Not Only The Optics Of Engagement

Not Only The Optics Of Engagement
Representational Pic

In Kashmir, the visit of yet another all-party delegation has evoked a feeling of deja vu. It is almost like the state was in 2010 or 2008, or for that matter in the early nineties when such delegations landed in Kashmir amid expectations of a serious movement towards the resolution of Kashmir. It is as if the things were on a pause button and suddenly the play was pressed again. There is the same burning anger on Kashmir's street, same killings, and injuries. And of course, the same all-party delegation and the Track-II initiatives, which promise moon but do the vanishing act at the first sign of normalcy. Hence the cynicism and dismissive sounds have begun to greet the latest visit. The delegation faces an unprecedented boycott from pro-freedom to civil society groups, including even by the minority All-Party Sikh Coordination Committee. No prominent trade or social organization is ready to meet it. This has drastically diminished the prospect of the delegation to do anything meaningful in the state. In all likelihood, the members will end up meeting the anonymous and insignificant organizations and individuals, something that hardly makes any difference. That is, unless, they choose to step out of the protocol and call on the pro-freedom leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik in jail, and in case of Geelani, under house arrest for long, at his residence. But even then, in the absence of any substantive proposal or a roadmap geared to address the fundamental issue underpinning the turmoil in Kashmir, such interaction will be little more than a photo-op. This may lend some newsy relevance to the delegation's visit but will make little redeeming difference to Kashmir. On the contrary, it will only leave more cynicism and bitterness in its wake that can be counted on to fuel future uprisings, and may be a recourse to militancy. What is urgently needed is not the optics of engagement but a substantive political outreach; an initiative that first and foremost recognises Kashmir as a seventy year old issue, well known in all its layered aspects and dimensions, from end to end. And the best thing an individual or a group assigned with the onerous task of resolving the problem can do is to create a sustained engagement with the political groups – and if possible even militant organizations – challenging political status quo in the state; try and achieve an understanding and possibly an agreement. Of course, with Islamabad on board. Every other activity only diverts us from this goal. This is what we have learnt from past.

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