Views from Srinagar
When are death and destruction going to stop?
POLITICAL unrest in Kashmir is not a new phenomenon. It has a history of unfinished business and betrayals by governments and states/nations. Long term political stability in Kashmir is not possible without permanent and final settlement of Kashmir dispute. While the dispute has been resurfacing, so has the bloodshed in Kashmir valley. When is death and destruction going to stop in Kashmir? Was it Burhan Wani’s killing that led to the present unrest? No, not entirely, as it was only a spark to powder keg that has been accumulating over decades.
After all the misfortunes that Kashmir has seen, people sitting in New Delhi unfortunately are not even ready to accept the disputed nature of Kashmir and are trying to show the world that everything is hunky-dory in the state. But time and again New Delhi has to resort to containing people with force and prevent them from raise their voice on political aspirations. New Delhi needs to understand that use of force will only lead to complete alienation and intensify the anger among youth.
There are many questions that New Delhi cannot answer now. It cannot answer the question as why thousands of people participate in the funeral of Burhan Wani or that of other militants even defying strict curfews imposed by the state government. One can guess as what the count would have been in Tral had there been no restrictions. It is not that New Delhi is not aware of the ground reality. They know everything but are only trying to ignore it.
What should New Delhi expect from those Kashmiris who are being arrested, tortured, and handicapped by its trigger-happy forces? Are they expecting that people of Kashmir who are at the receiving end of gun barrels are going to love India? The only way any deal could have worked for India was if it had been sincere in winning the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. New Delhi has shown that it cares a lot about the territory but it is yet to show that it can take care of the people of Kashmir. Surely, the packages that are being approved by New Delhi do not suit the interests in the shape of political aspirations of the people.
After a long time people are seeing a moment wherein they cannot take it any more. Enough of tricks and violence. A peaceful dialogue needs to be initiated on priority basis, but not the way it was done in 2010 when interlocutors were appointed and were sent to Kashmir to take stock of the situation and make a detailed report on Kashmir issues and solutions and later these reports were kept in cold storages once the situation seemed to be normal.
Mainstream parties, separatists, civil society organizations, Pakistan and other stakeholders should sit on a common table and find some solution together to stop the unending unrest that started decades ago and during which time thousands of people have died and more been disabled.
Be it plebiscite that Kashmiris were promised in 1947 by the first Indian prime minister; or be it greater autonomy which was part of Instrument of accession; or independent state of Kashmir that was proposed by Hari Singh at the time of partition; or any other suitable and acceptable solution – it has to be final. Before starting meaningful dialogue for permanent settlement of Kashmir issue, New Delhi needs to take following some steps immediately to stop the present unrest.
First the mass arrests and night raids to nab protestors must cease immediately. Lethal weapons should be taken away from armed forces and police and instead non-lethal means should be employed to control the angry protestors. The communication and internet blockade should be ended and there should be resolution and commitment that such measures are not taken by the government. The troops must be withdrawn from all civilian areas. People should not be threatened, “terrorized” by damaging their properties, beating them for no reason, detaining them, frisking them. Politicians should stop playing politics when lives of millions of Kashmiris are at stake and should not add fuel to the fire.
[Author can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org].