Unite rather than divide

Seema Mustafa
It is important that governments and their interlocutors dealing with sensitive states like Kashmir, where the people are facing serious problems of security and conflict, work over time to gain their confidence and trust. And this can happen only when the intent is honest and genuine, and the dealings reflect this over and above all other partisan interests.

Kashmir and New Delhi are facing a major deficit of trust. And it does not help when government interlocutors instead of at least trying to bridge this, are seen as dividing the unity of the people of the state. The hectic visits of the government interlocutors to the regions as if all are equal in the distress they are facing, their targeting of specific castes and sub-groups for special dialogue has not gone down well in Jammu and Kashmir. The people who want to see unity in the state have been very critical of these efforts, pointing out that by singling out different castes the government was using the interlocutors to divide rather than unite.

The recent decision by the interlocutors to speak to one leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is a case in point. The government might be happy in bringing about what it perceives as a Shia-Sunni divide but this single act of inviting and meeting Moulana Abbas Ansari has created a strong wave of anger and resentment in the Valley. Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had no choice but to expel Ansari from Hurriyat as he defied the decision by the conglomerate not to meet the interlocutors. “This is a lesson in Kashmiri politics for the Delhi team”, an unidentified Hurriyat leader is quoted as saying in the media. And it is indeed a “lesson” that not just for the team but for the UPA government.

The meeting has become totally counterproductive as anyone well versed with Kashmir could have told the government and its interlocutors. The Kashmiris have become very sensitive to what they see, and rightly so, as government attempts to divide them, more so as this has been the effort of the misguided politicians controlling affairs in Delhi. They have a little more trust in those who try and persuade them to come together, to speak with one voice if they want to make a difference, and even if they do not listen, paradoxically, this is what they want to hear. As the voice for unity gives them a sense of reassurance, while those who single out Shia’s and Sunnis and pit them against each other certainly do not inspire confidence.

The interlocutors should give up and like the wise, realise that this particular effort has failed. Not because they are who they are-in fact, all are good people-but because they are backed by a government that is using them to maintain the status quo in Kashmir even as it tries to hoodwink the rest of India into believing it is doing all it can in the Valley. One would expect the experienced interlocutors to understand that they are being used, that their credibility is unnecessarily being eroded as a result, and they would have done a great service to themselves and to the Kashmir cause by bringing their efforts to an end before the one year. They should realise, like others in New Delhi do, that in their appointment the wily Home Minister P Chidambaram was not trying to bring about a solution, but in real fact to delay and perhaps even jeopardise a feasible, just solution of the issue.

So far the interlocutors have said what several civil society groups have been saying-release political prisoners, withdraw some of the laws etc- whereas as the central governments representatives they were expected to take the process further towards a resolution. The government has used their presence to stave off a dialogue at the political level, and refuse the parliamentarians demand for a political committee to carry on a serious dialogue with the state.

In fact, the need of the hour is no longer a dialogue between the government and all sections of Kashmiri political opinion. For this, as the past has shown, will be shortlived, partisan and victim to the vagaries of government whims. It is now important as the Mirwaiz has been saying to appoint a Parliamentarians committee for a dialogue and thereby ensure a broader and wider acceptance for the talks and the results. This will transcend governments and bring into its fold the pluralistic strengths of India that will be the only way to move forward on Kashmir.

One can only hope that the government is as upset and angry as the Kashmiris about the manner in which the talks with Moulana Ansari were conducted, and that it will ensure that such a folly is not repeated at any level again. One wonders whether New Delhi is working against its own beliefs, for a divided Kashmir might help delay a resolution in the view of those suffering from short sightedness, but it will create chaos and mayhem that will prove to be totally counterproductive. There is no alternative to a direct, honest, straightforward, and sensitive approach. It is time that New Delhi recognised this and tried to change the nature of its dealing with a people who are already suffering under the weight of discrimination, humiliation and violations.
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