, revival of human values etc a solution has to be found at many levels with both caution, honesty and flexibility and building confidence.
The only solution that should be ruled out is doing nothing. Time will not heal the Kashmir problem. Time has made things worse in Kashmir as over one hundred million Indian Muslims are held hostage by Kashmir’s fate. Sadly, there is little strategic thinking on Kashmir whereby no one is looking beyond immediate events and short-term calculations of gain and pain.
A solution cannot occur until it is supported in India, Pakistan and Kashmiris but in the meantime it is important to have a place or institution where ideas, possibilities and pressures can be focused.
Finally, India and Pakistan should stop relying on ‘alphabet diplomats’ RAW and ISI and begin to constrain their self-deceiving disinformation campaigns. Both should accommodate Kashmiri sensibilities which should not be the prelude to the break-up of either State.
Clearly, “Punjab rules”, a zero-sum game with a club behind the back seem to dominate India-Pakistan relations. All sides to the dispute need to agree on the need for a solution. Yet Islamabad and Delhi seem to be on a teeter totter-when one side is up, the other side feels that it is accelerating downward. As they briefly pass through a point of balance neither wants to negotiate since both believe that time is on their side, that they are just about to, or will after some time, regain the advantage.
The greater Kashmir problem is getting both sides-and now the Kashmiris themselves, whose perception of how time will bring about an acceptable solution is not clear at all-to examine their own deeper assumptions about how to bring the other to the bargaining table, and reach an agreement.
There is a Punjabi saying: “Three things are improved by beating: women, wheat, and a Jat.” Modi and the Centre need to frame a long-term hard-nosed policy especially in the Kashmir-Pakistan context. Ad hocism and knee-jerk reactions will not do. Today it is a pat, tomorrow a slap. Day after blood curdling threats…. Time to ACT—-Action, Continuity and Toughness. —- INFA