What Makes Kashmir Erupt Every Now And Then?
What Makes Kashmir Erupt Every Now And Then?
27 June 2012
: FOR THREE consecutive years from 2008 to 2010, the valley of Kashmir rocked with internal dissent. The catalysts were different but the reaction was the same; bandhs, strikes, lockouts, stone pelting and general disorder was the order of the day. It looked as if the separatists had, once again, started gaining the upper hand. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, always an academician first and politician later, felt the need to, once again dig deep into the problems that were making the people of Kashmir react so violently to mundane, day-to-day social problems. It was on his initiative that the government of India appointed a team of three interlocutors on 13 October 2010. The mandate of the team was to conduct a dialogue with the people of the state and prepare a road map that would be acceptable to all stake holders. While initiating this process, it was conveniently forgotten that the path of appointing interlocutors had been well trodden in the past without producing any tangible results. NN Vohra, the sitting Governor of the State had also, at one point in time, performed the role of an interlocutor as had KC Pant before him. This apart, many non-government initiatives attempted to bring about amity in the minds of the Kashmiri dissidents, the main being a dialogue initiated by Ram Jethmalani. All these had come to naught mainly because the separatistsrefused to participate in dialogue process. The new team of interlocutors came into the grip of a significant paradox almost as soon as it commenced its task. The situation in the state turned for the better. This had more to do with the people rather than their diligent efforts. The people, fed up with violence, decided to ignore the dictats of the separatists and exhibited a rare determination towards bringing about what is now being termed as ‘normalcy’. Thus, the period during which the interlocutors were busy fulfilling their mandate turned out to be the most peaceful witnessed in the valley over last few decades. This paradox drastically reduced the relevance of the exercise. There were many more stumbling blocks. The Hurriyat, as expected, refused to meet the interlocutors thus taking the sting out of the exercise and making it as futile as the earlier initiatives. The arrest of Fai by the FBI in US in mid-2011 opened yet another Pandora’s Box. It became known that Pakistan was infusing millions of dollars to build up a campaign of misinformation against India. Unfortunately, media reports of some of the interlocutors having a link with Fai and his dubious Kashmiri American Council also started doing the rounds. This eroded the credibility and questioned the legitimacy of the team to a great extent. Then came media reports of fissures between interlocutors with MM Ansari pitted against combined might of Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar. It was against the backdrop of these problems and misgiving that the interlocutors went about completing their mandate. Their final report, which has recently been submitted to the Ministry of Home and is also available in the public domain has, predictably, drawn a lot of flak. It has been widely acknowledged that they have put in a lot of effort. They have, in the report, mentioned a tour of 22 districts, meetings with 700 delegations and thousands of people and organised round-table conferences as a small part of their effort to construct the document. Why then the flak, the hostility and the criticism? THE ANSWER revolves around their inability to go beyond the well-trodden academic path. They have failed to give the much required people-centric flavour to the whole exercise. They, for example, have not highlighted the demographics of the region in the right perspective. One wonders as to how they could have missed out on the fact that the Kashmiri Muslims, whom they have kept central in their testimony, do not enjoy the status of a majority community in the state. This misperception, by itself, has led to gaping holes in the entire document. As one goes through the report, the influence of media and some oft repeated anti-national sentiments becomes very palpable. There are some aspects in the report that are particularly abhorrent to every nationalist Indian; the suggestion to take Pakistan on board for any decision on Kashmir being the most prominent. Next comes the issue of autonomy, self-rule, etc which have been endorsed by the team and which many in the nation consider to be an affront to the very spirit of the Indian nation. Such issues may have had a place during the nascent years of nation building, but for the confident resurgent Indian they are an anathema. There is no point is raising expectations of a small section of Kashmiris where no forward movement is possible. All such talk is neither realistic nor possible. Finally, it can be surmised that the interlocutors have been very astute as far as the identification of the aspirations of the people are concerned, but when it comes to suggestions they have somehow lost the script. In all probability they were unable to adequately understand the ground situation. As a result, the aspirations of the people and the suggestions given by them are at odds with each other. It is difficult to believe that the same team has authored both the segments of the report. It would not be surprising if this report is consigned to the dusty shelves of North Block to be thrown onto the next fire when it comes about. But where does Jammu and Kashmir go from here? Probably wait for the next government to appoint the next team of interlocutors.