November 2017 News

Kashmir Deserves A Respectable Dialogue Process

1 November 2017
Rising Kashmir
Ashok Bhan

Srinagar: Kashmir is on the edge due to unabated militancy and street violence of last 28 years. Currently, the braid chopping incidents have created panic. On the other hand, the state government has failed to arrest any and sternly deal with the mischief and rumour mongers. The despondency, fear and disinformation has set in a big way. The coalition government of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not able to instill trust and confidence to ward off the societal fear psych. The civil liberties are allegedly imperiled. Religious peers cry foul feel deprived to perform duties and obligations. People say that the coalition government has not only lost the Kashmir plot politically but has failed on governance as well. However, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has an important and turbulent state to govern but she is trying her best. Unfortunately, she is on the verge of losing her hard earned personal credibility and her party (PDP) is fast becoming politically irrelevant. After months of bloodshed and muscular assertion, Modi government has belatedly appointed former director IB as a point-man to engage with stakeholders including the separatist leadership. It is perceived by political pundits as a succor provided to dwindling PDP and as a major concession by New Delhi to the people and the parties in Kashmir which relentlessly had been seeking dialogue. At a time when the 'frenzied street violence' is taking its toll, the panic has engulfed the entire Valley on account of braid chopping incidents while politicians and political workers are facing life threats and the mal governance galore. Also, the army and the police leadership has spoken for a political reach out which most Kashmiris describe it too little too late. Mainstream politicians and separatists dismiss it as apolitical non-starter and demeaning to talk to an intelligence guy about a highly internationalised volatile issue of South Asia. There is a drift, deadlock, despondency and political instability in the Valley's political atmospherics as such whether an apolitical point-man, a former Intelligence chief is the appropriate choice for the Kashmir affairs. When all the past interlocutors of high stature like Late K C Pant, high profile Kashmir Committee, Arun Jaitley, A S Dulat, N N Vohra and Late Dileep Podgaonkar, Prof.MM Ansari and Radha Kumar could not make the desired headway. The ink hasn't dried on the order of appointment of apolitical points man, the political fierce skirmish has broken out between the national parties on one of the core issues that is - autonomy. BJP terms it as anti-national demand. The major political issues that are bound to come up in talks are issues of factum of accession and national security which is non-negotiable but other issues like status of Articles 370 and 35-A and sensitive political issues will come up in talks with those who are not in mainstream polity. However, the fact remains that Modi has raised hopes for a permanent resolution of Kashmir imbroglio. Such big issues have the potential to hobble point man's efforts. Politically, it is being viewed a flawed decision 'to rush in an apolitical person where angels fear to tread.' Kashmir is a political problem that deserves a respectable dialogue process and prudence warranted a political reach out through a politician of consequence to be assisted by likes of points man appointed say the political pundits. The 2014 elections in Jammu Kashmir had brought in hope and aspiration in the people particularly to the youth of Kashmir valley that they would benefit from the economic development and progress promised by BJP and Prime Minister Modi to the aspiring young India. The youth in Kashmir got inspired and joined the mainstream agenda by a larger participation in the elections. People decided to give peace and positive economic development agenda a priority and through their large participation in the elections, defeated all the incumbent ministers and the previous government. Such was the fervour of hope and positive participation of the youth, in particular. It was expected, from 2014 onwards and after the first ever woman Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took over, the agenda of alliance would be followed in order to create a policy of containment, to limit and scale down the violence and open a peace process with inclusive political discourse and also bring in the economic prosperity through uniform and sustained development and open up avenues of employment for the youth. The government rose to the power behind these expectations of the people. Only the despair and disappointment in the people has set in which has now assumed colossal proportion. Lack of governance, broken promises, intra-regional conflict, the pernicious propaganda of fringe elements and contradictions - both, political and ideological within the government - are attributed for the current cynicism and trust deficit. The smart governance and space for battle of ideas was promised by the coalition government. Neither the semblance of governance nor the space for any ideas is visible. Instead the 'radicalized political discourse' and 'violence' has been allowed to replace the civility, sanity and tolerant socio-political space. Resurgence of 'intolerance' and 'violence' is a cause of great concern to peace loving citizens and the civil society. The unabated militant activities of striking anytime and anywhere created instability. The state's resort to muscular retribution has helped in militants getting killed almost on daily basis and 'surrender' of some 'dreaded' militants. As such, the public support to militancy is considerably reduced but it has not disappeared. Huge assembly of people in the funerals of slain militants is a testimony. The bold attacks on army, paramilitary forces and the frequent incidents of infiltration from across the border are on the rise. Civilian and police-security forces casualties are on the rise. The phenomenon of panic and disinformation has gripped the Valley. Security scenario, both inwardly and on the border is not very assuring. Yet, the people yearn for peace and peaceful life. That is why all right thinking and peace loving Kashmiris have been urging Modi government to blend the hot military pursuits with a political outreach. Now that a representative of Union of India has been appointed to study the aspirations of the people of all the regions and report to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. He is expected to formally invite the stakeholders identified by the representative to discuss and sort out the political issue. Eventually, in the next year preferably before next general elections there will be an attempt for the final resolution of Kashmir imbroglio as promised. Civil society has a big role. It has to rise to the occasion to initiate, strengthen and defend peace process agenda. It must ensure that there is no further loss of innocent lives. The fruits of development shall have to reach out to every deserving citizen. All right thinking citizens of the state and the country, including me, are worried and concerned about the current political and economic affairs of the state. Central and state governments in order to instill people's trust and confidence in the dialogue process may ensure following measures: * The Prime Minister and central government has to reinforce and implement all the schemes like Udaan, Himayat etc., to augment the employment avenues along with the special scholarship schemes launched by MHRD and creating opportunities for empowerment by the genuine process of 'Vikas'. * A sustained and meaningful engagement with all the stakeholders for the solution of Kashmir imbroglio. * Release all the political detainees against whom there are no criminal charges. * Allocate liberal financial support package for realization of economic entitlement and political rights of the people of Jammu Kashmir. State government has to strongly continue the hot pursuits against the militants and the war-like scenario on the border has to end. * Work out a concrete time bound plan to facilitate dignified return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley. * Government has to initiate intra-regional cohesion and balance of power and resources within the three regions of the state; launching a government sponsored propaganda biz to blunt the 'radicalized political discourse'. There is need for increased synergy between central agencies and the state police for combating militancy. * Also, there has to be some special package for socio-political and economic empowerment of the women. Author is a senior advocate of Supreme Court of India and Chairman of Kashmir Policy & Strategy Group