The talk of the 'permanent solution' to the Kashmir dispute that Rajnath Singh so often mentioned, has , at long last, found its contours. It encapsulates, what he puts it, 'Five Cs—Compassion, Communication, Co-existence, Confidence-building and Consistency'. The 'solution' spelled out comes on the heels of Narendra Modi's Independence Day address where he said that the problem cannot be solved through 'gaali' (abuses) or 'goli' (bullets) but by ' embracing' ( galay laganay say) people of Kashmir. Asked if government of India was ready to talk to the resistance leadership, Singh said:
' Jab jab mein aaya hoon, dimaag khol kar aaya hoon. Mein ne kaha, sab se baat karna chata hoon, baat karne wale log toh aane chahiyein. Yeh koi nahin kaeh sakta ki hum ne mana kiya. Mein ne pehle bhi kaha, Jitney bhi stakeholders hain, job hi mujh say baat karna chahate hain, mein sab say baat karunga. Mein kitni baar kahoon, kin alfaaz mein kahoon'. (Whenever I have come here, I have come with an open heart, open mind. I said I want to speak to everyone. People who have to talk should step forward. Nobody can say we have refused to talk. I have said earlier as well, we are ready to talk to all stakeholders. Whosoever wants to talk, I will talk to him. How many times do I repeat it? In what words should I say it?)
In his press conference at Srinagar, Singh assured people of Kashmir—who are facing legal challenge on Article 35-A –that ' We will not do anything against their sentiments of the people here. We will respect them'.
Dusting off cynicism, these are very positive signals emanating from Delhi, or at least, that seems to us. That the Home Minister has not laid preconditions for talks is welcome. Unlike sticking to the obstinacy of having talks 'within the ambit of Indian constitution'—that is red rag to one of the important stakeholder—the openness of mind and heart at the home ministry is encouraging. Moreover, the assurance of the government on 35-A too is reflection of its rethink on the stand it has taken on Article 35A. But what matters is sincerity and departure from the past stinking duplicity of reverting back to the usual business and sleeping on the assurances held after the political storm has ebbed away.
To say we have opened our windows to respect sentiments of Kashmiris demands a string of practical measures that New Delhi has to, rather should, take. At now, an overwhelming majority in the state have not liked the stand of Delhi government on Article 35-A. True, as Singh states, Delhi has not gone to the court for seeking revocation of the said Article, but not standing with the state government, it is in coalition, has deepened the already growing apprehensions. Not that Article 35-A was first time challenged in courts, some parochial hyper-nationalists and communalist groups did continue with their sinister designs to take to judicial route for its revocation. The Delhi government, however, defended the interests of the people in the courts. This time, in contravention of the stand of the previous central governments on the issue, BJP government pleaded Supreme Court for wider debate on Article 35A. That approach generated anger and resentment. For people across regional, religious, caste, ethnic and political divide it portended a demographic change in the state and robbing them of their economic and employment rights. Now to make amends of this disastrous approach, that has put the state on the boil , the first thing that the home ministry has to do is to file the counter affidavit in the supreme court as has been done by the state government already. That will relieve the state of the tension it is in the grip of at present and remove the Damocles' sword that hangs on its people.
While no conditions are put for holding talks with the stakeholders, of which Hurriyat certainly is one, the 'communication' to engage them is wanting. It means Delhi expects the Hurriyat to run grovelling to Delhi and beg for dialogue. That is not 'compassion', that is delusion of grandeur. This is insulting for the leadership that even pro-Delhi politicians acknowledge enjoy trust of a large segment of people. Post-Burhan phenomenon has underlined the need of engaging the dissenting group more than before, when Atal Vajpayee and Man Mohan Singh formally invited a group of Hurriyat to Delhi for talks. This time the group stands united and that augurs well for holding meaningful negotiations.
Earlier on New Delhi sent its interlocutors to Kashmir. Not empowered with any mandate, all their engagements proved sheer wastage of time and energy. Today alienation has increased many-fold and it is a young generation of 16 to 30 years of age—60 percent of the total population—that is disillusioned with India. It is this class, whether we believe or not, that shows more proximity with the jailed leadership than the elected privileged burrowed deep in their homes. That shows how important it is to bring the stakeholder on the table. May be you don't like them, but cannot take risk of ignoring or by passing them. After all you have parties like NC and PDP on your side, but they have no moral or political appeal. They are looked down by people as proxies, like Benedict Arnols.
To see that talks yield to permanent solution, the Home Ministry under Rajnath Singh has to, unlike past, make ownership of the dialogue process, omitting interlocution. Anyways it won't take us long to judge charade behind sweet words.