Unending cycle of violence

Human rights violations from all sides must be condemned and addressed effectively through a meaningful political process,Despite the claims of gearing up of counter insurgency operations, the worsening graph of violence in Kashmir Valley with militants continuing to strike and human rights abuse both by state and non-state actors is a cause for concern. On Friday, another youth was sprayed with pellet guns and is battling for life.

On Saturday, a Kashmir army personnel on vacation was brutally killed in Shopian, making it the third incident of its kind since last summers. These incidents are not aberrations but reveal a pattern that pushes Kashmir to the worst kinds of dangers and this alarming situation must neither be met with denial nor complacency. They are condemnable and must be opposed unequivocally without prejudice or selective concern. Violence needs to be understood as a consequence of the Kashmir issue, which is essentially political in nature and requires a political resolution. A process to this extent has been started by the Centre in the form of an interlocution whose specifics remain mired in mystery even as the government’s appointed special representative on Kashmir is presently on his second visit to the Valley.

The situation in the Valley today cries for much more drastic actions like opening direct negotiations between the Centre and the various stakeholders. This would require some out-of-the-box thinking, first of all beginning with genuine confidence building measures. The announcement of an amnesty policy for first time stone pelters will remain insignificant in comparison to the magnitude of distress, frustration and anger. The continuation of use of pellet guns shows how far the Centre is from understanding the need for confidence building measures that can make an impact on the ground. The cases for justice and compensation are piling with the police and the State Human Rights Commission. The directives and recommendations of the latter, mostly seeking to address anger and injustice through monetary compensation, have been out-rightly rejected and ignored. Speedy dispensation of these over-delayed cases of justice and compensation along with decreasing the footprints of the huge military apparatus are important steps that can help build the confidence of the people in the dialogue and dissuade young men from picking up guns.

Despite the best of efforts and counter insurgency experts, the huge military apparatus has been unable to contain militancy. This is simply because the people’s faith in government, peace process and dialogue is eroded because of a history of failed promises and flawed and insincere interventions. The Centre needs to learn from the experiences of the past. While it needs to sound more credible and forthcoming with respect to the ongoing process it has started through introduction of major confidence building measures and by opening channels of communication with the most alienated of the people and the separatist leaders, it is also important for the separatists, civil society as well as mainstream parties in the Valley to help build a space for talking where the stakeholders can give vent to their views without a sense of fear and suspicion. Efforts need to be made from all sides but the major onus lies on the Centre which is far too powerful and to some extent on the state government which must live upto the expectations of the people rather than playing the role of a rubber stamp. An important element of any peace process on Kashmir includes the Pakistan element, which cannot be ignored. Pakistan is historically, geographically and politically a stake-holder. It is also important to engage with Pakistan to ensure that it does not encourage cross-border infiltrations, send in foreign militia or exhort Kashmir’s youth to pick up guns.

Kashmir is already too fragile and heightening of violence is further likely to add fuel to the existing fire. All attempts must be made to ensure cessation of all kinds of hostilities, both at the borders and the hinterland. However, at the same time, it must be remembered that the needs of peace go beyond the silencing of guns. Peace needs to be considered in the broader sense of justice for and inclusion of the people of not just the Valley but all parts of Jammu and Kashmir.