Kashmir calling

Once again there is rush of blood for ‘doing something’ in and about ‘Kashmir’. Do-gooders have been queuing up in New Delhi with generous offers to pull India’s chestnuts out of the Kashmir fire. Panels, committees and similar sounding names have again cropped up in the past few weeks even as the government-appointed Trimurti of interlocutors continues to engage with all and sundry except all-important stake holders. To their credit, the Interlocutors claim to be very near to coming up with a ‘solution’ based upon their interaction with those who really have no dispute to be solved. Interlocutors’ claim amounts to demarcating an imaginary easier route to climb the Mount Everest without having to negotiate hazardous odds strewn along the usual route taken by qualified/ experienced climbers. While there might not be many takers of the dream in Jammu and Kashmir it seems to be tempting enough for Delhi’s ‘Kashmir lovers’. Civil society groups, Kashmir experts and retired professionals have re-discovered interest in the (ad)venture. The buzz outside of J&K contrasts with lack of enthusiasm in the state symbolised by reluctance of principal stakeholders to get involved. Near-stampede on the stage is met with near-empty audience, barring strutting about of individuals. A set of familiar faces is repeatedly exhibited in interaction with visiting interveners/interlocutors to create the feeling that action was indeed on.

If there is anything substantial about such goings on over the past few years it is the growing impression that it is not here in Kashmir but out there in Delhi that one must be looking for some real opening to break the logjam. There is nothing that is not known about who wants what in Kashmir and who stands where in real reckoning. All these questions have been explored over and over again by one panel after another, both official and non-official. What is not known and what is not sought to be explored is what is there in the mind of the Government of India. One can understand the pitfalls involved in enunciating the Centre’s position within the larger picture involving Pakistan.

Hesitation to take a clear cut position at that level is understandable. But what is not being clarified is that where does New Delhi stand in respect of the doable issues within the scope of internal dimension of the Kashmir dispute. From the Prime Minister’s Round Table and its five Working Groups to the interlocutors every possible proposition has been examined directly by those who came forward to engage as well as those who preferred to convey it indirectly through back channels. If there was any doubt about this entire drama being reduced to a big farce it was removed by the fate of the central government’s 8-point package which the state government treated with contempt. Instead of acting upon the package that was announced with fanfare, the state government chose to act in its gross breach. Recommendation to set free detenues was met with still more detentions with even minors being put behind bars and lodged in jails far away from their homes.

So long as New Delhi refuses to commit clearly on what and how much it was willing to concede at least over the issues confined to internal dimension of the larger dispute these do-gooders would be only wasting their time here.