'We Need To Use The Indian State's Constitutional Institutions'16 October 2011
Times of India
New Delhi: Kashmir experienced its most peaceful summer this year since street protests became a norm after 2008, despite the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves, many allegedly containing civi-lian Kashmiris. People's Conference leader spoke with about a change in the mood on the street, the viability of such calm - and his own transition from separatist to mainstream politics: Sajjad Lone Sameer Arshad. Why have there been fewer protests this year than earlier in Kashmir - and how sustainable is this calm? It is all related to the failure to deliver. The anger is the same, so is the helplessness. But there is very little the people can do. The futility of protests seems to have dawned. The Kashmiri leadership has failed to translate protests into something deliverable. Protests had become an end in themselves, rather than a means...the current peace is most likely interim and a function of the perceived incapability of the leadership, rather than real movement towards lasting peace... the calm is deceptive. It could explode any moment...all it needs is a leader to rally the masses. Can there be a real turnaround from violence to sustainable calm? Sustainable calm would need New Delhi to come out of denial mode and make a sincere movement towards decisive engagement with Kashmiris. It is time that New Delhi's political and bureaucratic establishment stop patting itself on the back for pyrrhic gains accrued due to the follies of the Kashmiri leadership. Why have earlier engagements between separatists and New Delhi ended in disappointments? I do not want to sound like a broken record. But the onus of failure lies on New Delhi. If it has failed to resolve the Kashmir issue, its leadership has to be accountable to the Indian people. At the end of the day, the moral costs in terms of deaths, pain and misery in Kashmir, inflicted also on the Indian people on account of an unresolved Kashmir issue, are massive. The Kashmiri leadership cannot escape the blame...but compared to the Indian state, they are individuals, lacking the institutional sagacity of a state. The role of leadership and statesmanship, so important in resolving disputes, has to come from the Indian state - and the stark reality is, there are no such signs so far. How important is Islamabad today in a resolution of the Kashmir issue? And what does the thawing of India-Pakistan relations mean to Kashmir? Islamabad is very important. It is good if Indian and Pakistani relations are thawing. But it is equally important to understand that making peace with Kashmiris is the most important variable in the resolution process. They are the ones who are on the streets and hold the key to peace. Your foray into the electoral process in 2009 wasn't successful - what are your plans vis-a-vis mainstream politics now? I plan to use the electoral route to voice what i believe are the genuine aspirations of Kashmiris. We need to use the Indian state's constitutional institutions to put forward our viewpoint. That is the most acceptable way. The current world order does not seem to have a lot of tolerance for violent or self-styled modes of expressing viewpoints. The streets may have been quiet but mainstream Kashmiri politics has been rocked by recent upheavals - your opinion about these disturbances? The current mainstream set-up is a default one, due to an electoral process that's not inclusive. The current players are a part of the problem and have shown no signs of becoming part of the solution.