Abject collapse of mainstream leadership across the board in Kashmir has created a dangerous political vacuum which is bound to have quite a few long range implications apart, of course, from what is already being witnessed right now. That this situation should have come about so soon after the assembly elections followed by parliamentary elections goes to underline the fact that so long as the simmering discontent below the surface is sought to be avoided, instead of being addressed and responded to appropriately, the festering problem is not going to go away. It is not difficult to observe that yet again attempts are being made, in New Delhi as well as Srinagar, to resort to familiar diversionary tactics. The need of the hour is to address the real issues, explore a realistic way to sort them out and, more importantly, engage the real main players rather than taking the beaten track and going for yet another short cut. Short term, narrow minded approach has cost heavily and continues to do so for both the sides. Interests of the Indian nation, different from the momentary fortunes of successive party-governments, have suffered as badly as the body and spirit of the troubled state. Lack of statesmanship has been at the root of it all. Unfortunately, when there were statesmen around they did not show expected interest in doing what they could have done and now when that crop of leadership is extinct accumulated issues have become frighteningly enormous to tackle.
Solution to the basic issue or root cause of the unending trouble in Kashmir lies in appreciation of its genesis as well as its politico-historic dynamics. Unlike in the case of other states, this state’s linkage with the union is a product of a dynamic local movement. In the absence of that movement things would most certainly have been different. Disregarding and violating obvious imperatives and obligations of such a relationship has led to unbridgeable emotional breakdown in the relationship.
It is this emotional aspect that continues to surface from time to time. It has been manifesting in various forms and shapes-peaceful, violent. But the thread of underlying alienation runs through it from beginning to end. Going by what is being talked about these days, once again there seems to be an attempt to repeat old mistakes. It would be a big folly to skirt the real issues and just treat the symptoms. Palliatives like softening or removal of AFSPA, employment package or any other nominal gesture are not going to work because the situation is far more serious than is being acknowledged by the authors of such brainy schemes.
Everybody seems to be interested either in advising the angry youth against what has come to be over-simplified as ‘stone pelting’ or resorting to brute force to prevent it. Nobody is inclined to ask ‘why’ the youth is putting itself in the firing line, literally. In the answer to this crucial question lies the key to solution of the problem. The reasons for the anger are not unknown, if only someone has interest in listening and sorting out real issues. Events of the past three months have shown that it is no longer possible to rule Kashmir by fear factor. A generation so willing to sacrifice for its cause is impossible to be silenced through coercion. Of course, its human cost is alarmingly high. Killing of as many as 70 persons in almost as many days shows that the aggrieved side is willing to pay the price. Such a state of desperation is the result of years and years of neglect, repression and victimisation. That is why the euphoria generated by people’s participation in elections vanishes into the thin air at the sound of the first bullet fired to quell popular dissent.
The only realistic approach is to give up these worn out diversionary tactics, make a bold direct approach to genuine leadership spearheading the popular protest, offer a genuinely unconditional, acceptable agenda to discuss and maintain transparency in the exercise in order to ensure its legitimacy and credibility. ‘Quiet dialogue’ has created more problems without solving any. The people on the ground must feel convinced that their voice is being heard and listened to. No solution has ever come out of any other type of exercise in the past nor is there any scope for such a thing happening now. Dialogue with genuine leaders and over genuine issues is the only way out.