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

A SOLUTION TO KASHMIR UNREST? CENTRE AND STATE NEED TO SPEAK SAME LANGUAGE

‘Unity and affection were the pivotal words during my interaction with other political parties on the Kashmir issue. Those who are inciting the Kahsmiri 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’ – prime minister Narendra Modi said on August 28, making his changed stand on Jammu & Kashmir loud and clear – once again. He was addressing the nation through his monthly radio broadcast ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

It was continuing his efforts to initiate a dialogue process to find a solution to the Kashmir problem that will be acceptable to the stakeholders who see a point here. Before this, even in the meeting with the united front of the Jammu & Kashmir opposition parties on August 22, he had said that development alone was not the solution and dialogue was a must.

To extend Modi’s initiative, home minister Rajnath Singh held meetings with some eminent Indians before his visit to Kashmir earlier this week to prepare the groundwork for the peace initiative. During his two-day stay there he met with all the stakeholders involved and even indicated that he was ready to meet the separatists (which the separatists refused). An all party delegation is slated to visit the Valley soon.

But Kashmir unrest is not a problem that alone the central government can resolve. The elected state government, being the representative of the state’s people, 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.

Something that is not happening.

India has accused Pakistan of fomenting the Kashmir unrest but J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti is still appealing to Pakistan to help in resolving the Kashmir imbroglio if the country is really concerned with Kashmiris’ plight. Now even a child can understand the Pakistani plot here. The whole Kashmir problem is Pakistan created. While Mehbooba is still trying to court Pakistan, the Narendra Modi government has made it very clear that it will not talk to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Instead, Pakistan should rein in the anti-India elements on its soil and should stop anti-India propaganda.

These paradoxical approaches to the Kashmir problem have always been obstacles to find any solution. It has been consistently seen that the state governments of J&K and the state politicians have been advocating to make Pakistan a party in the Kashmir peace process because it appeases a section voters there, voters who form the core of mobs in case whenever there is a situation of unrest whereas the Indian stand from Delhi has been unambiguous putting it firmly that the whole J&K is India’s integral part and if there is any problem, it is India’s internal matter and will be resolved accordingly. Though Kashmir has been the main issue between India and Pakistan and the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi has been treating the J&K separatists like some VVIPs, it should be seen as the part of democratic processes only that define India’s founding principles. The Kashmir rant in India-Pakistan bilateral ties has always had a Pakistani imprint.

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 way out within this framework only. Pakistan understands that it cannot take Kashmir from India – either in a war or by promoting proxy wars. But it needs Kashmir to divert attention from its domestic problems as well as to nurture anti-India sentiments that give legitimacy to the political roles its military establishment plays.

The country, in fact, is feeling desperate after Narendra Modi’s open dare that India would now raise human rights and atrocity issues in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Baluchistan on international platforms, something that is getting good traction among the Baluch activists spread across the world.

Sending its parliamentarians to different countries to highlight the Kashmir issue, getting an anti-India statement issued from the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), giving active patronage to terrorists wanted in India to spew venom against India and mentoring and tutoring the J&K separatists – these steps indicate how insecure Pakistan is feeling now – so much so that Kashmir has started dictating its foreign policy just not with India but across the world.

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

The J&K 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 J&K politicians find India an easy target to blame while their silence on Pakistan is deafening?

Why it is that they never talk of PoK atrocities and problems?

If Pakistan is out of the ambit of the talks, both the governments should speak the same. The government of India had given the separatists a chance when Rajnath Singh had invited them but the separatists who now openly endorse Pakistan, how can they be expected to be part of something constructive?

Meanwhile, Kashmir continues to burn.

August 27 marked the 50 days of violence in the Valley that began after Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burwan Wani was killed in a police encounter. The death toll in the Valley so far stands around 70 which include mainly the young protesters. The ongoing unrest has left thousands injured and many have become crippled. Both the dead, as well as the injured, include security personnel as well. Educational institutions and businesses remain closed. Trade and industry bodies peg the loss at Rs. 6000 crore. But the actual loss will be manifold as the tourism industry, the mainstay of J&K economy, which had started witnessing some activity, is gone again and the simmering tension says it will be some years of consistent healing before it can see some positive signs.

©SantoshChaubey

CAN RAJNATH SINGH’S VISIT BROKER PEACE IN KASHMIR?

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

Home minister Rajnath Singh is in Kashmir for a two-day visit – his second in less than a month. He is slated to meet officials from the state administration, state leadership and other stakeholders. Do other stakeholders include separatist leaders from the Valley?

The Indian government has been non-committal on the issue and the August 12 all-party meet had seen a similar stand. Before embarking on his visit this time, Singh held two rounds of talks with some eminent non-Kashmiri Muslims – on August 18 and 21. It raises the obvious question: why non-Kashmiri Muslims only or why Muslims only?

Some of the Muslim leaders present at the meetings were Shahid Siddiqui, former Rajya Sabha member, Qamar Agha, security affairs expert, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi, a judge of the Orissa High Court, Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of Milli Gazette and MM Ansari, a J&K interlocutor.

One may interpret that these meetings say the government thinks only Muslims can suggest better ways to handle the Kashmir unrest. If so, is this not bracketing the whole Kashmir problem as some religious/community issue? Or it is just half the story?

If Kashmir is an integral part of India, as every Indian must believe, then isn’t every Indian a stakeholder in the Kashmir peace process, whether Hindu or a Muslim? The exercise that Singh has done in New Delhi needs to see its extension in Kashmir. Most of the representatives in these meetings felt that the Kashmir situation was mishandled and an immediate course correction was needed.

The exercise that Singh will hold in Kashmir today and tomorrow should adopt this context as its backdrop, otherwise it will further alienate the Kashmiris who have genuine grievances.

The Indian security forces have efficiently checked cross-border infiltration, yet the current phase of unrest is now in its 47th day. That is unprecedented. An unrest so long cannot sustain itself if people come to realise that their demands are illegitimate.

Though J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has said only five per cent of Kashmiris are instigating the unrest and finance minister Arun Jaitley has added that the stone-pelters of the Valley are “aggressors and not satyagrahis”, and blamed Pakistan for instigating the Kashmiri youth, there seems to be a clear departure in the government’s strategy this time.

The words of Mufti or Jaitley or other leaders on these lines indicate a tough stand that does not endorse the dialogue process. However, the efforts before Singh’s visit and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent emphasis on the dialogue process, reveal there is now a rethinking on the policy adopted so far by the Indian and Kashmir governments. It makes sense when we see the intent of Singh’s visit in the context of the outcome of Modi’s meeting with the delegation of J&K’s opposition parties, led by Omar Abdullah.

Modi, after meeting the delegation on August 22, had emphasised on the need for dialogue and to reach out. He tweeted after the meeting: “I appreciate the constructive suggestions given during today’s meeting. All parties must work together to find a solution to J&K’s problems.”

Unlike Jaitley, he didn’t paint the stone-pelters as aggressors. When he said every life lost in the Kashmir unrest, be it the youth, or security personnel or the police, is Indian, it was an indication of the things to come. And then came news of Singh’s visit.

Let’s hope the momentum sustains this time. The deployment of BSF companies in the Valley also tells us how serious the government is this time. It seems it doesn’t want to leave any loose ends. Initiation of the dialogue process to find a credible solution is a must but for any such attempt to succeed, it is also equally important to control the rogue elements who will try to sabotage any peace initiative.

The additional BSF reinforcement will account for any shortfall in security personnel numbers and will ensure effective patrolling of areas.

©SantoshChaubey

IS IT INDIAN FAILURE OR PAKISTAN’S OVER-EFFICIENCY THAT THE WHOLE WORLD SEEMS ENGAGED ABOUT J&K BUT DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN TO POK?

Pakistan says India is crushing the innocent Kashmiri voices. Its leaders shout over the top in telling the world community that India’s left, right and centre oppression in Kashmir is now spilling over on streets, shedding youngsters’ blood.

To add to it, people have visuals from Kashmir (the Jammu & Kashmir part that is with India) where people can be seen clashing with security forces on camera – and the lenses recording such scenes roam across the world to tell the stories of the so-called atrocities.

The world can see thousands gathering in funeral processions of terrorists gunned down by the Indian security forces.

The world can see the J&K crowds running amok stone pelting the security forces even if they try to minimize casualties as much as possible. Yes, in the ongoing Kashmir unrest, 55 civilians have lost their lives so far and that is condemnable.

But equally condemnable are the development like where a security personnel (CRPF commandant Pramod Kumar) had to sacrifice his life in an encounter with the terrorists on the day that is very essence of the sovereign India, i.e., its Independence Day. And he was not the first.

If civilians have lost their lives in the Kashmir unrest, the Pakistan driven and Hizbul Mujahideen terror phase that began in late 1980s, so have the security forces. According to the figures available from the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), if over 14,000 civilians have been killed by the terrorist violence in the state since 1988, the Indian establishment has also lost over 6200 security forces personnel.

The world can see the Twitter, Facebook and YouTube feeds of separatist leaders like Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Ashiya Andrabi and many others. Syed Ali Geelani, one of the prominent separatist leaders and chairman of the separatist outfit All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), is free to abuse India on Twitter and Facebook. He regularly posts tweets, posts and videos of clashes, of Pakistani flags and of funeral processions eulogizing terrorists. See these twitter handles yourself – that is self explanatory – @sageelani; @MirwaizKashmir; @aasiyehandrabi. They openly humiliate India by chanting pro-Pakistan rants and by indulging in anti-India activities.

And they do so while staying in India. Can an oppressive nation tolerate that? We all know what China does with its dissident voices, be the Peace Nobel laureates like Liu Xiaobo or the students massacred at the Tiananmen Square of Beijing.

The world can see wanted terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin or Masood Azhar threatening India to launch a full blown war. Hafiz Saeed carries a US bounty of $ 10 million and is main perpetrator behind many terrorist acts in India including the November 2008 terror attack. Syed Salahuddin is the man who started the ongoing phase of Pakistan sponsored terrorism in 1980s that has killed thousands so far yet his bloodlust is very much the same. It is when his family still lives in India and its members are employed by the institutions of the Indian establishment. Masood Azhar was in Indian jails when he was swapped against the innocent civilians hijacked in the Kandahar plane hijacking incident of December 1999. Terrorists like them are the Pakistani patrons for the J&K separatists and we all know the communication channels between them always remain active. Yet it is propagandized that India chokes the voices of dissent in Kashmir.

The world can see the debate that ensues every time whenever such developments take place in J&K. The world can see the Indian Parliament discussing the issue intently for the whole day. The world can see the India’s political opposition charging the Indian government of mishandling the situation and the government defending it.

But can the world say same about Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir including Gilgit and Baltistan and Baluchistan?

Does the world know who the main separatist voices of PoK and Gilgit and Baltistan are? PoK is called Azad Kashmir yet Pakistan implants its puppet governments there and exploits its territory like its own – as is the case the China Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $ 46 billion project of which PoK is a vital part of. A simple Google search with tag words ‘J&K separatist leaders’ will return with lots of pages and loads of information but when we repeat the process with ‘PoK or Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir separatist/rebel leaders’, we are going to have tough time.

An obvious argument may be proposed that there are none – that the so called PoK is so heavenly that everyone wants to be a part of the state and its Pakistan driven administration. Well, we all know what the reality is. Pakistan uses the so called Azad Kashmir as a terror backyard for India where it trains terrorists in dozens of camps. Some PoK voices that do speak on international fora speak of how Pakistan is exploiting PoK and abusing its people. Extrajudicial killings and disappearances are common. An India Today report from March 2015 gives a detailed account of how bad the situation is in PoK. The report quotes Kashmir affairs expert, Dr. Shabir Choudhry, who says, “We in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir cannot even complain that we are occupied or expose Pakistani abuses and exploitation of our resources.”

Why the world doesn’t rush to hear those voices? Is it Indian failure or Pakistan’s over-efficiency that the whole world seems engaged about J&K but doesn’t give a damn to PoK?

©SantoshChaubey

SEEING THROUGH PAKISTAN’S AND KASHMIR SEPARATISTS’ SHAM

Pakistan says India is crushing the Kashmir voices. Its leaders shout over the top in telling the world community that India’s left, right and centre oppression in Kashmir is now spilling over on streets, shedding youngsters’ blood.

To add to it, people have visuals from Kashmir (the Jammu & Kashmir part that is with India) where people can be seen clashing with security forces on camera – and the lenses recording such scenes roam across the world to tell the stories of so-called atrocities.

The world can see thousands gathering in funeral processions of terrorists gunned down by Indian security forces.

The world can see J&K crowds running amok stone pelting the security forces who try to minimize casualties as much as possible. Yes, in the ongoing Kashmir unrest, 55 civilians have lost their lives so far and that is condemnable and equally condemnable is the development that a security personnel (CRPF commandant Pramod Kumar) had to sacrifice his life in an encounter with the terrorists. And he was not the first.

If civilians have lost their lives in the Kashmir unrest, the Pakistan driven and Hizbul Mujahideen terror phase that began in 1989, so have the security forces.

The world can see the Twitter, Facebook and YouTube feeds of separatist leaders like Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Ashiya Andrabi and many others.

The world can see wanted terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin threatening India to launch full blown war.

The world can see the debate that ensues every time whenever such developments take place in J&K. The world can see the Indian Parliament discussing the issue intently for the whole day. The world can see the India’s political opposition charging the Indian government of mishandling the situation and the government defending it.

But can the world say same about Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir including Gilgit and Baltistan and Baluchistan?

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey