There is a collusion or collision of the narratives on J&K. Delhi is happy that there are voices in J&K that have supported its initiatives on Kashmir. These are mostly saffron coloured. This narrative is dominating, because there are very few others that have challenged what has been hailed as initiative.
The chronology of these initiatives, as per Delhi and its supporters, began on August 5 last year, when what they call a “discriminatory” and “secession promoting” Article 370 was scrapped. With that flowed justice for the sections that had been neglected and discriminated against for more than 70 years; prominent among them were West Pakistan refugees whose exact number varies from 27,000 to 50,000. The number is exaggerated by both sides – Kashmir-centric parties and Delhi supporters for their own reasons.
For Kashmir centric groups, the number is around 5 lakh. This figure is used to stoke the fears that had they been given the citizenship rights under the erstwhile state constitution and the similar privileges that were available to the permanent residents of J&K, including their sole access to immovable property and jobs, it would have disturbed the Muslim majority character of the state, because all of them were non-Muslims. This was the religious backdrop, but they adopted it as a politically moral stand that if it is done in the case of West Pakistan Refugees, or Valmikis – whose number is not more than 2,000 – then it would be difficult to shut doors for others wanting the similar concessions or rights from other parts of the country.
The other side also did not dispute the numbers, because it suited them also, because the large number of the beneficiaries of the new order in J&K scored a series of political goals for them. That fitted into their narrative that they have undone injustice for tens of thousands of people. It strikes a chord with the rest of the nation.
In between these two narratives, the initiative part stands apart, as of now. The political groups and others who have become cheer leaders of justice refuse to look at the other side of the picture. It is not important for them, as they believe that the nation’s mood is in their favour. They are right in their assessment. But, they should clear the clutter and confusion that political correctness should have an all-embracing approach. Needless to say that it is the inclusive approach that lasts long.
Kashmiri leadership needs to look at its mistakes of the past. The loss of the extraordinary status of theirs and a complex of being Kashmiri that they used to feel proud of, whether it was their handicraft, fruit or spices is also because of their cocooned view of the things. They looked at Kashmir, their land and people as the ones in the international spotlight. International leaders continue to talk about Kashmir till date. That is a minor consolation in the given situation wherein corona virus has barged into all the spaces, political, economic, social, educational, mosques, churches, temples and the neighbourhoods all across the world.
What should be the next step to move out of the colliding narratives? The dominance of a particular narrative has its own time limit. When it collides with the realities of the times even if there are no voices to speak about it, it is not without consequences. Those should be avoided.
Given the whole situation, its back drop in the corona times and tensions on borders, a dialogue between Jammu and Srinagar is not only desirable, it is a necessity. The two regions must overcome their misunderstandings, after all they are governed by the same system for centuries, it matters little whether it was Dogra rule or thereafter, and now after the state was bifurcated into two UTs. This dialogue or series of talks are a must because only if they are on board, they can press for the restoration of the statehood to J&K. That is the bare minimum. The UT has nibbled the pride of both the regions. And, the Centre, too, is committed to this.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have pledged that the statehood would be restored to J&K . This was a pledge watched by the nation on their TV screens unlike in 1940s ad 1950s when such audio–visual devices were not there. And, the first step should be to talk to the leaders of J&K. Their political stripes should not be the consideration, instead the thought should be to drive a single narrative of results through talks. Nothing less will bring tangible results. Begin the process now, and Delhi will benefit, for it would take away the attention of other countries and their leaders from J&K.