An experimental laboratory called Kashmir

What could be more chaotic than the curfew bound and violent streets of Kashmir today? Only the voices on Kashmir issue emanating from New Delhi. Few days after the visit of All Party Delegation to Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s key points person for Jammu and Kashmir, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, hinted that not initiating a dialogue with respect to Kashmir could be part of the government’s strategy. Opposing a political solution, he said, “The political solution to Kashmir is simple and final. And it is: J&K is an integral part of India. What more political solution can be there after that?” A day prior to that, the statement released at the end of an all party meeting called for a dialogue. Two days after Ram Madhav’s strikingly contrasting remarks, section of electronic was let loose to rave and rant about the Centre’s latest strategy on Kashmir and stating that it was based on the assessment that the present unrest in Kashmir was inspired by Wahabi Islam, even ISIS. In the last two months, the BJP government at the Centre has oscillated between vacillating positions of silence, rhetoric about inducing development in Kashmir and talk about political dialogue, sometimes covered in the parroted shroud of ‘within the framework of Indian constitution’ of ‘Kashmir is integral part of India’ and sometimes without it.

Does the government even have a strategy with respect to Kashmir? It shouldn’t come as surprise if there isn’t any. History of Kashmir shows how successive governments since 1948 have been dictated by a lack of clear policy and strategy on Kashmir and have further complicated and aggravated the Kashmir conflict through inconstant steps necessitated either by poor assessment or insecurities and short term goals. Kashmir since the last 70 years has been New Delhi’s convenient laboratory where its people, right from the tallest of leaders to the commoners, have become guinea pigs to be used for experimentation. Whether it was promise of plebiscite, the dichotomy of rhetoric of resolution of Kashmir as per wishes of people on one side and hollowing out of Article 370 and chequered history of deposing Kashmiri leaders and propping up puppet governments on the other, whether it was in wooing people by inducing corruption or in rigging elections, Kashmir has been just a long narrative of ill-thought steps and strategies. In the post-insurgency period the lack of policy is even more apparent, especially after the drastic decline in militancy figures. The rhetoric of dialogue has been matched by the scale of human rights abuse, and less by a process of engagement.

Since 2002, New Delhi began the process of politically dealing with Kashmir conflict but abandoned these processes just after the initial start. Peace overtures have come in fits and starts – Vajpayee’s series of meetings with select leaders of Hurriyat, symbolic opening of Line of Control, Manmohan Singh’s Round Table Conferences and Interlocutors. There is no steady pattern except the background of militarized civilian areas and human rights abuse, punctuated by occasional militancy. Every intervention starts with a hiccup and vanishes like a bubble, without any connectivity with either ground realities or with New Delhi’s own history of processes in the past. The Central government’s process of engagement in Kashmir has been like the act of choosing tarot cards without much application of mind. It has been hardened stance one day, dialogue the next day and military repression the very next. These unrelated steps move on like an un-choreographed sequence and naturally never yielded any desired results.

Results can be achieved only by first of all a holistic understanding of Kashmir in its proper perspective and grappling with the reality that the genesis of Kashmir problem goes back to 1947. Any engagement requires not knee jerk reactions but a historical and political understanding, followed by a clear cut policy and then consistent implementation of a strategy. Peace and peaceful conflict resolutions are never achieved over-night. They could take years or decades but they need road maps and action that is logical and leaders on all sides who fail to succumb to the pressure of winds. Instead, successive governments at the Centre have done just the reverse – responded with a complete policy paralysis.

On the face of it, the present Modi led regime may be continuing the tradition. A deeper scrutiny, however, hints that this may not be a case of policy paralysis but adoption of a more decisive but dangerous policy of belligerence and of treating the people of Kashmir as enemies. The government so far has not spoken a clear language of peace, barring the invocation of ambiguous words like Jamhooriyat, Insaaniyat and Kashmiriyat. More and more troops are being rushed in even as violent protests have abated. Peaceful rallies have become the more popular forms of resistance. This language of peace is something that unnerves the military establishment more than the language of stones, which embellished with lies and propaganda, can be used for justifying resort to repression and brutality of jackboots, bullets and pellets. The strategy is pretty clear – to defame, demonise, and then go for a kill. One indication comes from the official handle of Digital India, a flagship government initiative for a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy, which tweeted a poem promoting the killing of Kashmiris by the Army. The tweet was soon deleted. Going into defensive mode, the government said it would probe the origin of the tweet it called as ‘mischief’. One may give some benefit of doubt and dismiss the assumption that the poem reflected an official policy. Ram Madhav’s latest emphatic ‘no’ to dialogue in juxtaposition of the fattened size of military apparatus, however, are more decisive indicators. Do we need rocket science to understand what other possibility is there to resolving Kashmir, if not dialogue?

Is New Delhi’s policy paralysis on Kashmir finally being discarded? If there a concrete doctrine on cards, it is one that spells only destruction and doom. As its fallout, ultimately, it is not only Kashmir that will burn.

News Updated at : Sunday, September 11, 2016