Political freeze in Kashmir

There seems to be an inexplicable stagnation in all political parties in Kashmir. Usually, such a freezing situation occurs in the coldest part of the winter called locally, the Chilai Kalan. However, this summer the political situation seems to have been frozen due to hot weather not only in Kashmir but in our neighbourhood too! It is like a massive traffic jam.

Everything seems to be stuck somewhere? None of the political parties of all streams or ideologies have absolutely any clue as to how we can get out of this logjam! There appears to be a status quo frozen in time! Normally there used to be external factors which would at least motivate the local parties to chalk out a programme for going ahead. However, at the present moment these external factors have vanished due to somewhat fluid situations of different types faced in the neighbourhood itself as well as in the western countries themselves. In spite of so called multi-track approaches and a host of supposedly good will measures, the mistrust between India and Pakistan refuses to go away. The relations between these two countries swing like a pendulum. Sometimes up and sometimes down. As someone remarked, the Indo-Pak meetings achieve nothing except handshakes and photo-ops of smiling leaders! There have been dozens of meetings almost in all parts of the world between the leaders of the two countries but the mistrust continues and the problems remain unresolved. No doubt this animosity is costing both the countries dearly as regards the living standards of their teeming millions but the worst sufferers are the Kashmiris who have got themselves entangled in this logjam! Can they get out of this tangle? That is the clichéd million dollar question!

The two neighbouring countries do not seem to be in any hurry to sort out the so called core problem at the present moment. The visa regime change without any Kashmir specific CBM indicates that both the countries want to freeze Kashmir for the moment. In contrast to this their masters sitting across the seven seas are using the Kashmir dispute to further their own vested interests including the massive armament sales with huge cut backs. USA’s armament sales to the third world countries in 2011 are of the order of US $ 56 Billion! More armament sales in the election year mean more jobs for the Americans! Incidentally, these sales go up every time before the US elections! One often hears that the Kashmir problem is a nuclear flash point. A political hot spot in South Asia. All this appears to be only a ploy to divert attention from the pressing political and economic problems faced by the western countries especially the Americans. In fact it is an excuse for the Americans to sell more arms to the antagonists. In the region itself, the most burning issue for the Americans is how to leave Afghanistan with the least possible damage to their reputation as a global peace cop? The Canadians have left. The French are leaving this year. America has by now lost all the reputation as the global champion of Human rights. After 9/11 they have themselves become the worldwide perpetrators of the worst human rights violations.

On the domestic front, the forthcoming elections in both the countries and in Kashmir are forcing the contestants to put the main political problems on the back burner. On the Indian side due to massive scams and overall mis-goverance, the emotive issues like Kashmir will not be readily saleable. The opposition has enough material to target the ruling parties. In fact, even the opposition parties of the rightist leaning will not be able to cash on emotive issues. Similar situation exists across the border. Jihad is not going to solve the problem of power and gas shortages. The economy of that country is in doldrums. Corruption has exceeded all previous records. Over and above they are beset with violence in every nook and corner. Right now Kashmir is their least priority! Incidentally, the Pakistani rulers are trying their best to befriend Indian leaders especially the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Probably, they feel improving relations with India may help them in the forthcoming elections by getting help in improving their sinking economy? On the Indian side the feeling is that more pressure on Pakistan may help the Congress party in neutralising the rightist sentiment.

In Kashmir itself, there does not appear any emotive issue readily available for garnering the votes. The last election slogan of Bijli, Pani, aur Saddak is not going to be accepted by the public. They have seen the most incompetent and corrupt governance during last four years. Nothing is working for the common man. Be it the power situation, the pot-holed roads, the unmanageable garbage, the menacing stray dogs, the fast deteriorating environment especially the dying water bodies! Everything is stuck in a jam! The “Azadi” without any road map to achieve it is also not going to impress people especially in view of the prevailing situation within the sub-continent and across the globe.

There is stillness and quiet. An uneasy calm prevails. Frustration and alienation is slowly increasing. It needs a trigger to erupt. In such situations, the religious issues whether sectarian or inter-religious, provide an easy handle to create an upheaval. The most appropriate example is the holy relic agitation of 1963-64 which brought about a total political change in the state. The recent controversy about the Amarnath Yatra could be used by the interested people in both the parts of the state to start an agitation as happened in 2008. It would be advisable for the concerned to take immediate steps to remove any misgivings on the subject.

People have recently demonstrated during the unfortunate fire incident at the shrine of Dastgeer Sahab that they are ready to give peace a chance. The authorities at Delhi and in Srinagar should grab the opportunity to really give a break to the people instead of mistakenly feeling jubilant that they have been able to cow them down. The first thing is to remove the security foot-prints in practical terms. Revoke the AFSPA, the Public Safety Act and the Disturbed Areas Act. Remove security bunkers and pickets from all civilian areas. Implement honestly and sincerely the entire cross LOC confidence building measures regarding free travel and trade. That would be making the best use of the political freeze. Alternative may be disastrous.
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