Let new Kashmir rise from rubble

By K.N. Pandita

On-going upsurge in the valley patently reflects mutual rivalry among political stakeholders come down to its lowest level. Paid agents armed with stones and infused with extremist religious prompting come on streets to disrupt normal flow of civil life. Their sponsors consider it an effective tool to show down their political opponents who have vested interest in projecting them as fighters for “aazadi”. Apologists artfully brand them a generation grown under the shadow of the gun.

What is the rivalry about? For nearly five decades or more, right or wrong, traditional political party kept the monopoly of political power its cherished preserve. Its long stint created an impression with its stalwarts that the party was invulnerable essentially because Kashmir remained the fief of one dynasty. 

Monopolistic attitude, dynastic rule and unaccounted corruption of the traditional party were strong reasons to throw up a group that contested its hegemony over state affairs. On that count, a nascent political group was able to raise its constituency once palpable public response was forthcoming, essentially in the valley and to some lesser measure in other parts of the state.

Obviously, the beginning of the practice of legitimate and formal democratic opposition in public and in state affairs, hitherto unknown and unpracticed by the stakeholders, could not be that smooth. Once out of power after tasting power, it lost the vision of building the state through democratic institutions.

In order to push the agenda of party aggrandizement, broader national and regional interests were sacrificed, which reflected in a vigorous demand for the dismissal of the government and imposition of president’s rule. Had the central government succumbed to this blackmail, its consequences would have been disastrous.

For certain, the uprising in the valley reflects neither the public mood against accession nor any challenge to the might of the state. It, in truth, is the expression of birth pangs of a much awaited but elusive democratic dispensation in which principled opposition is a necessity and has a role.

Therefore, the urgent step to be taken to convince ordinary Kashmiri that he or she is the master of his/her destiny is to streamline democratic institutions, and make them maximally functional in the state.

Foremost of these institutions are free and fair election delivery system, and nationalist orientation of political leadership as its ideological mainstay. If these two institutions are faulty, eroded or insinuating, then the damage will be forbidding.

Democratic institutions become vibrant only if supported by productive economic infrastructure. Economic development is rigidly conditioned by geography and climate besides the level of work culture among the people.

Providing thousands of jobs to the unemployed youth is not a pragmatic solution. It creates an impression that the state is succumbing to religious, ethnic or political compulsions. This is not desirable. The true impression should be that the government is reaching a needy segment of Indian nation.

Therefore an out of box or a unique eco-industrial development philosophy has to be evolved. As agrarian sector is under severe strain in the valley because of inability to shift over to modern scientific and mechanized techniques of farming, and shrinking of arable lands owing to rapid growth of both urban and rural population, the imperative of rapid but sensible industrialization of the valley cannot be deferred to the realms of uncertainty. In doing so, Kashmir political leadership has to come out of the cocoon of sub-regional prejudices, and seek the cooperation of Indian and international corporate sector. Mind you, fast dwindling forest wealth of the valley will have negatively enormous climatic and environmental impact on the economy of the valley.

The cry for autonomy is amusingly reckless. If any political party thinks it can endear itself to the estranged masses by sentimentalizing issues, it is foolhardiness, to say the least. If two constitutions plus special status do not underpin sub-regional sentiments, autonomy is least suited to be an option. After accession in 1947, Kashmir leadership gradually realized that integration with the union without diluting individuality was not only beneficial but also inevitable. They understood that the State could not remain anchored to three clauses of the accession instrument while other federating units buoyed the ocean of Indian secular democracy.

Resentment and anger of a section of people in the valley, no doubt small, has to subside. If instigators plan something new, their credibility will wane further. Therefore, a sensible and spirited government need not panic. It must plan for at least next fifty to hundred years fortifying democratic institutions, energizing the writ of the state, rigorously enforcing anti-corruption mechanism and drawing comprehensive but time bound economic and industrial plans of big dimensions and import.

It is also important that the state must root out the psychology of blackmailing and feigned insecurity that vitiate the atmosphere and distance people from realities on the ground… Inviolability of territorial integrity and political sovereignty are the fundamentals that preserve and perpetuate the Indian State. .

India has to reach each and every Kashmiri of the valley. Their woe is that the intermediaries play tricks with them. Sidelining the intermediaries is a task closely linked with political education of the masses. How will India reach the masses is the crux of the matter. If New Delhi overcomes its hunch for Kashmir valley just to keep a segment of large national minority in good humour, it will be encouraging blackmail. Conversely, if it meets equitable justice to all the three regions, much of the burden of Kashmir woes will be lifted off its shoulders.

Last and not the least is how New Delhi will treat the exiled religious minority in years to come? With its ouster from Kashmir, India’s secular credentials are in question. We understand the compulsions and constraints of stakeholders in this sordid affair. Again a pragmatic, bold and visionary step is desired on the part of the Indian state. Creation of an inclusive twin-city capital for Kashmir valley on an area of a hundred thousand kanals fulfils most of the requirements of parties concerned.  Apart from that, if Kashmir is to become the hub of international tourist inflow (for Europe, Eurasia, Central Asia, China, West Asia, and South Asia) admittedly the old city of Stringer falls short of most primary requirements.   Let Kashmir tourism and Kashmir civic life find a new orientation and new aspiration in a new capital city. With at least two international airports, three international rail terminals that will connect Kashmir to Beijing via Tibet, to Europe by Trans-Asian rail (via Pakistan, Iran, Turkey) and to Malaysia (via Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand) let Kashmir become the Switzerland of the East. Let both banks of the Jhelum be converted into 150 feet wide boulevards with parks and gardens, fountains and restaurants, with shining gondolas navigating from Pantachhok to Idgah.  My submission to Indian policy planners and Kashmir leaders is to think big and do big. Let new Kashmir rise from rubble.

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