The track-II team led by the former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha visited Kashmir twice in the past two months. It met people from different walks of life, and also the top separatist leaders. This team from the day one has been making it amply clear that it has got no official mandate, and it can only give recommendations to the Government of India (GoI). The track-II team seems to be carrying the unofficial tag to drive home a point that it has got nothing to do with the Kashmir policy of the BJP led NDA regime.
It's an established fact that since the day BJP has come into power in New Delhi it has maintained that it doesn't recognize separatist leaders and they are "no stakeholders," but the five month long Kashmir unrest has changed the perception of the people sitting in New Delhi. They have started believing that separatists exist in Kashmir and people follow them as and when the need arises. The separatists issuing a weekly protest calendar turned out to be the big challenge for the Government of India and the state government. During the past five months Kashmir functioned according to the protest calendar. It's after five months separatists have given relaxation for 5-days in a week much to the respite of the government which has been waiting for the good news for such a longtime.
There is every possibility about the weekly calendar being called off from the next week but that doesn't mean that problem in Kashmir is over and all the issues have been settled. The GoI has to broaden its spectrum vis-à-vis Kashmir and has to address the political dimensions of the Kashmir issue. Everyone seems to have one common opinion that stakeholders should be involved in talks so that reconciliation process can begin.
The National Conference patron and the former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah earlier this month stunned entire Kashmir by offering "unconditional support" to Hurriyat and by asking the separatists to carry forward the Kashmir movement. Dr Farooq Abdullah toeing the line of separatists led to people sitting in Delhi go into a tizzy. They castigated Dr Farooq for toeing anti-India line and reminded him that when he (Dr Farooq) was the Chief Minister he used to advocate bombing Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK).
The past five months of unrest have not only changed staunch Indian like Dr Farooq Abdulllah but have also ruffled many people sitting in Delhi. The people who had written off separatists are now suggesting that ways and means should be looked into to engage with them. Kashmir during these five months has become talking point across the India. Everyone wants to know what Kashmiris want who are the separatists, who "rule" Kashmir despite elected government being at place. It's high time for the GOI to re-visit its Kashmir policy and to put the pieces of Kashmir puzzle together. People at the helm cannot close their eyes and remain content with the fact that "All is Well" in Kashmir. New Delhi has to change its attitude. Hardline approach is not going to serve any purpose and one has to fall in line to ensure that fragile peace in Kashmir sustains.
One can understand that BJP led government has got its own pulls and pressure and it cannot openly say that separatists are stakeholders that's why it has send the track-II team to Kashmir to hold talks with the people who really matter in the Valley.
The Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti recently admitted that "excess force" was used in Kashmir and now time has come to heal the wounds. Her government tried to strike the chord with people by announcing that brother of the slain Hizb commander Burhani Wani was innocent and Mehbooba led government announced compensation for Burhan's family. Her move triggered furore in Jammu region with everyone questioning the government's decision.
The Chief Minister asked Police not to use Public Safety Act (PSA) randomly anymore and adopt a humane approach towards the people. The Chief Minister by doing so challenged the Centre's policy towards Kashmir and tried to once again reach out to the people.
The leaders sitting in Delhi have understood that Kashmir cannot be tackled by using bullets and pellets and the separatists cannot be ignored as they represent the sentiment and as long as they are with the sentiment they cannot be termed as "bunch of irrelevant" people who don't have any locus standi. Delhi has realized that during crisis the elected representatives have no role to play and they cannot even approach the people who vote for them. Policies and perceptions have to change to ensure that peace prevails in Kashmir.
(Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir)