Back to dialogue in Kashmir

By K.N. Pandita

Sceptics ask how the fate of fresh initiative for dialogue with stakeholders in Kashmir can yield any positive result when similar attempts in the past were a flop.

High calibre statesmanship means opening the doors for dialogue not closing them. Invariably, behind the curtain contacts remain in place between the antagonists.
Obviously, spadework for the breakthrough in the stalemate has been done over the months and some soil has been upturned. Central government feels hard stance adopted over past two years has yielded results, and hence the turf is readied for new exercise. Finding climate conducive to climb down, the Centre has offered unconditional talks. In essence it is not climb down; it is a clear expression of a super confident government consenting to talk to anybody.

The proposed interlocution bears marked divergence from all previous patterns. The single interlocutor is the former IB chief. As such he is widely and deeply knowledgeable on Kashmir juggernaut. Mark that his induction is a shift from polemical to pragmatic arena. The success of his mission does not depend on the outcome but on his ability to project the stand of the Union government on Kashmir issue without ambiguity of course. It is simple. The talks have to be on the entire spectrum of State – Centre relations. This would encompass a host of subjects relevant to restitution of confidence deficit after it had met a long and arduous spat.

If the move is significant from the point of view of NDA government, which has just a year to prepare for general elections, it is equally significant for Kashmiri separatists of various nomenclatures to understand their present status.

The more the separatist remain glued to Pakistan the more defamation and slander they bring to their so-called movement of “Kashmir freedom”. Pakistan is now globally recognized as the cesspool of terrorism and its home-bred terrorist organizations have been designated by the UN/US. Pakistan is n the verge of a fast fanning civil war along ethno-regional basis.

Trump administration’s stern warning to Pakistan to contain Haqqani-Taliban-Al Qaeda combine in Afghanistan, and stop sending fidayeen to neighbouring countries (India) forced Pakistan to depute its emissaries to Washington to buy goodwill. In the process, she has broached Kashmir issue also. India is not averse to redressing what is amiss internally in Kashmir context. Hence, we have the new interlocutor with more pragmatic terms of reference.

What the separatists have to understand is (a) remaining a visible client of Pakistan is proving disastrous (b) Operation All Out has taken the wind out of the sail of militancy in the valley. (c) Large numbers of local people are providing the army and police sensitive and dependable intelligence about the movement, hideouts, arms dumps and linkages of militants. This is indicative of deep polarization of Kashmirian society in the offing. (d) Attacks on police in their police posts or on their private residential houses have angered the police force to the extent that they have pledged to hunt them down to the last man in towns, villages and forests wherever they are.

Action by NIA in arresting about ten persons of separatists groups and exposing their huge illegally amassed wealth in the name of so-called freedom movement has left the separatist leadership and their empathising chapters red-faced. They have lost credibility with the masses who now understand that while the ordinary Kashmiri was made to face the bullets, the leaders were busy in amassing wealth, and raising huge properties. A silent revolt is brewing against the separatist leadership. It is the government that is standing between them and the revolt against the fake leadership only because government is apprehensive of large scale bloodshed as the natural corollary of the phenomenon.

The offer of talks is a golden opportunity for the separatists for face saving. If they miss it, they are gone forever. If they take the time by forelock, they find the face saving and at the same time they have an opportunity of redeeming their lost credibility.

Separatists have begun to understand that the slogan for aazaadi as a mask for accession to Pakistan has exposed them in the eyes of the world community. Aspiration for secession from India and accession to Pakistan is neither true nor attainable. It has been nothing short of an act of black mailing which now completely stands exposed. India has no hesitation to pour funds into Kashmir. Nehru once said that India will not let Sheikh Abdullah drift away because she will bind him in “chains of gold.” That is precisely what the Kashmiris want and India is doing. This will go on for some time more till more sensible and pragmatic sections of people in Kashmir understand that carving a way away from the mainstream is to invite disaster of greatest magnitude.

What the separatists have done to Kashmiris is drubbing and tormenting their personality and reducing them to be nothing more than the men of straw. They have wilfully prevented them from becoming the architects of their fate and the fate of their future generations. They have become clients to Pakistan selling their souls to those who are using them as fodder to their guns. Imagine a community allowing to be carried away by the mad propaganda of some unknown unseen hands entering the parlours of their womenfolk at night and trimming their braids without seeing the man, the scissors and the cutting of braids. A people that cannot protect its womenfolk from being relieved of braids by unseen hands is claiming to be fighting the freedom struggle in the name of religion. I am reminded of a verse of Iqbal “main janta hun anjam uska/jis ma’rke main mulla ho gazi.” Imagine the depth of the loss of self confidence and existential urge to which the separatists have sunk the Kashmirian society.

All that we shall say to the separatists is; be yours; rise from the depths and act as men of substance; take the time by forelock, talk to the interlocutor and talk sense and lead this beleaguered community out of the dark woods into which you have pushed it on the prompting of those who themselves are now lost in the wilderness.

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