Is Kashmir Peaceful?

We must stop behaving as an ostrich
Is Kashmir Peaceful?
As many as 173 people, including, among others, separatists and over ground workers, who were detained when the Article 370 was abrogated in August 2019. [File]

Kashmir is peaceful: Kashmiris are eagerly waiting to avail opportunities of economic betterment opened up for them by the BJP led Central government. This is a  common refrain of the statements made by big, small, and petty leaders of BJP  who have, in hordes,  descended to Kashmir from Delhi, apparently on election tourism.  In their misplaced political exuberance,  they look deaf to the gun shots booming,  spilling blood of the innocent on the streets across the  Valley.  The bloody game has reached the plains of Jammu also.  True, a common  Kashmiri yearns for peace and is largely responsible for keeping the Valley calm .  Is this the peace of contentment or a  lull of the grave ?  Jury is out!

The Valley  may be superficially calm.  But  things are simmering underneath. Continued  suppression  of  'other  political  view' ,   demonizing   political  opponents by  describing them as   'gang members' , denial of  effective means of communication, unemployment and a debilitating infrastructure are the conditions in which we live.  Peace, under these circumstances , will   always remain elusive.  What adds to the woes of Kashmiris  is the ecosystem of hate and  confrontation  created  by  the rulers in the country,  vilifying   all those who want  to speak  for them.

Situation is grim  at the LOC. Blood of security men and the helpless residents living nearby  has  reddened the place. Every day,  a heavy toll of lives is taken by the guns fired across LOC.  The  "surgical strike"   and "ghuss   kay  marainngai"   policy has  failed to  act as a deterrent .  The  game played by  Pakistan  has an unsettling effect across  the UT. Therefore, to say that Kashmir  is peaceful   is  nothing but indulgence; it's self delusion.  Much as the rulers in Delhi would refuse to acknowledge, the situation willy-nilly brings Pakistan into the scene. It becomes imperative to  have  a holistic view  of the situation.  Pakistan  has to be on  board.

Pakistan has its own problem.  Threat of being listed as a terrorist supporting country has not subsided .  Terrorism  is  bleeding  the   country.   As indications come out,  the concerned  quarters in Pakistan  seem to be equally worried about the deteriorating situation, therefore, want   peace on Indian front. May not be to the liking of  hot heads,   these quarters  bat for  closure of  the  K issue.

On Nov, 10th a conference was held in Islamabad, Pakistan under the title " The challenges to restore peace and autonomy in Indian occupied Kashmir ".  The title itself says that emphasis was on  " peace and autonomy",  and the whole deliberations of the conference revolved around these two terms. Significantly, none among the participants talked of "self –determination", despite    Pakistan Army and establishment's  obsession with the term.   Many  discerning observers didn't fail to notice that  by   putting   " self determination"  on  a back burner  and  bringing   'autonomy in Kashmir' to the fore,  probably,   an attempt is  afoot to  make India  amenable  to  the  settlement  of  K  dispute  and normalize relations .

It may be of some value to refer to the press conference of Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mohammed Querishi held on 25th August, wherein he said " Gupkar Declaration  was a significant development ….. and that demands of the Kashmir nationalist parties were the same as Pakistan's ."  We  trust   the  FM knows that  the 'nationalist parties in Kashmir –signatory to the  GD –   are not for Pakistan. Their demand of "autonomy" is within the fold of Indian constitution. Has Pak government   reconciled to the view held by Pervaz Mushraf ? Are we  seeing  revival   of   Pervaz Mushaaff – Manmohan Singh   scenario  of 2009  which  revolved round the  narrative  coming out of Islamabad conference.  One  may, however,  appreciate that given the  hugely confrontational   and  anti  Pakistan  investment  made by   PM  Modi –  to shore up his political fortune in India-     the   K  dispute  may not be  "more  ripe" today for resolution as   Dr Moeed Yusuf – a Pakistani Political analyst   saw it  in  December 2009 , when he  wrote ;

" ………….  For the  first time in   dispute's history  there is  growing convergence over the core element of the solution  i.e. granting autonomy to Kashmiris ."

Talking to  Pakistan may be anathema  to the  BJP but the miseries of Kashmiris  cannot be lessened without  an  engagement   with   the country.  It becomes the job of those Kashmiris who  wear  BJP's  badge   and  the  surrogates  of party  to impress upon Modi government that if  he really cares for them, as his foot soldiers  go on trumpeting –  Pakistan must be talked to. And  he  should  loosen the  whip in  Kashmir, provide  level playing field  to all   the mainstream   political forces, and ensure  room for the genuine political dissent.  Obduracy in this regard  is   hurting  not only  the  Kashmiris  but   all those  living  in the UT.

B  L  Saraf former Principal  District & Sessions Judge

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