Who holds key to Kashmir issue?

By K.N. Pandita

Inaugurating a newly built flyover in Jammu the other day, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that the key of solution to Kashmir issue rests in the hands of Prime Minister Modi. She argued that having a massive mandate of the people of the country, Modi had the strength to solve the Kashmir issue.

Two things are noticeable. One is that Mehbooba recognizes that Modi is the most popular Prime Minister of India and hence is bestowed with the courage of solving Kashmir issue. Prime Ministers preceding him did not have the courage.

The second noticeable point in her speech is that she did not make her oft-repeated assertion that PM Modi initiate talks with Pakistan.

The question is does Modi really hold the key to the solution of the issue. Anybody well versed in the democratic system by which our policy planners go will have reservations in accepting Mehbooba’s statement.

In a democracy, real power is in the hands of people. By that token, the real key for the solution of Kashmir issue is the people of Kashmir. Mehbooba is their elected representative. As such real key has to be in her hands. That is the truth. Let me explain how.

At the root of Kashmir issue is not only the ambivalence of Kashmir leadership of all hues but also its sustained and subtle anti-India propaganda over the decades. Congress not only overlooked it but sometimes lent indirect support to it by not nailing it at the very outset.

Therefore the solution lies in removing anti-India hatred ironically called “alienation” by some commentators. This is a massive exercise to be managed entirely by the elected government in the State.

Kashmir leadership has the capacity to initiate the corrective campaign but not the will. Initiation will succeed only when the falsehood is rebutted and truth is laid bare. Obviously, Kashmir truth is bitter to say or to swallow.

Two simple truths shall have to be spoken to the people in the valley frankly and without mincing words. These are (1) Pakistan tried to annex Kashmir by force of arms in October 1947 but failed and was thrown out. That decided the issue. There is no reversal of that status till eternity. (2) India gave the people of the State democratic and secular system of governance, considered the best for a multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural state.

Kashmiris under external connivance trampled under feet the secular dispensation and forced entire indigenous religious minority out of the valley. The minority will return not only to rehabilitate themselves but to be accepted as part of the ruling mechanism.

With part one of their anti-India agenda completed, they have floated its part two which is stimulating sedition in Kashmir against the state. They want to dislodge not only the democratically elected government in the State but also replace it with theocratic system in which sharia and not either the constitution or the penal code will have force.

It is primarily the duty of the elected government in the State that should tackle the sedition. It is playing its part but real hand behind the sedition is outside Kashmir in Pakistan.

The right approach for the Chief Minister is not to pass the buck to the Prime Minister. The right approach is that she launches a massive campaign against hatred and disinformation which Pakistan oriented social media has undertaken to spread like a hurricane. Her entire party and government machinery has to be involved in this great national reconstruction effort. The prime actors have to be the entire ruling machinery, people’s representatives, administrative machinery, nationalist sections among Kashmirian society and NGOs.

But there are some pre-requisites that will help countering disinformation campaign. The masses of people have to be educated on a few crucial points of Kashmir issue. They are to be told in as clear a language as possible. (1) No power on earth can detach Kashmir from Indian Union. Pakistan tried to take it away by force of arms in 1947 but failed and was ousted. That closes the chapter. (2) India has given the people of Kashmir a democratic and secular system keeping in mind the diversity of the State. It is for the people and leadership of Kashmir to decide how they protect and strengthen the system. They failed in protecting its secular profile. Indian government was sad but did not take retaliatory steps. But now that the very existence of the State is challenged, India has reacted. (3) The third and the harsh reality is that neither there is need nor scope for talks with either Pakistan or Kashmir separatists. India has decided to let the war of attrition in Kashmir go on for half a century more from now and thus wear out Pakistan and Kashmir separatists to their bones.

That is perhaps the real meaning and import of J&K Chief Minister’s message.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University).

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