In an unequal battle, the kind that has gripped Kashmir valley these past many weeks, causing avoidable loss of life and limb, and believe the time to pause and asses may have arrived. The combatants, the might of the State ranged on one side, pitted against the unyielding will of largely unarmed citizen-protestors, their most potent weapon: pebbles and handy roadside stone with the odd militant or militant group chipping in with the intent to provoke the State even further, attacking police posts, issuing calendars of action and generally daring the system.
Inappropriate as the description may seem, we are for the most part witnessing repeated replays of cat and mouse of sorts, with the odds loaded against the citizenry. Worn out by their never ending ordeal of curfews ordered by the State and the socially rigorous bandhs and hartals ordered by men who have more emotively started describing themselves as the resistance, out to give new form and content to what may, if allowed to grow, add an altogether new dimension to the vexed Kashmir tale.
The Hurriyets, hardline and the moderate, may in the process find themselves sidelined but whoever is in-charge knows his business, truly and well. And this at a time when New Delhi is just about beginning to correct its failing step, hoping to see some light at last in the darkness it has plunged the Valley. With an all–party parliamentary delegation from New Delhi reaching Srinagar today I for one see the move as an attempt by some do-gooders to open the door, just a wee bit it may be, but enough for those who haven't quite given up.
Not much of a hope, the cynics would say with some justification, and in the words of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the separatist leader, another attempt at obfuscation. Geelani,though, in one of his latest pronouncements, has not wholly ruled out a meaningful dialogue. And meaningful, as he reads it, is hardly likely to carry the same meaning for whoever sits at the other end of the table. Yet it seems to me the time to pause may indeed have come. Yes for the Valley after these long weeks of untold suffering.
The spirit of Eid too would suggest this route. Laying siege to roads in the hope of beating the State at the game it knows how to play best –pellet guns, wanton killings, and other forms of oppression, its tools of choice – may not be the ideal one.
Historically, the Indian State has responded to the never-ending Kashmir saga at various levels, diplomatically, through the dialogue process with Pakistan, internally, through a variety of administrative measures including initiation of talks with the separatist outfits even at the highest level, and via the interlocutor route, not to mention the back channel initiatives.
Well intentioned, some of these initiatives may have been, but rarely has there been a constructive follow up. To go by the current coinage in New Delhi Pakistan may now not even be needed at the high table to sort out the Kashmir tangle. But then, as a I said, it cannot but be one of those twists that New Delhi and Islamabad have used to prolong the agony of the Kashmiris.
The current phase of the crisis in the State has seen New Delhi heavily relying on the administrative route including induction into the State of additional security forces, the Border Security Force brought back into the Valley after some years. An assertion perhaps that the present dispensation in New Delhi doesn't believe in the political process and is only too ready to flex its muscles. It is not averse even to acting the stern schoolmaster ever willing to discipline erring Kashmiris.
The visit to the Valley in this context of the all-party parliamentary delegation needs to be viewed as a well-meant initiative (Opposition inspired) , an opportunity to do some honest stock-taking and to convey the feeling that not all is lost. One can only hope that the delegation tries to engage the separatist elements in the process. This may well be an appropriate time to consider the possibility of returning to dialogue and negotiation
Past experience, and the ongoing crisis in the State offer mixed prospects of a fresh dialogue over the next couple of days, dialogue producing anything significant or meaningful. All past dialogues have at one point or another been mired in rhetoric and restating of timeworn clichés. And this time over there are powerful voices that do not really favour talks across the board. And yet there frankly isn't any alternative to talking, to having a dialogue.
This might as well be deemed a good time to get back to the table; reopening the talks in the immediate hope that these might help in the lessening of prevailing tensions and put an end to disruption of ordinary life, if not to quick solutions. And when I speak of resumption of or initiation of a dialogue I do see Pakistan as a part of the process. Forget the posturing which nations and national leaderships usually do resort to in difficult times..
Remember, even a hard-boiled rightist politician like Narendra Modi would love to be spoken of as a man of peace. Never mind, whether he is or not. Remember also his showing up at Nawaz Sharif's Lahore home, come to wish him a happy birthday and to be present at a marriage in his family. Importantly, do recall that Vajpayee and Gen Pervez Musharraf met when the smoke from Kargil was still hanging low in the air.
Am not making a sudden switch, frankly mine happens to be an anguished cry. May be I am getting emotional seeing the suffering the Valley has undergone these past many weeks. May be I am too old to see the happy valley going up in flames, torn apart by ill winds that have blown across it lately. The New Delhi dispensation has tried to confront the existing crisis in the Valley largely administratively when the need actually is for a political initiative.