"Neither grenade nor bullet, only dialogue will work". Thus would say Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in a formal meeting of over 30 individuals of various hues. They had met at Nowgam (Bypass) residence of Muftis in Srinagar during July 1999 to form a political outfit named People's Democratic Party (PDP) to occupy space which was created by NC's drift. As a narrative of PDP's political philosophy in 1999, was the slogan intended to demand the central government to initiate dialogue with militants? Not shy to talk to militants in 1999, in 2016 why should Mehbooba ji restrain herself from starting a dialogue with the leadership of protesters. If the former chief minister claimed credit for opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road by cajoling Attal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minister, why his daughter and successor can't convince New Delhi to a start a dialogue process.
The Prime Minister is stubbornly mum. He ignored the demand put forth by experienced politician Anand Sharma (deputy leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha) to call an all-party meet to discuss and find ways to end the current turmoil in Kashmir. Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad's open letter to Prime Minister, dated August 6, is yet another reminder to the Prime Minister not to hinge only on security measures while dealing with Kashmir problem (GK August 7, 2016). Are the Prime Minister and Rajnath Singh chortling over the sufferings of common man in Kashmir? It is surprising that India's intelligentsia, barring few exceptions, and most of the electronic media has suddenly thrown off its torpor and left the handling of Kashmir exclusively to politicians in power who till now are showing scant interest. Confidence building measures are direly needed as a prelude to dialogue in order to douse the flames.
It is true that large number of people particularly separatists and the protesters are not well disposed towards India and some of the separatists have visceral dislike for New Delhi but in all such situations dialogue has a magic to play. How long can we witness death and destruction? While as negativism is bound to bring despair and sense of disdain but in positive frame of mind one could think of grabbing the opportunity to bring the warring sides together and find a lasting solution to the 7 decades old vexed problem. Suffice it to say that questions raised about the accession are nothing but as transmitted memories to the teenagers in Kashmir who have occupied the roads in the prevailing situation. Left to these boys, they would choose to punish their forefathers for their "blunders".
The other day a few hours of spirited speeches by some MPs in the parliament could not yield any tangible results. Nothing positive was discernible in the proceedings of the parliament so as to indicate that the government of India is intending to restore peace in Kashmir. Going by the pages of history as narrated by B. Raman in his book Kaoboys of R&AW, government of India before ordering Indian army into the golden temple at Amritsar in June 1984, Indira Gandhi through intermediaries had long hours of negotiations with Sikh leaders – some extremists, some not – to reach a negotiated solution to their grievances. The negotiations were done on her behalf in India by Rajiv Gandhi and two of his close associates, and those abroad by R. N. Kao, former chief of external intelligence agency (R&AW). In 1983 government of India, first being a failure, second time established contact with Laldenga, popular Mizoram militant leader and was persuaded to come to New Delhi to hold talks with G Parthasarathy representing Indira Gandhi. There is no need to harbour a doubt about the covert efforts New Delhi must be engaged in to bring back normalcy in Kashmir. But the reality is that the situation has not improved a bit.
Almost a month of curfew has broken the record of "Gulshah" period i.e. 3rd July 1984 onwards when Srinagar city reeled under curfew and restrictions for 22 days at a stretch. This time the unrest is not confined to Srinagar alone. Remote areas are the worst affected. In Shahar-i-Khaas many patients using insulin and those suffering from heart or kidney related ailments and fighting life-consuming diseases need medicine, not easily available, are facing the maximum brunt of the no-relaxation brand of curfew.
Recently Kashmir observers were keenly waiting for some kind of positive outcome from the home ministers of SAARC meeting in Pakistan. It ultimately resulted in damp squib and the outcome was disappointing. The Indian Home Minister's reception by a joint secretary level officer on landing in Pakistan was humiliating. While as Pakistan's interior minister Choudhary Nisar Ali presented a "blunt stance on the Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir" during the meeting in Islamabad, the Indian Home Minister responded by accusing Pakistan for backing of terrorist activities in India. Rajnath took a tough stance against terrorism in the meeting. This visit was very much hyped owing to the ever-strained relations between India and Pakistan. The Indian delegation lead by Rajnath Singh left the meeting and the lunch. The Home Minister did not even talk to media at the airport. Therefore the opportunity was wasted.
The unrest has now spilled over and has reached Peer Panchal region and Chenab valley. Both areas during the past few days have seen noticeable commotion if not serious law & order problem. Continuous bandh in Banihal and occasional protests in other townships of Chenab valley is indicator of simmering resentment to register people's grief and anger about huge number of causalities in the valley. In this backdrop, as per newspaper reports, northern army commander while meeting the chief minister the other day has assured her full cooperation and assistance by organizing flag marches in selected areas to restore normalcy in the state (GK August 4).
It is difficult to say as to what shape the present situation will take in the coming days and weeks but if the intention of the government is to tire out the protesters, that indeed is not going to work in the long run. Status quo will be overtaken by the ever-dynamic political uncertainty in Kashmir on a later date. It depends upon Mehbooba Mufti's political maturity and governance capability to ease the tensions. The time will decide whether Mehbooba emerges renewed after the present disaster.