June 24 APM: Back to Basics

The events leading to the meeting on Thursday have brought spotlight back on the Kashmiri leaders Delhi had discarded

A larger-than-life picture behind Delhi’s move to hold an all-party meet on Kashmir on June 24 is getting obscured by speculations as to what would be on offer and what all the Kashmiri leaders can extract from the Centre? There is a much bigger effort underway behind this All-Party Meet, which needs to be understood in terms of changing attitude of Delhi toward the Kashmiri leadership.

It is a broadcast of strategic messaging.; when it comes to internal issues, Delhi talks to its own people and no prestige is invoked to hamper the dialogue. It should not be taken as a “ blink first” moment.

The events leading to the meeting on Thursday have brought spotlight back on the Kashmiri leaders whom Delhi had discarded and embarked on a project of tapping new leadership out of the panchayat polls held in 2018 and 2020. Evolution of the leadership is a long-drawn process and there are certain imperatives that must come naturally.

The panchayats are nurseries of democracy and it takes long time for such nurseries to produce graduates. The leadership genes cannot be injected. There is no vaccine to make leaders

Some of the issues that are being speculated to be discussed at the APM are already in public domain. These center around Delimitation Commission, to be followed up by Assembly elections, whether in UT or state, or the restoration of the statehood.

But the real issues are; what do the people want whose lives have been de-shaped by the despondency of the economic distress inflicted by the two phases of pandemic. They have also suffered because of the unfathomable political vacuum.

The June 24 is not just a revisit to August 5, 2019 decisions, but to chalk out a future for Kashmir that has the stamp of mutual confidence recognizing each other’s importance. And limitations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who would be chairing the APM on Kashmir has given a glimpse of his all-inclusive politics. That’s the essence. Otherwise, the Centre could have gone ahead with implementation of the Delimitation Commission report and held the Assembly elections. That’s what was done at the time of the announcement of the DDC or District Development Council polls in November last year. This time there is a board for cooperation and conciliation, not confrontation.

It also manifests the realization that the leaders who had ruled the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir have their own value and influence combined with capacity and capability to influence things. Each government has its flaws, that also was the case with the rule of these leaders as well. But they were a big buffer for Delhi for decades, that fact has been revisited with the idea of the APM.

Prime Minister is translating his words spoken at the G7 summit: “India is a natural ally for the G7 and its partners in defending democracy , freedom of thought and liberty from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism, violent extremism, and economic coercion.” Kashmir was the best place to reinforce this message and it is a matter of record that the work was in progress for months before the G7 summit.

The Modi government has demonstrated that the pragmatism demands bringing back tried and tested leaders of Kashmir back to its fold, alongside with those who pioneered the idea of dialogue with Delhi in early 2020. This is the dialogue between the government and people living in this part of the country.

The June 24 APM is a departure from the past. This meeting is not like such meetings held in the past when the issues revolved around how to douse the flames ignited by the street protests, which eventually assumed alarming dimensions with the killing of the protestors and streams of funeral procession of slogan -shouting mourners. This all was seen in Kashmir in 2008, 2010 and 2016 protests.

This time, much larger issues are involved. Much larger than statehood, elections and delimitation commission. It is a strategic messaging by Delhi “our people are our people” and those seeking the roadmap from India on Kashmir should know it that Delhi talks on such sensitive issues with its own men and women only. And the differences and distances created by politics are temporary. Delhi has emphatically created enabling atmosphere for talks in Kashmir; only the people matter.

The exchange of ideas how to secure peaceful and full of progress future for generations is more important than lamenting the past. The road ahead should be of promise not of plaintive.

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