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