Kashmir’s Unending Tragedy

Kashmir’s Unending Tragedy

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Introduction:

The dreadful violence and low turnout in a by-election in Kashmir has again raised intense debate in New Delhi. An election that isn’t free is not fair either. The violence in Srinagar left eight people dead and more than 170 injured and the end result was that most voters chose to stay away from polling stations.

After the higher voter participation in recent years in the Valley, the way the Srinagar by-election unfolded is indicative of a dramatic slide in the political situation. The killing of Burhan Wani, a ‘commander’ of the Hizbul Mujahideen, by security forces in July last year set off a new cycle of violence in Kashmir that does not seem to have ended to this day as stone-pelting is met with pellet guns. In these circumstances, by-elections may have no political meaning. In any case, without free re-polling in all the booths that witnessed violence, the result in this election counts for little.

The below article analyzes what were and are the failures and what can or needs to be done.

Real scenario:

Somehow we have created a binary in which there are only two opposing groups — those in mainland India who consider Kashmiris to be pro-Pakistan Wahhabis who support terrorism, and those in the Valley who consider Indians to be rabid communalists.  Each has a grain of truth insofar as there are constituencies of extremists on both sides, but only a grain.

The majority of Kashmiris want to live in freedom, peace and dignity, just as the majority of Indians do, and we all look to our governments, at the Centre and in Jammu and Kashmir, to provide us with these.

Towards the extremes

The growing influence of this ugly mutual binary propaganda, which can be seen not only in social media but also on our television channels, will drive more people to extremism and that, surely, is a cause for concern to citizens as well as the government.

There is no denying that the Islamic State-type perversion of Islam has gained ground amongst a few in the Valley, nor that stone-pelting has been organised in many instances. But there should equally be no denying that anger in the Valley is higher than it has been in two decades and has reached alarming proportions. Nor can we deny that at least one major cause of this anger is the lack of a peace and reconciliation process, which the Bharatiya Janata Party-Peoples Democratic Party (BJP-PDP) coalition promised, or that another major cause is the lack of an honest and accountable administration.

From above 3 major issues are:

  1. Growing influence of mutual binary propaganda where most of the mainland Indians consider Kashmiris to be pro-Pakistan Wahhabis who support terrorism and those in the Valley who consider Indians to be rabid communalists.
  2. Islamic State-type perversion of Islam gaining ground amongst a few in the Valley.
  3. Escalating anger in the valley and cause of which to be the lack of a peace and reconciliation process; lack of an honest and accountable administration. (In toto failure of administration and government)

Security forces bear the brunt of public anger

Security forces (Army, Central Reserve Police Force and State police) have been the only visible face of India in the Valley — whereas legislators and civil government are not to be seen.

Two recent images from Kashmir have been playing in the mind. The first is of a youth kicking a CRPF soldier. The second is of girls in school uniform, faces covered, pelting stones at security forces. These actions reflect anger, as well as disdain for the security forces. The Valley has rarely seen young women chasing vehicles belonging to the armed forces.

The security forces have had to bear the brunt of public anger, and after almost a decade of being stoned, it is not surprising that they commit human rights abuses. But that does not, and must not, mean that we justify abuse or add to it. The real need is to focus on the restoration of trust in administration so that our forces are no longer needed for internal security.

Successive governments have done a gross injustice to our troops by keeping them in internal conflict situations for decades on end. The forces can at most contain internal violence and that too only if it is a short-term task; after that it is the responsibility of the administration and political representatives to step in. In the absence of a political and reconciliation process, asking security forces to show restraint in the face of constant stoning is not feasible.

Instead of reaching out to stakeholders and finding a solution, the Government seems to see Kashmir purely as a law and order issue. The Doval doctrine — the national security advisor believes the protesters will tire out — doesn’t seem to be working. This might have further alienated Kashmiris from the rest of India. Now the Government has banned 19 social media websites in the State.

Peace process and violence

Past experience shows that when there has been a peace process, incidents of violence, including stone-pelting, have died down.

For instance, in 2010, the government initiated a multitrack process combining humanitarian and political dialogue with security reforms that ranged from tightening the anti-infiltration grid to distinguishing between first-time offenders and ringleaders, and tackling economic woes. It was the combination of these elements that worked then, and they created conditions for political talks that could have significantly improved relations between the Valley and the rest of India.

United Progressive Alliance government’s parliamentary delegation had recommended the creation of a group of 3 three interlocutors to submit a report on ground situation. State government failed to follow through on any of the political and constitutional recommendations given by the group, while the BJP rejected it in toto. That failure was a major setback, especially for the several thousand people who spoke to the interlocutors.

Failed Agenda of Alliance

Another such opportunity was offered by the Agenda for Alliance.

The “Agenda for Alliance” released by J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh spoke about many things including political and developmental issues.

The PDP and the BJP had entered into a “Governance Alliance” based on an agreement and agenda which was an effort towards seeking a national reconciliation on J&K.

The purpose of this alliance was to form a coalition Government that will be empowered to catalyse reconciliation and confidence building within and across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K thereby ensuring peace in the state. This will, in turn, create an enabling environment for all round economic development of the state and prosperity of the people.

The raison d’etre of this alliance is to provide a stable and a representative government in J&K which:

  • Respects the mandate given by the people
  • Strengthens the institutions and widens the ambit of democracy through inclusive politics
  • Provides smart governance
  • Brings about self-sustaining and balanced development across all three regions of the state
  • Creates conditions to facilitate resolution of all issues of J&K

As can be observed above, there are political commitments in the Agenda for Alliance that would go a long way to alleviating anger in the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh and they could have been implemented without alienating any of the regions. However, this agenda was diluted and is yet to be implemented effectively. If implemented effectively and if the leaders of the two parties sit down and choose which of the political commitments to honour, it would be an important confidence booster.

It is more difficult to make peace today than it was five years ago, and it was more difficult then that in the previous five years. That means it will be even worse in another five years and soon it will be insuperable.

Role of Pakistan:

History shows us that they have tried to foster an anti-India jihad in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947 but without much success until the late 1980s, by which time Article 370 of the Constitution had been rendered a dead letter.

By 1988, repeated Indian interference in J&K’s internal political processes led thousands of young Kashmiris to an armed uprising. Since then we have struggled to put those years behind us, and succeeded insofar as free and fair elections are concerned. But our failure to seize windows for political reconciliation has played into Pakistani hands and it is doing so again.

As innumerable commentators have pointed out, the best way to prevent Pakistan from making hay is for talks with Kashmiri dissidents.

Need of the hour is an effective political dialogue, talks and de-escalation which must go together and it is not wise to make them sequential.

Important to engage with all stakeholders:

Another concern is that the government is not clear with whom they talk to. A few days ago Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court that the government will not talk to people who demand independence or secession. Presumably he meant the Hurriyat, JKLF and allied groups. Such a position makes talks a non-starter — to repeat a platitude, you do not make peace with your friends but with your opponents.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the then Home Minister L.K. Advani saw this point clearly, as did their successors, Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram.

Address rights abuses

Present government should not also forget the Hurriyat and dissident leaders, including of armed groups, who gave their lives in the search for peace with India.

  • Abdul Ghani Lone, the People’s Conference leader who said that the time for armed militancy was over, was assassinated in an Inter-Services Intelligence operation.
  • Pro-Pakistan militants murdered Majid Dar, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who engaged in talks for a ceasefire with army representatives.
  • More recently, Hurriyat leader Fazal Haq Qureshi was shot by local militants for talks with Mr. Chidambaram, and almost died.

There are many within the Hurriyat who would consider talks again, just as there are many in the Valley who are worried about the lumpenisation of Islam that the stone-pelters represent. None of them, however, will or can cooperate as long as the government fail to offer them a political process and redress human rights abuses.

The way ahead:

No democracy would easily permit secession of any of its parts, and no democracy can afford to ignore for long the wishes of any of its people. With terrorism engulfing the region and the Islamic State waiting at the gates for an opening, India can ill afford not to pacify its domestic insurgencies.

Addressing the true elements of the conflict involves striving for justice, truth, peace, mercy and ultimately reconciliation.

If the government wants to restore peace to the Valley, it cannot do it by force — talks with dissidents is the only option.   This can be done by engaging with all stakeholders, including Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, should also realize that by aiding and abetting terror groups, they are only putting the people of the Kashmir Valley in danger. Such attempts would only harden India’s stance. Both countries should keep the interest of Kashmiris in mind, and look to find a solution that is acceptable to all stakeholders. This is not an easy task, but the only permanent solution to put an end to the continuing conflict.

Connecting the dots:

  • If the government wants to restore peace to the Valley, it cannot do it by force — talks with dissidents is the only option.  Do you agree? Elucidate.
  • What in your opinion are the factors responsible for the Kashmir unrest? Why solution seems elusive even after 70 years of independence? Is there a way out? Analyse.

Source :http://iasbaba.com/2017/05/iasbabas-daily-current-affairs-1st-may-2017/

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