The political ideology and outlook of the moderates and hardliners may apparently clash but in essence the principal actors induce a sense of co-operation, as the objective is one of destabilizing the Government of India. The radicals and moderates may detest each other but their murderous hatred of India as an occupying force, pushes all lesser animosities aside. Among the separatists, Geelani has a one track mind, as his North points to Pakistan, he is perhaps more committed in rhetoric and more direct in hatred against India in all public addresses than the moderates who present wider contrasts in their views.
The moderates are so different, their prejudices so strong, their interests and their loyalties so opposite that no move can be made for peace that is not contested by some other party, besides numerous objectives that confound the understanding for a solution.
The word moderate is a little tainted in politics these days, because they perform a balancing act and are not committed to elementary honesty. Hardliners are suffering from inflated rhetoric, remain rigid about their stand, are just digging their heels, relaxing and doing every thing towards hardening of positions and ramping up of hostilities. Hardliners as well as moderates are using demonstrations, stone pelting and hate campaign as instrument of political warfare to achieve their objectives in a more subtle manner.
Single acts of street protests and violence can be accidental but series of violent demonstrations accruing at regular intervals and executed with unalterably proven deliberate and systematical plan of reducing India to ‘desperation and create a situation where India is identified as an occupying force. From time immemorial there have been trouble makers in any street demonstration that use every device including stone pelting, provocative slogans, vulgar and vitriolic diatribes to provoke the opposition. Thousands of ordinary people including women and children unarmed or armed with stones, the local weapon, come on the streets bordering on the fantastic planning and execution, giving an impression of frenzied involvement in the separatist movement. For their leaders, slander and abuse are quite legitimate and evidence is superfluous, the only intention is to challenge arid provoke the security forces so as to infuse desperation in the government.
The protests sweep like an out of control fire, generating a general and uncoordinated strike on the streets but one must be honest to accept that under the pressure of road side events, killings and demonstrations the course of the events cannot change in Kashmir. Unfortunately steep spiral of terror and counter terror, killings and retaliation, sabotage and reprisal brings miseries only to the common man who is the worst sufferer because he is induced to act as buffer between the security forces and the extremists.
In order to create the victim culture the separatists are within means to ruthlessly exploit all deaths, whether due to militants related acts or due to human factors, alleging massacres. They may be drawing wide spread media coverage but they are also writing a script for future negotiations where it be harder for them to make easy compromises.
India has provided the full half of its military might to protect its territorial integrity besides encouraging favorable parties to hold on to power in the state. One can hardly imagine the psychological horrors that Indian security forces are exposed to and the uncertainties they are faced within their daily duties but those are the risks that any military action brings with it.
Separatists have deep bias against the security forces for various reasons some legitimate and others self made. The security forces are engaged in containing an energy that works behind the human shadows, that does not respect any laws that does not wear any uniform and that does not fight according to established norms of war and human rights. The presence of local sympathizers in the administration and police force denies the security forces the agility and tactical surprise necessary for terrorist hunt, snatches and retribution raids. Instead of submitting to the whims of the extremist forces, government must present a coherent picture in the face of frontal assault, draft an effective policy that can work on ground to contain the consequences of street demonstrations and other consequences.
The time may not be ripe for Government of India to make a distinction between the separatist political thought from the militancy, the first being within the broader parameters of a democratic movement, the second is anarchist because it prevents people from expressing freely due to the fear of guns. But from all accounts it appears that the Government of India has not learnt lessons from projecting individual leaders like Sheikh, Bakshi, Sadiq and Shah over each other to handle the Kashmir problem. The patterns of old conceptions has already begun to unfold by trying to create divisions within the separatist voices that will neither serve the interests of permanent peace nor unfold a solution that is not contested by others. For those entrusted with the task of exploring common grounds for a dialogue with the dissenting voices it may be one more piece of political experimentation in a day’s work but unless there is some kind of unity of understanding among the conglomerate of separatists no lasting peace or solution can be achieved in Kashmir.
The approach to create division will only strengthen the hands of the terrorists that rely on the medieval strategy when the head of the victims would be displayed on pikes to infuse fear. Moderates in the movement are very important and necessary partners in the peace process but the question is how and when they can consolidate the majority will of the people around them. They are not sure of themselves more due to the collapse of their self-confidence than the pattern of events that hardliners manage to enforce according to a pattern on the streets. A great many people within the state may be supporting separatist view but given the freedom of expression they will not support militancy that has brought death, suffering and pain to them.
Kashmir constitutes a quadrilateral in which Ladakh, Jammu and Pakistan occupied Kashmir are the four points of a compass and in any permanent solution, the four way relation has to be recognized. But, Pakistan is not open as to the status of the occupied part of Kashmir and by all accounts it sees no dispute in Gilgit, Baltistan and so called ‘Azad Kashmir’ that leaves Jammu and Kashmir State of India disputable. The nearest thing to a specific proposal for a solution of the Kashmir problem could have been granting some kind of regional autonomy with federal set up but it will be premature even to suggest it without going into talks with the separatists who are an outsize part of the problem itself.
India is not even ready to face the political challenges generated by the present system of governance but at some period of time it will have to review its priorities to ease the political, economic and regional tensions that are almost grinding it to a halt. India will have to come up with a national policy for the problems of the border states that seek some kind of autonomy and fiscal policies different from other states, based on their individual needs.
In the case of Jammu and Kashmir what ticks Government of India is that granting more autonomy to the State will not be accepted as the final Solution by the separatist, who are not willing to make compromises. Government of India will have to be extra cautious about granting more messy concessions that will not end the dispute but help it to emerge in no less embarrassing form. Going by their past record the autonomy demand may be yet another plant by the scheming politicians of the state who seek a status quo. The idea will neither serve as a balm to dilute the political unrest nor as a bridge towards the final settlement.
The people have by and large come to terms with the outbreak of violent street demonstrations and sharp response by the security forces, accepting the tragedy as their history’s inevitable course. They know that militancy is the quiescent of evil and accounts for many of their present misfortunes but as long as a subtle and healing compromise is not worked out and a solution that has resilience and adaptability is not found, the pattern of demonstrations and deaths will repeat it self. People no more remain cramped and confined by fear in the basement of their homes but go on with their daily life because they fully understand that there is nothing as perfect security in today’s world. They also understand that violence and brutality that has come to stay in the separatist movement is an unending nightmare beyond their present control.
However, people have not abandoned hope and in some corner of their heart they have a strong conviction well preserved that when they will come out of the paralysis by confusion and fear, neither the separatist nor the militants but they will have the final say in deciding the future of the land, essentially by reference to their values and long term interests. They must be prepared to live on the desperate cause hoping in the bottom of the heart that persistent efforts to seek peace may give birth to some pregnant ideas that will enjoin all rivulets into the main stream and deliver peace.