Is this the way to engage the estranged people for a viable J&K solution?


As it has been happening on such occasions frequently, the State government headed by Omar Abdullah “ foiled “ the attempts of different separatist groups and the people at large on Saturday to march to the Martyrs Graveyard at Naqshband Saheb in Srinagar to pay their homage to those having laid down their lives on July 13,1931 during the struggle for freedom from the autocratic rule. Srinagar and most other parts of the State were virtually under siege with unlawful and undeclared curfew imposed, barricades put up to prevent the people’s movement, gun-wielding soldiers occupying the civilian space and turning the downtown Srinagar in particular into a fortress. This is neither the first time nor the only occasion when this kind of situation prevailed in the Valley. Tragically, the entire valley has been mostly under an unending siege with curbs on the movements of the people, political leaders either put under house arrests or detained frustrating their attempts to move out and reach the people. While curbs on holding rallies and demonstrations has been the permanent feature of the life in Kashmir, a large number of political leaders are not even allowed to come out of their houses, visit places, participate in political activities or even breathe freely. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has been permanently placed under house arrest, not even allowed to offer his Friday prayers in the mosque and people debarred to meet him.
Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, betrays his political hypocrisy when he assails New Delhi for its failure to engage the people in a process of dialogue for resolving the Kashmir problem politically or when he feebly asks for partial removal of AFSPA from some areas of the State where “ peace prevails”. This appears to be his way to engage the people in a process of dialogue or win over the hearts and minds of the estranged people of Kashmir All kinds of curbs on the movements of the people and on their political activities remain placed under his regime. Not only the political leaders have been denied their freedom, preventing them even to participate in religious and social activities but even the peaceful demonstrations by different sections of the people to press for their demands or protest against injustice and repression are met with the use of brutal force.

On the issue of AFSPA the chief minister has been shifting his stance from time to time. He started two years ago by categorically stating that this draconian law which empowers the armed forces with blanket powers and promotes a culture of umunity will be revoked “ within two months”. He later talked of only partial and gradual lifting of this black but in view of the opposition from New Delhi, he has now been talking of some minor changes in the law. In the same breath he says that he would not talk about AFSPA in view of New Delhi’s sensibility on this issue. Both on the issue of ending human rights abuses and that of providing the estranged people a political space for engaging them in a dialogue process, the chief minister is on a slippery ground.

That engaging the people, particularly those representing the estranged sections, in a process of unconditional and meaningful dialogue, and a similar Kashmir-related dialogue process with Pakistan, is the only way for finding a just peaceful and sustainable solution of the prolonged and perplexed problem cannot be disputed. But for pursuing such a course the roadblocks placed both by New Delhi and the State government must be removed. No dialogue can be fruitful under the shadow of gun or by resorting to human rights abuses, placing curbs on the people’s movements and letting loose a reign of terror, coercion and intimidation that the State and Central governments have been doing. Let the siege be lifted. Draconian laws like AFSPA and Public Safety Act repealed, curbs on people’s movements removed and civil liberties restored for creating a conducive climate for a multi-level meaningful process of dialogue for ending the impasse.