A card up in sleeve
Accusing Mehbooba Mufti and PDP ministers of pursuing policy of regional disparity and discrimination, is preposterous. It reflects political naivety and incompetence of the BJP President. The accusations are fraught with dangers of disintegration of the State through its trifurcation agenda. This is what Kashmir analysts say. The fact remains that PM Modi and BJP has failed the people's expectations and not fulfilled a single promise made. It did not implement its own formulated and much hyped agenda of alliance. In fact BJP has disappointed and betrayed the mandate of people of Jammu region in particular and messed up the Kashmir Affairs.
People detest Governor rule. Election is the strength and basic feature of democracy. J& K State yearns for genuine democracy and Justice. Therefore it is incumbent on the government to end Governor rule as soon as the situation warrants and hold the elections to give the people the elected government.
People of Kashmir remind Modi and BJP of the foremost poll promise made in 2014 to 1.3 million Nation of India, that Kashmir imbroglio shall be resolved. The promise has not only failed but the affairs of Kashmir have worsened in the past four years both in the Valley and along the line of control. Now that 2019 polls are approaching BJP would be seeking votes and if Kashmir situation does not improve from its worst ever mess, Prime minister Modi's image of a strong leader will take a beating.
The BJP's withdrawal from the BJP- PDP Government in the State is seen as a gimmick to cover up the incompetence of its local ministers and polarise the polity. In past BJP leadership always termed PDP as patriotic mainstream party and a strategic partner in dealing with the Kashmir affairs. Now it has brazenly dumped the ruling partner by imposing Governor rule. The BJP leaders say the decision to withdraw from the government came a day after suspension of ceasefire in Kashmir Valley. Mehbooba Mufti is understood to have demanded extension of ceasefire in Kashmir Valley. The Centre had suspended operations against the terrorist outfits during Ramzan.
Ram Madhav the BJP designated trouble shooter on Kashmir said that the Mehbooba Mufti government failed to contain militancy and radicalisation of youth in the Kashmir Valley. "The situation in Kashmir Valley has deteriorated…radicalisation is on the rise. Nobody in Kashmir buys such explanations —instead Kashmiri opinion is that Modi has failed Kashmir.
One of the causes of the new age turbulence is attributed to the betrayal of democratic expectations and the promises made by PM Modi and BJP in the run up campaign in 2014 elections. The youth had participated in large numbers in the electoral process in the 2014 state Assembly elections and voted out the incumbent government. The so called North-South pole alliance Government of BJP-PDP was a positive consequence of the promises. Now the ground reality is that The Government failed people. How to win back the trust and goodwill of all the sections and respect their aspirations is the challenge in Kashmir?
Kashmir deserves to be managed by an out of box `vision' that can encompass a comprehensive process to resolve the imbroglio instead of dithering. The question remains whether PM Modi and BJP has any out of box vision and will to resolve the issue. Governor rule may bring more success of the security forces in eliminating top militant leaders. How to tackle the rising recruitment to the militant ranks of even highly educated youngsters. Militancy in the Valley also seemed to be changing qualitatively with fidayeen (suicide) attacks taking place over and over again.
The subtle people's support to militancy seen in the large participation in the funerals of the slain militants and large-scale protests across the Valley, are issues that should worry all citizens and the governments in particular. The militancy in the Valley, however, also seems to have developed an autonomous raison d'etre in the absence of a comprehensive policy.
This is a worrying phenomenon for the nation and is viewed as a result of deep mass alienation caused by ad hocism and mismanagement of Kashmir affairs from time to time. The unrest in Kashmir has always been attributed to cross-border hostilities and terrorism. But the unabated turmoil and political turbulence in Kashmir is rooted deep in the denial of justice, disrespect to legitimate aspirations and frequent skullduggery resorted to by New Delhi, says the Kashmir intelligentsia.
The changing character of the insurgency/militancy is a serious warning signal that an urgent policy correction at all levels of governance, and a strategic shift, is urgently needed to prevent escalation and further radicalisation.
Kashmir analysts are surprised that New Delhi's policy and its political managers are so incompetent, apolitical and naive, as not to be willing to leave any space or room for the Kashmiri leadership to exert a moderating influence that could prevent youngsters from taking up the gun.
Kashmir has been on the boil for more than 29 years. Tens of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers have died and the population of Kashmiri Pandits exiled. Kashmir affairs are seemingly messed up. Terrorism has rendered the state, especially the Valley, without liberty and individuality. It has devastated the economy, education and normal living pattern, the plural ethos, and imperilled institutions. The societal psyche is turning cynical and despondent and that is what Pakistan and militancy have managed to do with the people of Kashmir.
In the name of self-determination people have no voice of their own and the emotions are controlled and charged by proxies. People know the disastrous consequences of the harm Pakistan and terrorists have done to the current and future generations of Kashmir. But the anti-India sentiment that has grown over the years is so strong that people refuse to see the logic.
The government should acknowledge that use of military force is not a solution to the complex situation of Kashmir. It has to be a blend of engagement and dialogue with all the stakeholders. It is the psychological, attitudinal, social, political and economic grievances that need to be addressed. Therefore, the government should worry more about winning back the trust of the people and let the terrorism be handled by the security forces.
Tourism, education, health services, law and order, developmental activities and public grievances system have collapsed or stand completely eroded. Democratic institutions have been marginalised and discredited. Drugs, black marketing of essential goods, smuggling of timber, hawala and fake currency have become the backbone of a parallel conflict economy.
People are making a connection between the heating up of the LoC and terrorist attacks in the state and proxies of the Pakistan Army. The argument goes that by using terrorist proxies, the Pakistan Army distances itself from terrorist attacks and pays no price for its subterfuge. The 'robust' response of the Indian Army it is said, is meant to punish the other side by specifically targeting Pakistani Army posts.
New Delhi needs to approach the issues keeping in sight the fact that India's strategic interests are intertwined with the goodwill of the Valley's ordinary people including Kashmiri Pandits, and not the land alone. Before the new age violent unrest and upsurge gets further out of hand, New Delhi needs to deal with the issues with "an out of box vision."
Dealing with the Kashmir affairs with out taking all the stakeholders on board would be like behaving, bull would in a china shop. The Union of India needs to act now and engage with the youth of today and Kashmir's leadership in a serious dialogue. Political dialogue with all the stakeholders is an internationally acknowledged jurisprudence for conflict resolution. For New Delhi, it would be the prudent and astute political approach for a resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio.
The Prime Minister's flip-flop political and diplomatic efforts so far have not worked nor even a symbolic peace has been brought about in Kashmir. Therefore, a change of policy is the only way forward. Kashmir calls for peace and its people crave for a peaceful life for future generations.
(Ashok Bhan is Senior Advocate Supreme Court of India; Chairman Kashmir Policy & Strategy Group)