Kashmir imbroglio

That the Government of India (GoI) appears in no mood to initiate talks with Hurriyat as a peace making effort in Kashmir, is in bad taste. It is a flawed logic by the GOI that the talks would happen only with the “recognised” elected leadership of Kashmir.

When the so called “recognised”leadership has lost credibility and relevance in the eyes of the Kashmiris, then what is the fun behind going for the talks with it? This leadership has no problem whatsoever with the idea of India so talks with it over the Kashmir crisis carry no weightage.

Even though Hurriyat is not the constitutionally chosen leadership of Kashmir, the truth is that it has strong influence, credibility and following among the people.

The 2016 mass uprising furnished a solid proof of Hurriyat’s following. Therefore, by talking to Hurriyat leadership, the GoI would directly be talking to the Kashmiris, the main stakeholders of the issue, and consequently a way out can be found out to see the back of the long pending K-issue.

However, the GoI has the other ideas. It seems to be believing in hard style politics with no talks till peace is established may be a part of that hard stand.

Perhaps, the GoI does not want to give relevance to Hurriyat in the K-issue and so deems it fit not to involve the leadership in talks. However, Hurriyat is a force to reckon with and its narrative is dominant in the state. The narrative has takers across the state.

Meanwhile, the situation continues to be tense in Kashmir, where bullets, pellets and bloodshed have become household names now. It seems that the youth have become used to seeing death.

Had that not been the case, there would not have been an unending cycle of protests against the government forces despite the latter’s use of muscle power to stop the wave of protests.

Education has become the first casualty of the peace with constant civilian deaths and shutdowns making it impossible for educational institutions to function normally.

However, it is mainly the education of the poor class which is taking a beating because of the peace. The children of the elite class have left for peaceful environs to study.

Meanwhile, Kashmir is facing a host of other problems – the problems which call for an immediate solution. Unemployment, under-employment, poor health care, poverty and failing economy are the major challenges here.

The unemployment of the educated people is on the rise. Already, we have over five lakh educated but unemployed people. If we can’t employ all of them in government sector, we can atleast provide them the means and avenues to get absorbed in the private sector to earn their livelihood.

Underemployment is social injustice. Thousands of people are working as daily wagers, casual labourers and contractual but they are not paid equal to what their regular counterparts are paid for the same services.

Poverty is rampant. People subsist on government subsidies and bank loans or on the income from the selling of their properties like land, trees. Moreover, children are forced to do labour to run families.

Healthcare is very poor. People have to go outside the state for good medical treatment even at the cost of selling their properties. We have crowded hospitals where a few doctors are available.

The infrastructure is inadequate while the medicine in the market is of substandard quality. To top it, the quacks are running a lucrative business in rural areas at the cost of the helplessness and life of people.

However, the government instead of focusing on these problems, remains preoccupied with restoring peace (read inventing peace).

Although, restoring peace is good and the government is duty bound to free people from the pain of violence, the surprising thing is that it is using repressive and painful means to bring peace.

One such means is the ban on the use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. The suspension of social networking sites is touted to disallow the misuse of these sites and thus bring calm in Kashmir valley.

Although this communication curfew has been widely condemned in the social, business and political circles, truth is that the step is very painful and repressive and shows the failure of the state writ.

Today, it is very difficult to live without internet facilities. The social networking sites may have been misused but they are an important source of knowledge and education and an economic source as well.

Now can the suspension of internet facilities bring peace in the valley? No, not at all. Because the right to self-determination is a dominant narrative here.

No soft diplomatic means like the economic aids and packages have succeeded in persuading people to turn away from the dominant political narrative. Anti-India protests continue to erupt.

The use of tougher means to persuade people to forget about the dominant political narrative, is going to meet the same fate as that of the soft means.

For example, thousands of people have been killed here, thousands disappeared, thousand injured and thousands left as widows, half widows and orphans since the armed resistance began in 1990s.

What has been the result? Have such repressive tactics strengthened the people’s resolve or weakened it? Strengthened will be the answer by a majority of people. The 2010 and 2016 unrests are the solid proof. Internet facilities were suspended during those periods as well but all in vain.

In fact, since 2008, the internet and cellular services have often been suspended in Kashmir. According to Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation, the internet services have been shut 31 times in J&K since 2012.

That includes three times in 2012 and five times each in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and ten times in 2016 unrest.

However, never has this communication blockade been able to restore real peace expect it has disconnected people and disabled then to the upload videos and contents not going well with the government. That may bring calm but not real peace. What after the internet services are restored? This invented peace disappears and the situation goes back to the square one.

The hard politics may lead to the absence of violence but not to the permanent peace. Permanent peace can be established only if the real causes of the peace is addressed. The real issue is the Kashmir conflict which demands immediate resolution. No ad-hoc means like the internet gag, economic aides and military might can resolve it.

In last 70 years, the issue has defeated several formulas aimed at its resolution. Only a political solution to the K-issue can deliver real peace in the region.

Therefore, the best way to establish peace in Kashmir is to politically address the root cause which is the Kashmir issue. Painful means will only add to the pain, not bring peace.

India is the largest democracy in the world and believes in the philosophy of its founding fathers – Ahimsa (non- violence) to resolve issues. Then why not to use the same in Kashmir to bring real peace in Kashmir?