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  India   All India  08 Jul 2019  To resolve Kashmir crisis, Modi needs a party-independent policy

To resolve Kashmir crisis, Modi needs a party-independent policy

Published : Jul 8, 2019, 3:48 am IST
Updated : Jul 8, 2019, 3:48 am IST

The average Kashmiri has hope that Narendra Modi’s massive mandate may allow him to think out of the box to resolve the issue.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kashmir
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kashmir

Home minister Amit Shah made his two-day visit to Kashmir. He was astute enough to not speak on the politics except saying zero tolerance for terrorism — that is the standard statement all previous home ministers have been making on their visit to the turbulent Valley. People expected some out of the box line of action from Mr Shah, reputed to be the mastermind of the BJP’s huge victory. The BJP has projected him as replicating Sardar Patel as a visionary home minister in Nehru’s era but Kashmiris all across were unimpressed by his routine statements on Kashmiri affairs in the Valley and inside the Parliament.

The lingering Kashmir imbroglio deserves to be a national priority. A party-independent approach and political will are urgent for its resolution. The people of Kashmir are longing for an end to militant violence, the return to a peaceful life and the return of exiled natives back home.

In the name of a strong narrative of self-determination (azadi), the people have no voice of their own and emotions are controlled and charged by proxies. People know the disastrous consequences of the harm terrorists and their masters across the border have done to the current generation of Kashmiris and also to future generations. But the alienation and anti-India sentiment that has grown over the years is so strong that people refuse to see the logic.

Politics is all about emotions and not reason. Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi successfully portrayed himself as the saviour of Indian nationalism, culture and civilisational ethos. People believed in him and every bit of his narrative in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll campaign. He turned the whole election into a sort of “presidential form” — people trusted and voted for him overwhelmingly. The Kashmir situation and the Balakot airstrike deep into the territory of Pakistan as a retaliatory measure against the Pulwama terror attack struck a deep emotive imprint in the psyche of the Indian masses across the spectrum. It was competently used by a well oiled BJP cadre machine in the election campaign — that turned its fortunes to a massive electoral victory.

People’s expectations have risen very high and aspirational India is looking to Mr Modi as a new avatar for solutions to all the critical problems of the nation, such as those of the Kashmir imbroglio, namely, terrorism, the economic slowdown, unemployment, agrarian distress, issues of Articles 370 and 35-A, the return of exiled Kashmiri Pandits back to Kashmir, etc. The rhetoric that was raised high in the election campaign — on Articles 370 and 35-A to be abrogated — experts say it is just not doable because of the temporary and transitory nature these Articles have with the afflux of time-attained legal finality.

Kashmir and the country’s relations with Pakistan shall have to be the main focus of the Government of India and the home minister Amit Shah. He has to realise Kashmiri affairs have wheels within wheels and international players are keenly watching as to what the ministry of home affairs under him is up to in Kashmir.

The government needs to acknowledge that the use of military force is not a solution to the complex situation in Kashmir. To win the people’s trust is the real issue that can be done through engagements with all the stakeholders. It is the psychological, attitudinal, social, political and economic grievances that need to be addressed. Therefore, the government should focus more on winning back the trust of the people and let terrorism be handled by the security forces.

Militancy in the Valley, however, also seems to have developed an autonomous raison d’etre in the absence of comprehensive policy and the absence of dialogue with the stakeholders.

The subtle people’s support to militancy seen in the large participation in the funerals of slain militants and large-scale protests across the Valley are issues that should worry all citizens and governments in particular.

Realising the ground sense better, governor Satya Pal Malik, who acts for the Union of India, has extended an olive branch for dialogue with the Separatist leadership and has pronounced publicly the willingness of the Hurriyat leadership, quoting Mirwaiz’s recent statements. Likewise, the top BJP leadership recently has also echoed the same political approach. Mirwaiz has always been a votary of dialogue in past, and led the Hurriyat leaders’ delegation for talks with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003 — and also with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh subsequently.

Pakistan plays spoiler whenever there is an attempt to open talks with Kashmiris for peace and progress. A peace and war scenario has been thrust. It is a dimension of a hybrid war. The security forces and intelligence agencies have completely overlooked and misjudged the potential of this dimension of hybrid war in Kashmir. This phenomenon is evident from the fact that tourism, education, health services, law and order, developmental activities and the public grievances system have collapsed and stand completely eroded. Democratic institutions stand marginalised and discredited. Drugs, black-marketing of essential goods, smuggling of timber, hawala and fake currency have become the backbone of a parallel conflict economy.

Kashmir analysts are surprised that New Delhi’s policy and its political managers are so incompetent, apolitical and naive, as not to be willing to leave any space or room for both the mainstream and non-mainstream Kashmiri leadership to exert a moderating influence that could prevent youngsters from taking up the gun.

Kashmir deserves to be managed by an out of the box “vision” that can encompass a comprehensive process to resolve the imbroglio instead of dithering. The question remains whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP has any out of the box vision and political will to resolve the issue. Loud statements made by security forces that there are very few militants in operation is something people don’t trust because they have been hearing these claims through three decades of active militancy. Security forces kill one — three get freshly recruited, voluntarily. It looks like an unending phenomenon.

This is a worrying phenomenon for the nation and is viewed as a result of deep mass alienation caused by ad hocism and mismanagement of Kashmiri affairs from time to time. The unrest in Kashmir has always been attributed to cross-border hostilities and terrorism. But the unabated turmoil and political turbulence in Kashmir is rooted deep in the denial of justice, disrespect to legitimate aspirations and frequent skullduggery resorted to by New Delhi — says the Kashmiri intelligentsia.

A long spell of governor’s rule is no substitute to democracy. Elections have to be held and the political process has to commence, better sooner than later. Kashmiri affairs have to be dealt in a party-independent manner by all the political parties, particularly by the ruling party.

Kashmir has been on the boil for more than 29 years. Tens of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers, have died and the population of Kashmiri Pandits exiled. Kashmiri affairs are seemingly messed up. Terrorism has rendered the state, especially the Valley, without liberty and individuality. It has devastated the economy, education and normal living patterns, the plural ethos and has imperilled institutions. The societal psyche is becoming cynical and despondent and that is what Pakistan and militancy have managed to do to the people of Kashmir.

Modi 2.0 has raised expectations in Kashmir too. The average Kashmiri has both hope and fears — hope that Mr Modi’s massive mandate may allow him to think out of the box to resolve the issue and live in history as a legend. Fears abound of his home minister Amit Shah’s reputation of being a hawk — his belief in a strong muscular policy, pronounced rhetoric about the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A of the Constitution and a change in regional electoral demography by refreezing the delimitations within the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The country needs a healthy Opposition in the best interests of robust, democratic and transparent governance. The grand old party, the Indian National Congress is expected to lead the Opposition. Democracy and a formidable Opposition leads to moderation and checks and balances. Would the party rise to the occasion and fulfil the most onerous democratic role of building and strengthening a moderate, secular and inclusive idea of India? To initiate a political healing touch in our Kashmir policy, there is an urgency to create consensus across the political spectrum. Therefore, Opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress, have a big stake and role in shaping the future of our Kashmir policy. Kashmir has to be treated as a national priority and as a party-independent issue that deserves collective national attention and a visionary and comprehensive national policy instead of being party-centric.

The huge victory in the 2019 election mandates the Modi government to accelerate at least its unfinished political and his committed manifesto initiatives on the repatriation of exiled Kashmiri Pandits back to Kashmir, flush out terrorism from Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere, build up trust with India’s Muslim minority, etc besides economic reforms, ranging from income tax reforms to the goods and services tax, from structural solutions for the farm sector to banking reforms, and enabling investment to create opportunities to the armies of young people joining the queue of job hopefuls every year.

While the nation expects the Modi government to make India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, a science, technology, military and diplomatic superpower, the Kashmir problem is sensitive within the country with international ramifications, and as such, deserves astute care and an early resolution. The people and the nation wait as watchdogs for Modi-2.0 to deliver.

The writer is a senior advocate and a political analyst based in Srinagar

Tags: amit shah, narendra modi