Kashmir: Point of no return

Views from Srinagar

Shujaat Bukhari

THE All Party Delegation (APD) visit to break the impasse in Kashmir could be the last effort in this direction. But it did not turn out to be so, leaving the situation as it was. APD comprised of 30 parliament members from different political parties including three ministers – Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitly and Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh. At the end of the two-day visit Singh, who led the delegation, did not sound optimistic about a breakthrough and repeated the government stand that Kashmir was, is and will remain an integral part of India. His assertion that doors were open for talks with all the stakeholders is not new and does not branch out into a specific route of a dialogue process.
The APD came at a time when Kashmir seems to be moving towards the point of no return. Government has lost control over the situation with processions and violent incidents being order of the day and no one is ready to listen to anyone. Imposition of curfew for over two months now, albeit with a break after 51 days, stands testimony to the fact that Kashmir has slipped out of all hands. Curfew is the last resort to bring back normalcy but when it continues for such a long rather record period, it also seems to outlive its utility. With 74 deaths and nearly 9000 injuries, Kashmir valley has been groaning in unbearable pain but that has united the people to be more resilient thus puncturing the theories of fatigue on which the government seemed to be banking upon till now.
As the joint resistance leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik refused to break the bread with the visiting parliamentarians, who happen to be from non-ruling parties with some acceptability among Kashmiris, the possibility of a space for dialogue came to a near close.
With Geelani literally shutting his door on them, the scope for immediate engagement ended there and then. Mirwaiz and Malik had a brief tête-à-tête with Assaduddin Owaisi, Sitaram Yechuri, D Raja and Sharad Yadav but that was thrust on them since they were under government detention. All these leaders reminded the MP’s of New Delhi’s betrayals. Whether the “splinter group” had the approval of the delegation headed by Home Minister or not, but they tried and failed in infusing any hope of life to a dead Kashmir.
There are mixed reactions to the decision of the joint leadership, which has been giving unending strikes and protest calendars since July 9 after Hizb commander Burhan Wani was killed. Social media is abuzz with these reactions, but the significant one came from Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu who said he was hurt as according to him Geelani slamming the door on the MPs was against Kashmiri ethos. His views are virtually being condemned by many on social media, questioning his morality (in view of the killings and injuries in Kashmir) to say so. A set of people do echo the view that Geelani could have opened the door and entertain them as guests, hand over his six-point formula to them, without entering into any discussion and ask them to come back with a response. He could have perhaps followed what his two colleagues told them that there could be no talks under Indian constitution. But he stuck to his own position that gave a section of media a space to say that separatists were against talks.
However, it is important to understand the situation in which these three are placed. The government miserably failed to conduct itself before announcing the dates for APD. All these leaders have been under house arrest or in detention for these two months and if government really meant to use their influence to break the deadlock, they could have released them a few days before the delegation would arrive. This could have given them a space for consultations. No conflict resolution process is conducted by jailing the opponent on your own terms and then make them to talk. The process entails hectic engagement that leads to formal negotiations. Even if one does not agree with what Hurriyat and others espouse but their point is valid that how could they engage without any prior consultations among themselves. In today’s Kashmir all those who have a position in one setup or other are not inclined to jump into a situation where there are no guarantees. The charged atmosphere has seen anarchy where a block president of PDP who facilitated Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s meeting in South Kashmir’s Qazigund area had to lose his house to arson by the protesters. There are many cases where public ire has been demonstrated by attacking those whom the protesters see as collaborators. In that situation it has become difficult even for these three leaders also who take a decision that does not make them irrelevant.
Moreover, the experience of opening the doors for a similar APD in 2010 has left bitter lessons. That visit helped to bring situation back to normalcy as the government of the time promised engagement to resolve Kashmir. But after interlocutors were appointed, they submitted a report though within the ambit of constitution, it added to the list of betrayals that has been the hallmark of New Delhi’s Kashmir policy since 1947.
Huge trust deficit has been the stumbling block for any fresh engagement in Kashmir and entering into a dialogue with New Delhi without any guarantees is the remote possibility that too in the backdrop of repeated assertions that there could be no talks outside the Indian Constitution. In the past, the governments, both led by BJP and Congress in Delhi, have held talks with section of separatists but without any conditions. They failed to yield any result even without any conditions. In this backdrop, what can be expected when conditions are put before doing any groundwork for such a political engagement. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti invited separatist leaders for talks as PDP president but that too was without any home work. In any case the talks on the resolution have to be between New Delhi and those who challenge the accession and not at the level of state government.
Kashmir is passing through a crucial stage where normalcy is a thing of past. Security forces are looking at reclaiming the space lost to militants, state government is helpless and Government of India does not budge from its stand ignoring the fact that formalization of dialogue process is inevitable. While the onus of breaking the deadlock lies mostly on New Delhi, the other side also needs to do brainstorming on how Kashmir could proceed further. Government must release the leaders, allow them space and wait for how they respond to the situation. Both sides must look at this grim scenario with responsibility to save Kashmir from an impending catastrophe. [Feedback at shujaat7867@gmail.com]

—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir
[The author is Editor-in-Chief of Daily Rising Kashmir Srinagar]

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