Kashmir Valley situation: a forthright talk

By K.N. Pandita

Situation in the valley is distressing. Only sadists would be gleeful. Sensible people and patriotic people have reason to be upset. No civilized society can afford to see wanton destruction of precious human lives.

Let us do some hard and plain speaking on the subject and allow reason and logic to guide us in a pragmatic discourse.

Unfortunately, overwhelmed by sensitivity, neither of the contesting sides is ready to call a spade by its proper name though the time has come when it should be done. Truth is seldom sweet when parties are at loggerheads, but there is no escape from harsh ground realities.  

In a recent statement, the Prime Minister emphasized non-lethal handling of mob uprising. But it has not been translated into action. Old and traditional ways of meeting the crisis continue. Hence we have civilian casualties, some innocent, and the widening gap of mistrust and estrangement creeping into the connection between the state and the subjects. This, by no means, is a happy situation either for the union or the federating unit, and should not be allowed to continue..

Though we have the elected government and the elected assembly in J&K but both are rendered ineffective and helpless. This gives an impression that either the system that sent the representatives to legislative assembly is flawed and corrupt or that the ruling groups are conniving at subversion.

For nearly six decades in the past, J&K State has had one-party majority rule that hardly left any space for constructive opposition to grow and formulate. With the emergence of a new political force in 2002 with valley-based leadership, the prospect of healthy opposition brightened. But owing to the absence of power-sharing culture, the sides got engaged in a spate of destructive political rivalry. The Congress as key-holding coalition partner stood a disquieting buffer pursuing almost something akin to divide and rule strategy.  Unless the contesting groups strike balance of interest they will be exposing innocent crowds to unwilling use of the might of the state. Given the political chemistry of the state, the reckless opposition exploits the option of bringing the onus to the doorsteps of the state government by qualifying it with ‘governance deficit’ or to the security forces for larger political objectives. ,  

If healthy democratic dispensation had taken roots in the valley, the political scenario should have been quite different from what is obtaining today. The elected representatives, who claim to have won majority vote in 2008 elections, demonstrate neither courage nor will to engage the voters in a healthy debate on vital issue like State’s accession to the Indian Union, flow of secular democracy and the rule of law. They are meticulously avoiding a rational and logical debate with the dissenters. In other words, they are not only helplessly watching how the situation is slipping out of their hands but are also unwittingly or wittingly becoming a party to political stalemate. No ruling leadership, howsoever dedicated, can effectively govern in such a chaotic situation where naked rivalry is galore.

The biggest dilemma with which Indian leadership is faced in Kashmir is the failure of democratic dispensation: secularist credentials had already been wiped out when the religious minority was forced out of its homes two decades ago. With two most outstanding pillars of Indian political system – democracy and secularism – having met with nose-dive how can one assume that India has still a right to be in the valley. Had the Indian State demonstrated its will and power to preserve secularism in Kashmir things would not have come to this pass?  Politicising the issue of minority exodus from a very sensitive region of the Indian Union spelt disaster for the unsuspecting Indian nation. Its most dangerous consequence has been the unbridled radicalisation of Kashmirian society, a phenomenon to which all segments of civil society including the bureaucracy, political set up and social institutions willingly pandered. Today, it is not the writ of the government but that of the separatist leaders that runs in the length and breadth of the valley. Who rules the state, is a question, which New Delhi should put to itself and also come out with an answer.

Such is the myopic vision of the policy planners in New Delhi that they thought announcement of a hefty rehabilitation package for the displaced persons would revive secularist idiom in Kashmir. How much perfunctory are the contours of centre’s Kashmir policy is a sordid story, better left unsaid.

Having said that, we cannot but feel dismayed on how the separatists are viewing the entire Kashmir issue only from myopic and emotional prism. The slogan of azaadi, orchestrated loud and long by crowds in Kashmir, sounds hollower today than ever before. In a fit of emotions, Kashmir valley separatist as well as ambivalent political leadership has, unfortunately, closed eyes to the fast developing political situation in our neighbourhood and its inevitable impact on our future.

Kashmir is no more an isolated island to be reckoned with only for local sectarian and factional politics. The State of Pakistan, for which our separatists and secessionists are euphoric for a lasting embrace after seceding from India, is fast heading towards a failed state for which the entire world community including India are ill at ease. Unable to cope with homebred Theo-fascism, Islamabad has invited the American muscle to fight her war for survival in NWFP and Waziristan. At the same time, anticipating exacerbation of civilian disobedience and turmoil in the sensitive Gilgit and Baltistan, she supplicated for Chinese physical presence in the area equipped with mountain warfare paraphernalia. This has changed the entire strategy of Central and South Asia. Long back Chinese rulers issued a map of the frontiers of their western territories, which showed Baltal as the farthest point of control.

The question, which the slogan raisers of aazaadi in Kashmir need to think over very coolly, is that with Pakistan shrinking in territorial sovereignty and authority, and torn in a struggle for supremacy between the weakling civilian authority and the military might, where will aaazaadi take the Kashmiri nation? What will be its future and will it ever exist as a unit to exercise the option of federating with a non – existent federation called Pakistan. If our separatists and secessionists persist with their obsession, it is painful to tell them that they are only day dreaming because they are only seriously endangering the very existence of Kashmir as it is today.  They must also realise that it may be easy for them to topple and dismantle democratic and secular structure of the state, but it is far more difficult and rather impossible to replace it by anything else including the much publicised sharia dispensation.

Last but not the least important is the realpolitik, which one to one meeting with separatists and secessionists should not lose sight of, is the vital interests of the Indian State as rising Asian power. The real strength of this rising power lies in its secular and democratic political system. It is this system that helps the Indian nation carry the second largest Muslim population along in a cooperative atmosphere notwithstanding minor aberrations that are surely surmountable with astute statesmanship, something fortunately Indian would not be lacking in. Her strategic interests dictate a firm and conclusive policy of reinforcing the security of her northern and western borders besides trying to mend fences with her neighbours. Democratic world is fully conscious of the great burden and responsibility India is carrying on her shoulders and its importance and relevance to the destiny of humanity on the globe.

Kashmir separatist and secessionists should know that history does not spare leaders who are unable to feel the pulse of the times.
The End.

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