Denial is no solution

This refers to an article by Ashwni Kumar Chrungoo Kashmir must prosper (GK May 31 2019. It starts by talking about how people from across the world are attracted towards Kashmir by its civilisation, culture, history, landscapes, nature, arts and crafts. The article is the summary of a presentation given to a team of Nordic states representatives in the Swedish embassy.

The author alleges that Ladakh and Jammu have been discriminated against by various regimes and hopes that the newly elected BJP government will usher in an era of development and peace in the state. He blames Pakistan for the migration of Kashmiri Pandits while accusing it of supporting violence in Kashmir. The question of KP migration has no simple answer. This oversimplification will not result in any solutions. Separatists, as well as the unionist politicians in Kashmir, have repeatedly called for the return of Kashmiri Pandits who are an integral part of our society. Recently, Roshan Lal Mawa, a Pandit trader returned to Kashmir and resumed his business in Srinagar. He was welcomed with ‘dastaar bandi’-a ceremony to accord respect- by the local traders. Talking about the past is very important; but without providing a wholesome context, it becomes toxic.

The author seems to be very far from the ground reality. Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed one of the lowest voter turnouts in history and yet he boasts of BJP’s 46% vote share in these elections. The people have rejected the electoral system of India. The Indian idea of democracy has been rejected owing to massive militarization and refusal of the government to listen to dissenting views. BJP’s promise presented as a beacon of hope for the people of the state is laughable to say the least. What has stopped BJP to end the alleged discrimination towards the people of Ladakh and Jammu in the past 5 years of their rule. 2018 was the deadliest year of the decade with 160 civilians and 159 armed forces personnel losing their lives to the conflict. The local militant recruitment is at an all-time high, but BJP is still projected as a party which can bring peace and development to the state.

I fail to understand why author is asking for a Special Crimes Tribunal only to investigate the violence against Kashmiri Pandits. According to the government data, over 43,000 civilians have died in this conflict, and about 10,000 have disappeared. Why shouldn’t all these killings and disappearances be investigated?  A first-ever report published in 2018 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights details hundreds of killings and instances of torture committed by the armed forces since 2016. Pellet guns have blinded hundreds of youth.

Colouring the political aspirations of the people as radicalisation and pitting the issue of Kashmiri Pandits against the larger question of right to self-determination is absurd and needs to be denounced. The suffering of the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims is because of the unresolved dispute of Kashmir. These two are not counter narratives. Reducing the Kashmir dispute to an issue of terrorism and radicalisation is escapism and willful ignorance of the worst sort. The only ideology that is unrealistic and absurd is the one which pits pellets against slogans and bullets against dissent. Delegitimizing the views of the people will only lead to more resentment and violence.

Kashmir can only prosper when its people are listened to and their agency is respected. Only then can peace and prosperity dawn upon the people of Jammu and Kashmir.