We are nearing the end of the year 2016. In this year 163 days have been agonizing ever in our history. On the stroke of midnight, twelve days after, the year will pass into the history, leaving behind trails of horrendous and barbaric tales of blinding of children and teenagers. That have no parallel in the long drawn battle of people of the state for their fundamental right. Like in the 1990s and 2008, 2010, the 2016 'Intifada' also brought study teams, delegations including Parliamentarians and troubleshooters from New Delhi to the State – some old, some new faces. Some with tender hearts moved at the sight of children pushed into darkness for rest of their life articulated pain and agony of the place in their writings and television discourses. Some with syrupy tongue for striking a bond of familiarity with the beleaguered people used symphonic phrases like 'sharing pain' and 'healing wounds'- phrases that over the years had lost their luster and meaning for the people.
Of all the teams, the group led by Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister in the Vajpayee government caught public imagination and attracted a lot of media attention. For this delegation attracting more than expected attention ostensibly there are three reasons. One, the 'united resistance' leadership refusing to meet a section of a delegation of Parliamentarians during their visit to Srinagar in September and subsequent criticism of the decision in a section of media. Second, a section of civil society enamored by Vajpayee phrase, 'within the boundaries of humanity,' continuing to believe that it was a way forward for finding the resolution of the 'Kashmir problem' that could bring economic prosperity to the state. And third, the spade-work done by a New Delhi-based NGO, which has some contacts in the state in academia, media, and civil society formations. Encouraged, by the response, it received from the united 'resistance leadership', civil society formations and the press, this delegation took the lead over other groups by visiting Kashmir twice. Interestingly, on the second visit, it chose not to meet the 'united resistance leadership.' However, it met civil society groups in various districts and interacted with a collage of civil society activists in Srinagar. The Sinha-delegation avoiding a meeting with the joint 'resistance leadership' and engaging more intensely with the civil society formations and seeking help from them for making their efforts successful raised some eyebrows as well as questions.
In their first visit, the delegation seemed on a fact-finding mission; it collected information about the post-July 8, happenings in the State. On the second visit, the soft-spoken and suave delegation leader former foreign minister Sinha calling his 'group as honest intermediaries' asked from the civil society groups for 'trust in the group'. During his meetings with various groups including journalists, he also gave a candid inkling about his approach to the problem. Instead of analyzing his takes in their historical contexts let me quote these that perhaps would call no explanations.
"Let people of Kashmir initially start a dialogue minus Pakistan with India. I don't think it is impossible." When asked why India has not been keeping the commitments it has made with the people of Kashmir, Sinha replied, "Let us start a dialogue based on facts. You present your evidence and documents, and we will do the same." About solution within the framework of Indian Constitution he said, "We must understand that Indian Constitution is flexible and not rigid and it can be changed. There is every possibility of a solution of Kashmir problem." Some civil society activists engaged in discourse with the delegation suspended their critical faculties and conferred total trust in the former minister and his team for their 'initiative.' Moreover, without taking a voice vote from those present, they even assured 'trust' to the group on their behalf.
The vesting of total trust in the self-appointed 'intermediaries' with contours of the initiative yet to be defined is premature and fraught with dangers of creating misunderstanding amongst people. Historically, resilience has been innate to us rather it is in our DNA. It is manifest throughout our struggle for our birthright, but equally, our tragedy has been our credulity. In 1931, when after July 13, bloodbath the Maharaja administration despite imposing martial law and stuffing dungeons with political workers failed to restore peace invited the Indian National Congress leader Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sir Tej Bhaudar Sapru to Srinagar to prevail upon the Representatives of Muslims for calling off the agitation. His Prime Minister, Raja Hari Krishen Koul invited Sir Nawab Mehr Ali Shah, a Muslim politician to function as an intermediary for ending the movement of the Muslims. The intermediaries succeeded in bringing a truce between the government and the leaders. Finding the truce was unilateral and not according to their demands and urges, people rebelled against all the Representatives from Saad-u-Din Shawl to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The people ultimately proved right; the government was not sincere even to the unilateral trust.
Nonetheless, the Representatives failed to learn lessons from 1931, truce. And for vesting unqualified trust in one interlocutor-leader to another they continuously walked from one to another trap pushing people from one abyss into another. In fact, one of the important factors for the birth of Kashmir Tragedy and its perpetuation has been our leaders vesting total trust in some leaders from outside. In this column, it may not apply to possible write how the 1964 movement was fritted away after the leader instead of taking people into confidence went to Madras to seek Rajaji's advice before going to Pakistan. Or leadership vesting total trust in leaders like Jay Prakash caused the 1975- Indira-Abdullah, an abject surrender of the Front leadership.
There can be no denying that dialogue is an important way for resolution of the Kashmir, but it should be crystal clear. The only stakeholders, the people of Jammu and Kashmir in keeping with the spirit of democracy should be on board in any engagement and process.