Why Kashmir needs a healing touch

The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau director, as interlocutor has raised hopes in the valley.

 |  4-minute read |   07-12-2017
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In a conflict situation, as in Kashmir, among the factors that promise to change the state of stalemate are: a radical policy turnabout, re-statement of disrupted continuity, bridging the gap between words and action, and management of conflict between ruler’s obligation to the unyielding cold-hardness of the state and human sensitivity demanded by democratic ethos.

The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau director, as special representative, holds promise if consistency and process dominate the concern rather than showcasing of spectacular results.

Violence

While concluding his November visit, Sharma said that he “would try to make every effort to meet Hurriyat leaders”. Radical departures, such as this, from the earlier position, are morally binding, for they suggest radical review and conviction. Cynicism is good only as a reminder of earlier experiences of hopes raised and razed, but is not good for clearing the path of hopelessness and loss of trust — a must for mitigation of violence in the Valley.

What matters is not just the reduction in the number of armed militants and pockets of militancy, but the unprecedented growth in anti-India mood from limited pockets to the larger population. Both are dissimilar challenges. It is easy to shoot down a gun-wielding militant, but not the public sentiment. What has grown has far more serious consequences than what has declined. Unlike armed militancy which carries with it longstanding structure training, organisation and international network, public mood is largely autonomous, fed on sudden incidences that swing sentiments, sense of right and wrong, just and unjust.

Statements convey commitment when there is continuity and underlying consistency between the earlier and the later, and when words translate into action. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day statement — “Kashmir issue cannot be solved by bullets or abuses, but by embracing every Kashmiri” — besides suggesting radical shift from hardline policy, establishes policy continuity in its spirit and message with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statesman-like statement that had won every Kashmiri’s heart: “Kashmir is not a constitutional issue, it is a humanitarian issue.”

Appointment by the home minister of a special representative with open mandate being in continuity with his earlier stand becomes morally biding due to additional signals of commitment and resolve.

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Experience

Commitment and sincerity will be on the test, for Kashmir’s past experience with interlocutors during the Congress rule destroyed confidence in the motives of Indian state. All the three reports — KC Pant, NN Vohra and latest by Dilip Padgaonkar and team — were unceremoniously shelved. The very word "interlocutor" lost its meaning, became a symbol of betrayal of hope.

Henceforth, promise for dialogue and talks symbolised for them Indian state’s dishonesty, deception, and hypocrisy, for words were not followed by commensurate action. Kashmir’s loss of trust drives their youth towards radicalisation and militancy, makes them easy prey to the religious extremism and terrorism.

It is an equal responsibility thus of Kashmiri stakeholders, especially of the Hurriyat's’ leadership, to ease the process by responding constructively. Kashmiris have paid heavily and so has the Hurriyat leadership for closing doors on the all-party parliamentary delegation and then on the repeated visits by the home minister. It reduces the confidence of Kashmiri youth in the Hurriyat leadership’s capability and sincerity about delivering change, force them to look up to external leadership for whom Kashmir is just a pawn, not a party.

Engagement

Non-cooperation in talks makes Indian state opens up cupboards with skeletons, things people knew but did not talk about. Now they question. Engagement in talks with adversary follows a different route by the very rule of its process and dynamics. It does not spring bitter surprises, even if it fails to spring sweet moments.

Above all, it undermines violence, its legitimacy, and use. The secession of militant violence, like that of violation of human rights, is the first condition for a constructive dialogue; Hurriyat’s failure to cooperate will leave the ball in its court.

A politician’s challenge is to resolve the innate conflict between his twin obligations: to the unyielding cold-hardness of the state, and democratic obligation to humane sensitivity towards legitimate popular aspirations. In 2010 a senior professor at Kashmir University told this writer: “We have seen only the brutal face of the Indian state.” The success of a leader lies in not allowing hardness either of an ideology or of the state to disfigure his/her humane moral image. Norms of a popular movement and those of a government differ, but not those of the leadership.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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