Respect, Reckoning and Reconciliation
We need be prepared before talking to New Delhi
WORDS WITHIN BY FIRDOUS SYED
On June 7, Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh is scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir. Whenever an Indian Prime Minister plans a visit to this conflict region, media goes into an overdrive to build hopes around the prospects of peace in Kashmir. Once the visit gets over, hopes dies down as foam on the water, leaving behind no trace of the much talked about peace. Conversely, this time around PM has punctured the peace balloon even before his arrival in Kashmir-- “I would once again like to appeal to all elements in Jammu and Kashmir that our government is ready for a dialogue provided all these groups which are outside the political mainstream shed the path of violence.” This is an oft-repeated rhetoric.
What value Salah-ud-din will have after surrendering the gun, will New Delhi still talk to him once he abjures violence and begin to follow the Gandhian path? It is not that anybody is interested in promoting the cause of violence, and particularly this column is strong votary of peaceful means of resistance. However Delhi by its own (shortsighted) conduct over the years has almost closed doors for all non-violent means of agitation. Once UJC chief Syed Salah-ud-din comes over-ground, he will lose all appeal for New Delhi. If he is lucky to survive the wrath of his comrades, the best he will be offered is a SPO (Special Police Officer) post. Sarcasm apart, is not PM by putting a rider of “shed the path of violence” before any talk is possible, making the offer of dialogue conditional? Going by this approach, militants may also be tempted to put conditions as they already have---“militant leadership was ready to join tripartite talks if Government of India accepts Kashmir as a dispute and initiates confidence building measures including revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA)... This is a logjam, there seems to be no way out from the quagmire?
Moreover by offering talks to the militants alone Dr. Manmohan Singh has strongly indicated Hurriyat, especially the pro-dialogue faction, to have lost its relevance for New Delhi. Prime Minister many a time in the past has held parleys with Hurriyat leaders, why (apparently) he is not ready to meet them again? It is not that he has been informed that Mirwaiz, Prof. Gani and Bilal Lone have joined militant ranks and he wants them to shun the path of violence? Of course not, he has simply come to a conclusion; burnt ammunition henceforth is of no use. The problem with Delhi’s approach is that, it is yet to accept the political nature of the dispute, it likes to understand Kashmir solely as a law and order problem, and hence it wants now to rope-in the militants. Hurriyat has lost its relevance; militants joining the fray will make them lose their sting. What will be left afterwards to reconcile and concede? National Conference MP Dr Mehboob Beg has made a very pertinent point on PM’s latest remarks on Kashmir, “statements about violence would widen the trust deficit between India and Kashmir.” This is exactly what has happened, cynicism about peace process has multiplied manifold.
Prime Minister of India is a seasoned elderly statesman, he must be aware of the repercussions of the shrinking moderate space in the conflict infested Jammu and Kashmir. Since repeated peace processes have failed to yield fruit, a section of youth in desperation has begun to invest in the conflict. Peace building is not an event; it is a sustained process. It has to go on, until an amicable and win-win solution is discovered, satisfying the interests of all the three parties; Kashmir, India and Pakistan. By forgoing a genuine peace process, New Delhi is not only killing the hopes but entrenching and promoting a rigid and pessimistic view in Kashmir. India for the time being might be comfortable with this scenario; an inflexible position ultimately destroys the prospect of peace building, and also saves it to concede anything tangible to people of Kashmir. Moreover the calmness of the situation and prevailing confusion also makes Delhi complacent. Howsoever comfortable the rulers in Delhi may be with the ‘eerie peace’, by misinterpreting superficial calm in Kashmir as arrival of peace, they seem to be unaware of the grim ground realities. Like simmering lava, a widespread seething anger prevails beneath the surface, ready to explode at any time?
Surprisingly, Dr. Manmohan Singh has repeatedly said that Kashmir leadership is yet to produce concrete proposals to facilitate the dispute resolution. One very humbly will like to remind the world acclaimed economist with a sharp mind, not one or two but several peace proposals are eating dust in some dark corner of PMO. If there had been a real will to engage Kashmir in a meaningful process, Musharraf’s four point proposal, Kathwari’s Kashmir plan, Achievable Nationhood all provides a working solution to the vexed problem. Even NC autonomy report and PDP’s self rule offers a point of departure from the embargo. One can even ask PM what has happened to recommendations made by ‘four working groups’. Negating the obvious is an old divisive tactic?
Why blame Delhi alone, Kashmiri leadership across the spectrum has also failed to produce a collective response. Pro-freedom leadership will have to shun the habit of acquiring high moral ground; they only have the moral right to represent aspirations of the masses? They have failed to generate a cohesive effort in order to force a solution. Intransigent behavior of resistance groups also leaves NC and PDP off the hook; they are pushed to a corner albeit happily, where they assume-- dispute resolution is not their baby. NC and PDP are equally responsible for present mess, they claim to represent Kashmir but play on the tunes of Delhi. They also have the responsibility to bring Kashmir out of this morass; they cannot enjoy perks of power while ordinary Kashmiri suffers endlessly. All the concerned: both factions of APHC, JKLF, PC (because of Achievable Nationhood) and NC and PDP should sit together and agree on minimums to put the ball in Delhi’s court. On Kashmir’s basic identity there are not many disagreements; leaders can sit across the table and deliberate.
While the Prime Minister’s comments convey dismay that “ideas” are lacking from Kashmir, academics and researchers have begun to study the Kashmiri proposals that are awaiting some recognition and discussion. Many researchers have sought to ascertain whether some convergence exists or not across Kashmir’s seemingly divided political landscape. One such study has attempted a legal comparative analysis on three documents: Report of the State Autonomy Committee (2000), Achievable Nationhood (2007), and Self-Rule Document (2008). The comparison highlights: “If looked only at the constitutional and legal aspects of the three documents, (temporarily putting aside the cross-LOC measures proposed in Achievable Nationhood and Self Rule) on the spectrum of sovereign rights that an independent state would normally enjoy (the rigid definition) the following list emerges from "most independent" to least independent as it would concern the rights and responsibilities of the Kashmiri population - 1. Achievable Nationhood; 2. State Autonomy Report; and 3. Self Rule Document”. One hopes that existing proposals are studied thoroughly and evaluated on their merits and that further discussions and elaborations, which might evolve into fresh thinking processes, would help decision makers in New Delhi to understand the basic contours of the long awaited political aspirations of the Kashmiri nation. Certainly, New Delhi needs to do more homework of its own.
One wishes that the culture of violence and bloodshed is not Kashmir’s final destiny. It deserves a better future, filled with (sustainable) peace and prosperity. Peace and reconciliation has become a cliché, it is a now a trivialized term. Peace without justice and reconciliation without respect is meaningless. It equals to surrender, it means giving away the movement and legitimacy of the struggle. Kashmir dispute is not a terrorist issue; it is a political problem that has been politically articulated over the last six decades. Kashmir’s history and geography as well as its political aspirations are unique. These have to be properly acknowledged. Uniqueness necessarily does not imply otherness; it means Kashmir is a different political reality. For an irreversible peace process in Kashmir to happen, New Delhi will have to accept not only cultural or geographical but political uniqueness of Kashmir. In utter disrespect India in hubris dismisses the aspirations and sacrifices of Kashmir as a violent campaign.
Let India not grant all the rights at once, but for the beginning recognize Kashmir as an entity. It will be the beginning of a real peace process. Let the process begin with an open mind, it should evolve organically through listening not dictating or denying, towards whatever definition of the Kashmiri entity is arrived at --- complete freedom, an autonomous status or a hybrid of the two.
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Lastupdate on : Fri, 28 May 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 28 May 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 May 2010 00:00:00 IST
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