Kashmir is a 63-year old issue with over 150 rounds of talks already over between India and Pakistan. But till recently, we had not even categorized the problem prevalent in the valley whether it is racist, social, communal, militarized or political. And hence, the solution was also not central and dedicated. It was always aimed at reducing the violence, reducing the number of killings without realizing it lies far beyond that. We even took pride in declaring when the numbers of the incidents went down that it was a milestone. We were rather busy in maintaining the status quo than finding the answers to the questions surrounding Kashmir.
The issue of Kashmir has a pure political origin. The Maharaja of Kashmir signed the “Instrument of Accession” according to which Kashmir joined the Indian Union and in return India provided it the protection from tribal attacks which had reached Srinagar. Hence it is argued that Kashmir acceded to the Indian union under forcible circumstances and so cannot be considered as the choice of the people of Kashmir. This fact has been exploited by the hardliner separatists for propagating the concept of Aazadi among the local Kashmiri youth and population.
The violence has been sustaining persistently in the valley. Indian Army, the Border Security Forces and the Local Police have been deployed in huge numbers to restore the peace but in vain.
Long term solutions to the Kashmir issue have been getting evaded since long overshadowed by the short term goals of protecting people and restoring peace. It is stated that 2009 was looked upon as a year with reduced number of incidents and deaths but the problem resurfaced in 2010 with around 108 killings in three months starting from June 2010. The violence was triggered off when 60 people were killed when the army opened fire on a bunch of protesters on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Kashmir is getting heated up since then and if a stand is not taken now; it will create fissures which will definitely lead to the explosion of the state.
Kashmir clearly is a political issue and it is high time that we address the problem boldly and devise a well crafted solution.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani led the Hurriyat conference, which is considered to be the prime stimulant to the violence in the valley, justifies the actions by saying that New Delhi loses interest in Kashmir as soon as peace is restored. So the protests and rallies in the State keep the government engaged in the issue and thoughtful of devising a solution. Recently when Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of J&K, was charged of being negligent and that the state feeling a “governance deficit”, the government was hesitant of imposing a governor rule. It is alleged that this was because it did not want to be responsible for everything happening in the valley. Hence, they asserted that it is the decision of National Conference as to who they want to be their leader.
The UPA government decided to call an all-party meeting in New Delhi where leaders of all political parties sat together to discuss the issue at one place. This was being considered as a positive and concrete step for devising a substantive solution. The meeting was held on September 15 under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This was for the first time in independent democratic India that all the parties, including the People’s Democratic Party, have come together on a common podium for a national cause.
The move was much appreciated and a light of hope spread in the entire nation. The representatives of different parties voiced their concerns and opinions in a completely dignified manner. There were no heated discussions and the statesman like attitude of all the leaders raised some eyebrows.
Identifying the problem of “trust deficit” in Kashmiris, it was decided to send a 39 member all-party delegation to Kashmir. This delegation talked to various parties and sections of people especially the youth to understand their concern and opinion. While everyone was allowed to speak to the delegation, written invitations were sent across. The first resistance came when Hurriyat conference leader Geelani refused to meet the delegation sidelining it as being just an “eye wash” and an attempt of the government to buy more time for itself.
The delegation has given its inputs to the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) which has devised an eight point formula based on that. The formula includes appointing Kashmiri interlocutors who will talk to various parties, especially the dissident ones; relocation of security forces; ex gratia to the family of those who were killed in political protests; releasing students who have been imprisoned and reopening of schools and educational institutions.
The suggestion is well crafted, mature and thoughtful of the situation and the extremism in the valley. The government should ensure that the situations which are getting back to normal remain sustained. The formula should not only be left devised but should be properly implemented as well. Along with the main plan, there should be a contingency plan as well taking into consideration the separatist sentiments. In fact there should be a time bound execution of the plan which will make it more realistic and trustworthy. It can be divided into several stages with a fixed time frame for each.
Although the parties still remain split on the issue of the dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), they are congruent in other points of the plan.
The realization of the issue of Kashmir as being “political” has opened ways to finding more precise solutions. There has to be a vision and long term design for the problem in Kashmir while keeping all the actions “within the constitutional framework”, if we really want it to be an integral part of India.
This is the first step in restoring the “heaven on earth” back to its beauty and serenity. But this is only possible if these efforts are sustained. New Delhi, with its actions, should undermine “Geelani’s words” of the plan being an “eye wash”. In addition to the political parties coming together for a common purpose, the people in Kashmir need to have faith in the government and provide it the time for achieving them. They need to come out of the separatist sentiment and realize the fact that “Aazadi” will leave the entire state open to infiltration and exploitation like a goat left open in a jungle. Also, they should be made aware of the fact that all the efforts of the Indian government are to save Kashmir and its people and that it considers Kashmir to be its “atoot ang”. “Aazadi” to Kashmir is synonymous to leaving the political boundaries open and vulnerable to any domination.
The Kashmir issue has been an India-Pakistan issue since its origin and hence appointing interlocutors from within the state is far more logical than any third country intervening in this matter, since it’s not possible for anyone else to understand the sentiments of Kashmir and the Kashmiris. With Pakistan being lesser rigid and adamant regarding certain issues, there is a new hope getting generated in the minds of all.
The All party intervention signifies the whole nation coming together for Kashmir. Situation seems brighter now with curfews getting lifted, security forces being relocated and schools getting reopened. Everyone, including the Kashmiris, are waiting for the change with nervous and hopeful eyes. They are keeping their fingers crossed and praying for the revival.
We do not know if we are going to heaven or hell after we die, but we hope to see the heaven on earth while we live, with our own naked eyes and no fear looming inside.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodysworld1778/1135772595/]