Talking politics with academics
IS NEW DELHI TRYING TO TAKE POLITICS OUT OF THE ISSUE BY INFUSING MORE ACADEMICS INTO IT, COMMENTS NAYEEMA AHMAD MAHJOOR
After the all party delegation’s fact finding mission to the valley and its briefing to the Prime Minister, it was believed that the Indian Government had realised the severity of the growing resentment among the masses and would genuinely look for ways to put a halt to the relentless violence in order to create an environment for serious negotiations. The general perception among political and civil society groups was that the Government was seriously taking concrete steps to get all on board and trying to find the everlasting solution to the chronic problem of Kashmir. Everybody from youth to old, child to mother, student to teacher, urban to poor, politician to academic was expecting a bold and brave initiative that would end the bruised valley's misery and give relief to millions in the sub-continent who have become hostage to the historical dispute of the Kashmir.
What came out after a lot of wait and anguish was not only lacking in thought but was also a disappointment to those who still believe in democratic and human values. The Kashmiri population was stunned and shocked to see the casual and callous approach of the Central Government. India's civil society and leftist leadership was humiliated to the extent that it could hardly afford to look into the eyes of those victim mothers who had lost their young children. The APD had promised to bring peace to the streets of Kashmir during its recent deliberations when the mothers of more than one hundred and ten youth sought answers from the APD for the killing of their boys by Indian security forces.
The nomination of three academics as interlocutors for Kashmir in fact indicates that the Government has either not taken the situation in the valley seriously, so that it feels it can be dealt with by academics, or it has taken it seriously but wants to give an impression to the outside world that the Government is able to deal with its ‘internal’ unrest. Maybe the Government wants to send a message to the people that it doesn’t care how serious the situation gets. As it has the power and force to quell the unrest as it has been successfully doing for the last two decades.
Excluding politicians from the dialogue process means that the issue has no political relevance and needs no political handling at all. However, one can imagine the Government knows full well that Kashmir is a complicated political problem with three parties. It knows that Pakistan is still considered a genuine party to the dispute and cannot be ignored even if India keeps repeating the integral part line.
Many commentators in the West have started to make suggestions that Kashmir needs a solution within the Indian constitution that addresses the Kashmiri desire for self-rule. However, no one denies that Pakistan has to be taken into confidence, as without its support the dispute will remain on the conflict map of the world.
So the academics appointed as interlocutors will have to establish contact with the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri leadership, even though they carry the political baggage of the Congress. It will be a gigantic task to make Kashmiris and the leadership, accept what the Indian Government is ready to offer them within the ambit of the Indian Constitution. The intellectuals will have to avoid the stigma attached to the political manipulations of past governments. If nothing appears to come out of this exercise, it could at least engage the Kashmiri leadership in talks until President Obama completes his mission. President Obama’s promise to revamp and restructure the UN has raised India’s hope of obtaining a permanent position in the Security Council and thereby, play a greater role in the advancement of peace and prosperity in the world. Undoubtedly, the powerful nations are advancing India’s cause and intense lobbying is being done to persuade Pakistan and other Muslim nations to support it. Yet, a big stumbling block in the grant of permanent membership remains the unresolved dispute in Kashmir, the Maoist danger and the insurgencies in the North-eastern states.
The academics have no power to offer anything and have no mandate to commit to anything. ‘We will go with an open mind and open heart and will listen to everybody’, said Dilip Padgoankar to me. The Government is not unaware of what the Kashmiri people are demanding during protests. It would have made things much easier if the Centre had started political deliberations following an acknowledgement of the demands being voiced clearly and unambiguously by the protestors. Only then could good faith negotiations be held between the protestors and the Centre's representatives.
One can understand the dilemma the Centre is facing at this time. Should it believe its own election process, according to which the head of the eighty seven member assembly declares Kashmir an international dispute and who claims that Kashmir merely acceded to India but did not 'merge' with it? Or should the Centre listen to the separatists who enjoy strong support across the valley and whose demand is nothing less than azadi?
Wouldn’t it be better to discuss Kashmir in an open forum and initially let all politicians come together to work out possible solutions for further discussions with other sections of society? According to Gautum Navlakha, ‘academics do play a role in political dialogues and discourses, but that only happens in politically mature societies like the West, not in ones where democracy is ridiculed by its own politicians and where democracy has become a curse for the minority population’.
To place this academic exercise under the auspices of the Home Ministry will make it suspicious in the eyes of those who are witness to the dirty work done during militancy when many groups were formed to change the ‘mindsets’ of the people in Kashmir. The deliberate attempt to describe Kashmir as an internal ‘law and order’ problem casts further doubt on the genuineness of the latest initiative.
The Centre seems to be under too much pressure both from the international community and the internal political leadership to tackle the problem immediately and to divert international attention, lest it come in the way of obtaining a permanent seat in the Security Council. The international community may be led to think that the latest exercise is a genuine attempt at finding a solution. However, its reactions will also depend upon the prevailing situation in the valley.
The current phase in the turmoil can be a turning point for both India and Kashmir at the same time. If India succeeds in quelling the mass protests and azadi processions, it will not only be India’s victory in the historical dispute but will also make the separatist leadership irrelevant for good this time. If the azadi movement sustains its momentum and people do not give up their demands, India will certainly come under tremendous pressure to either resolve the issue once and for all.
(The author is Desk Editor/BBC. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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