MODI AND MEHBOOBA MUST BE ON SAME PAGE TO SOLVE KASHMIR PROBLEM

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

Curfew has been lifted from the Kashmir Valley after 51 days except from the areas of Pulwama and old Srinagar.

There has been a gradual slowdown in violent protests after the government adopted a two-pronged strategy – to get tough with those inciting the unrest including Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists, and initiating a comprehensive dialogue with others including the representatives of the protestors.

The government’s determination to find a solution to the ongoing strife in Kashmir through dialogue is a welcome step and how serious the government is this time around becomes clear from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that the lives lost in the Kashmir unrest were those of Indians and the whole of India is pained at that.

“Unity and affection were the pivotal words during my interaction with other political parties on the Kashmir issue. Those who are inciting the Kashmiri youth for indulging in violent clashes and stone-pelting will have to answer someday and those who have died in the ongoing phase of unrest in Kashmir are Indians,” Modi said on Sunday (August 28), making his stand on Kashmir loud and clear once again. He was addressing the nation through his monthly radio broadcast Mann ki Baat.

It indicated the continuation of his efforts to initiate a dialogue in order to find a solution to the Kashmir problem, and that has found acceptance among the stakeholders, who see a point here.

Before this, even during the meeting with the united front of Jammu and Kashmir opposition parties last week, the prime minister had said that development alone was not enough to solve the Kashmir problem and dialogue was a must.

To extend Modi’s initiative, Union home minister Rajnath Singh held meetings with some eminent Indians before his visit to Kashmir last week (August 24-25) so that he could prepare the groundwork. During his two-day visit to the Valley, he met all the stakeholders and even indicated that he was ready to meet the separatists (but the separatists refused to meet him).

He is slated to take an all-party delegation to the Valley soon and its modalities are being worked out. Also, the government has now decided that pellet guns will only be used as the last resort and non-lethal measures like chilli and pepper grenades, water cannons, and acoustic and laser devices will be employed to control mobs.

To complement these efforts, the Central government is working on other fronts as well to crackdown on separatists and those who are fuelling unrest in the Valley. Many separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have been arrested and many are under detention and interrogations are on.

The number of security personnel on the ground has been beefed up by deploying more Army troops and additional columns of the Border Security Force (BSF). The National Investigative Agency (NIA) is probing 17 bank accounts from south Kashmir with suspicious transactions amounting to Rs 38 crore that could have been used to fuel the unrest.

But the Kashmir unrest is not a problem that alone the Central government can resolve. The Jammu and Kashmir government, being the representative of the people of the state, is the primary interface here through which the Central government can push any initiative further and therefore both the governments need to act in unison.

Mehbooba Mufti, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister heading a PDP-BJP coalition government has appealed to the protestors to give her a chance though she has maintained that it is only five per cent of the population who are creating trouble and unrest in the Valley.

Mehbooba sees in Prime Minister Modi a person who will solve the Kashmir problem. Yet she has been hesitant to toe the Centre’s line. Thus while India has accused Pakistan of fomenting the Kashmir unrest, Mehbooba still believes in appealing to Pakistan to help resolve the Kashmir deadlock.

Now, Pakistan’s hand behind the Kashmir unrest is not difficult to detect. While Mehbooba is still trying to court Pakistan, the Modi government has made it very clear that it will not talk to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Instead, it has asked Pakistan to rein in the anti-India elements on its soil and stop anti-India propaganda.

Such paradoxical approaches to the Kashmir problem have always been obstacles to finding any solution. Successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir and the politicians of the state have always advocated making Pakistan a party to the Kashmir peace process because they believe it appeases a section of voters there, whereas the Indian government has made it clear that Kashmir is an integral part of India and if there is any problem, it is India’s internal matter and will be resolved accordingly.

Kashmir, though, has been the main issue between India and Pakistan and the Pakistan high commission in Delhi has been treating the Kashmiri separatists like VVIPs. Now that the Indian government has firmly said that no talks with Pakistan would be held on the Kashmir issue, the state government too should try to find a solution to the problem within this framework.

Pakistan understands that it cannot take Kashmir from India – either through war or proxy war. But it needs to keep the Kashmir issue alive in order to divert attention from its domestic problems as well as to nurture anti-India sentiments that give legitimacy to the role its military establishment plays.

Pakistan, in fact, is feeling desperate after Modi’s open announcement that India would now raise human rights and atrocity issues in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan on international platforms which got good traction among Baloch activists spread across the world.

Sending its parliamentarians to different countries to highlight the Kashmir issue, getting an anti-India statement issued from the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), giving active patronage to terrorists wanted in India and asking them to spew venom against India and mentoring and tutoring the Kashmiri separatists indicate how insecure Pakistan is feeling now. It is, in fact, so perturbed that Kashmir has started dictating its foreign policy just not with India but with the rest of the world now.

The Jammu and Kashmir politicians and the state government should see through this. That is a must for any peace process initiated by the government of India to bear fruit. Dialogue is the only way forward but both the state and Central government should understand that they should not send conflicting signals that would be like playing into the hands of anti-India elements and the Kashmiri separatists who keep on inciting protests in the Valley.

The Jammu and Kashmir politicians who take part in India’s electoral politics must sing the Indian tune and not the Pakistan’s national anthem. Why it is that some of these politicians find it easy to blast India while their silence on Pakistan is deafening?

Why it is that they never talk of atrocities in PoK? If Pakistan is out of the ambit of the talks, both the state and Central governments should speak the same language. The government of India had given the separatists a chance when Rajnath had invited them, but the separatists, who openly endorse Pakistan, can’t be expected to be a part of something constructive.

Kashmir has seen a lot of destruction and heartburn. The 51 days of curfew, which began after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani was killed in a police encounter on July 8, has seen a death toll of 71 which include mainly young protesters.

The unrest has left thousands injured and many have become crippled. These include security personnel as well. Education institutions and businesses remain closed. Trade and industry bodies have pegged their loss at Rs 6,000 crore.

But the actual loss will be manifold as the tourism industry, the mainstay of the Jammu and Kashmir economy, which had started witnessing some activity, has been badly hit and the simmering tension tells you that it will take years of healing before Kashmir will be normal again.

©SantoshChaubey

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