By K.N. Pandita
PM’s handling of recent talks with representatives of J&K State political parties in New Delhi is variously interpreted.
Separatists, secessionists and dissenters call it an exercise in futility like so many of them in the past.
Some expected very exciting things to be delivered by the meet. This cannot happen and did not happen.
On the contrary, in a sense what the Prime Minister said is a landmark statement in the recent history of internal commotion in the valley. In very unambiguous and honest words he has conveyed the broad contours of Government of India’s policy on Kashmir.
The Prime Minister spoke to his own people, the people of the state in general and of the valley in particular. His sharing of their pain and sensitivities explains how reluctantly and under what extreme compulsions, the writ of the state had to be made operational.
This is not to instill awe and fear of the might of the state but to ensure safety and security of the masses of people at large and the bulk of public properties. The state is obliged to do that.
PM’s said that turmoil and disorder cannot be allowed to have a field day. In other words, the Indian state reaffirms its resolve to discharge its constitutional obligations without caving in to extraneous pressures. Loss of innocent lives is regrettable, but it cannot be a reason for the state to capitulate to something that leads to the erosion of its sovereignty.
Three wars have been fought with Pakistan just because the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir had to be protected and preserved. The same principle was also adhered to in the case of events of August 1953.
When the Prime Minister says that “we are all the servants of constitution”, it means that talks with any group on any issue have to be within the framework of the Indian Constitution. The right assumption is that the dissenters have to suggest such measures for redemption of internal situation in the valley as fall within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.
The PM realizes that a generation of youth in Kashmir has grown under the shadow of the gun. This expresses his deep sympathy for the affected youth. But when he says that they should go back to their schools and colleges, it carries a message not only for the youth but also for their parents and political leadership of Kashmir.
The message is that if the youth are self destructive enough to abandon their educational career and take to hooliganism on the instigation of various disruptive agencies, the government will be helpless in remaking their career. It is of their choosing.
It will be noted that while the PM appreciates and encourages talks with his own people within the country, he does recognize the external factor in the context of trouble in Kashmir. But it is the sovereign state of Indian Union that has to conduct talks and negotiations with any foreign country on any bilateral issue.
The bilateral issues to be taken up with Pakistan are well known, viz. the illegally occupied part of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, launching terrorism against India and Indian citizens, dismantling of terrorist structure so that internally displaced minority from Kashmir can return and rebuild bridges of understanding with their compatriots and finally providing space to the Kashmiri youth to develop their personality in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation.
They need to reject philistine mentoring, and, against that promote self-reliant perceptions. In other words the Prime Minister has very subtly referred to the proper use of the ballot keeping in mind that leadership should pass on to the younger generation. Dynastic rule is abominable in modern democratic dispensation. However, it is to be made clear that change of leadership has to be through constitutional methods and not through either street power or through arbitration. Kashmiri youth have an opportunity of shaping their destiny. They need to utilize it.
Unemployment is a country-wide phenomenon. In a disturbed situation, it is talked about more vigorously. Because wards of affluent families are at the forefront of agitating crowds, large chunks of ordinary youth need to understand where they are heading to. The PM announced constituting a special team to identify job opportunities so that a large number of unemployed youth in all the three regions of the Stated get the benefit of employment.
Closely linked with employment issue is the induction of major national/international corporate sector to provide large number of jobs to the unemployed youth. The youth have to show the faculty of absorption.
The PM did speak about autonomy. Obviously autonomy meaning empowerment in theoretical terms cannot devolve by selective process; it has to be a universal process. Those who demand autonomy have to ensure whether it strengthens and integrates inter-regional relations. Weakening of one segment at the cost of the other is inadvisable and no government can undertake to do that.
In final analysis, the PM’s speech needs to be analyzed and understood in cool but positive terms. Declining to participate in talks and exchange of views is fractured logic. Ultimately, the onus of steering the ship through turbulent waters comes to the doorsteps of local leadership. As long as the leadership is in two minds, the result will be from despair to disaster. The youth have a role in rejecting stereotypes; they have a role in thinking of their future and destiny. Democracy and secularism are no ordinary mechanisms to be sacrificed at the altar of orthodox outlook.
PM’s speech very strongly and decisively states that the Indian state does not entertain even the faintest idea of talking and doing anything outside the parameters of Indian constitution. This is the clear-cut contour of Union Government’s policy on Kashmir and response to the protagonists of azaadi, separatism and secessionism, conveyed through affectionate, caring and well-intended words and not in anger or with the intention of settling scores.
(The writer is the former Director, Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).