It is now close to 90 days of lockdown in Kashmir and there is no hope for normalcy returning anytime soon. The state government, indifferent to the prevailing crisis, took recourse in the 'fatigue theory' of crisis management. The central government is no different; by creating war hysteria it is diverting the attention of the international community from the grave situation prevailing in Kashmir. Ninety two people have died and thousands maimed in the present crisis since July 8. The question in everybody's mind is: Is there any solution to the present deadlock? Where are we heading now?
A good idea floated by few well meaning people in the state is the need for internal dialogue process in Kashmir. That seems to be the only way to save our future. The three main, although, not the only stakeholders for such a dialogue process are: the Hurriyat Conference including JKLF, mainstream regional political parties and the members of civil society. Now the question is who shall bring the three varying parties on the negotiation table. I personally believe that the civil society of Kashmir has to take the lead but the state government has to provide a helping hand by ensuring release of separatist leadership and creating conducive atmosphere for such an endeavour.
Another puzzle is the agenda for talks. There are real issues of divergence between these stakeholders but there is also a scope for convergence. The present crisis demands that we shall agree on the points of convergence and create some space for a lasting peace in the region.
Points of convergence:
Within the Hurriyat Conference there are two factions: Hurriyat (G) and Hurriyat (M). The former stands for plebiscite under the UN and favours integration with Pakistan while the latter also demands plebiscite but ideally favours independence for Kashmir. The Hurriyat (M) is also open to the idea of greater economic integration across the LoC. The JKLF also prefers the independence for Jammu and Kashmir.
The regional mainstream political parties have produced their respective documents for ending the political stalemate in Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference adopted the 'Autonomy Resolution' while PDP gave the 'Self-Rule' document. The Peoples Conference also came up with the document of 'Achievable Nationhood'. The Congress party is supportive to the idea of autonomy to the state, although it is the same party that facilitated its erosion since 1952. The NC's 'Autonomy Resolution' is revivalist in nature, demands the restoration of 1952 position. Thereby, it is informed by the principles of federalism. Self-Rule is also a revivalist document with some new suggestions as well. Achievable Nationhood is innovative, but recognizes previous attempts for reaching at a solution. The autonomy resolution supports the political vision of the Naya Kashmir document and proposes several legal changes so that the politico-legal situation of 1952 is restored. Both Achievable Nationhood and Self-Rule document envision a system of shared sovereignty with India and Pakistan. They also propose an economic union of the two parts of J&K. Self-Rule documents suggests that India have power only over defence, security, foreign affairs and communications; the autonomy report recommends Indian control only over defence, foreign affairs and communications; while as Achievable Nationhood advocates Indian control over only defence and foreign affairs.
Now how can there be a meeting point between the separatists and mainstream regional parties. No party is supposed to give up its political aspirations but everybody is to agree on certain points of convergence. Let us start with Syed Ali Shah Geelani's five point formula that was first mooted in 2010 and now again reiterated as a way out from the deadly stalemate. We all believe that Jammu and Kashmir is a dispute which needs to be resolved between India and Pakistan to the satisfaction of Kashmiris. Omar Abdullah has always reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir is a political problem and not a mere 'law and order' or economic problem. De-militarization and removal of draconian laws like AFSPA is a concern for all of us. Calling in more and more troops to suppress and harass people is not a solution to the problem. Related with demilitarization is the issue of human rights violations by security forces. It was the 2010 Machil fake encounter that resulted in the loss of more than 100 innocent lives. Unnamed mass graves were found in North Kashmir which speaks volumes about the state of human rights in Kashmir. The 'monetized' counter insurgency, where promotions are rewards for killing alleged militants is a big inducement for human rights violations. Many innocents became victims due to this policy of inducement. The cross LoC trade and travel is another issue of convergence. I believe that all parties support such CBMs across the LoC but we must collectively purse these demands. And finally, there is the return of Kashmiri pandits to the valley. Neither the mainstream and nor the separatist leadership has any issue with their return. But NC and Harriyat, unlike PDP are against the separate colonies for Kashmiri pandits. This goes against the very grain of 'Kashmiriyat'.
We sincerely hope that the PDP which is in coalition with BJP in the state will do some introspection and facilitate the release of political prisoners. For the sake of peace and prosperity in Kashmir, I would ideally like to see this internal dialogue process to start soon. The media in Kashmir has a great role in mobilizing public opinion in favour of such an initiative. Otherwise, the present crisis will continue to doom us into an uncertain future.
Dr. Bashir Ahmad Veeri is a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council from the National Conference. Views are personal