Kashmir Dialogue

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Ashok Bhan

The present discourse that is dominating the Kashmir valley is braid chopping.  The State Govt. has failed to arrest any and sternly deal with the mischief mongers.The despondency,fear and disinformation is galore. The BJP-PDP is not able to instil trust and confidence among people  to ward off fear psyche in the society.The civil liberties are allegedly imperilled. Religious peers cry foul, feel deprived to perform duties and obligations.People say that the coalition Govt.has not only lost the Kashmir plot politically but has failed on governance as well .Mehbooba Mufti has an important and turbulent State to Govern.She is trying her best but unfortunately is on the verge of losing her hard earned personal credibility and the PDP is fast becoming politically irrelevant.
Durbar has closed in summer capital Srinagar and is likely to open in November 2nd week in JAMMU.It takes a couple of weeks to settle down the offices involved in Durbar move-A burden on tax payers money. It suits the present PDP-BJP dispensation.The day to day atmospherics is expected to be violence and turbulence free and may be the ministers and bureaucrats hopefully have good time for much desired competent governance.
After months of blood shed and muscular assertion,Modi Govt. has belatedly appointed former director IB as a point-man to engage with stakeholders,not excluding the separatist leadership. It is perceived by political pundits as a succour provided to dwindling PDP and as a major concession by New Delhi to the people and the parties in Kashmir, that relentlessly had been seeking a dialogue. At a time when the frenzied street violence is taking its toll,the panic has engulfed the entire Valley on account of braid chopping incidents and politicians and political workers are facing life threats. “The army and the police leadership has often spoken for a political reach out.Some say it is a climb down by Modi Govt and most describe it as too little too late.Kashmiris dismiss it as apolitical non- starter and demeaning to talk to an intelligence guy about a highly internationalised volatile issue of South Asia.
There is a drift,deadlock,despondency and desperation in the Valley”s political atmospherics -As such whether an apolitical point-man, a former Intelligence chief is the appropriate choice for the Kashmir affairs is an affair to ponder over. When all the past interlocutors of high stature like Late K C Pant, “RamJathmalani-Ashok Bhan’s high profile Kashmir Committee”, Arun Jaitley, A S Doulat, N N Vohra and Late Dileep Podgaonkar,Prof.MM Ansari and Radha Kumar could not make the desired headway–?,is to be watched seriously. It is being viewed cynically a flawed decision “to rush in an apolitical person where angels fear to tread.”Kashmir is a political problem that deserves a respectable dilogue process and prudence warranted a political reach out through a politician of consequence to be assisted by likes of pointman appointed.Any ways rushing an apolitical interlocutor to Kashmir is better than muscular/pellet assertion argue many concerned Kashmiris.
The 2014 elections in J&K had brought in hope and aspiration in the people, and particularly the youth of Kashmir valley – that they would benefit from the economic development and progress promised by BJP and Prime Minister Narendra  Modi to the aspiring young India. The youth in Kashmir got inspired and joined the mainstream agenda by a larger participation in the elections. People decided to give peace and positive economic development agenda a priority and through their large participation in the elections, defeated all the incumbent ministers and the previous government. Such was the fervour of hope and positive participation of the youth, in particular.
It was expected, from 2014 onwards and after CM Ms Mehbooba Mufti took over,the agenda of alliance would be followed in order to create a policy of containment, to limit and scale down the violence and open a peace process with inclusive political discourse and also bring in the economic prosperity through uniform and sustained development and open up avenues of employment for the youth. The government rose to the power behind these expectations of the people.Only  despair and disappointment in the people has set in and now assumed horrendous proportions.
Lack of  governance, broken promises, intra-regional conflict, the pernicious propaganda blitz of fringe elements and contradictions – both, political and ideological within the government – are attributed for the current cynicism and trust deficit.The smart governance and space for battle of ideas was promised by the coalition government. Neither the semblance of governance nor the space for any ideas is visible. Instead the radicalized political discourse and violence has been allowed to replace the civility, sanity and tolerant socio- political space. Resurgence of intolerance and violence is a cause of great concern to peace loving citizens and the civil society.
The unabated militant activities of striking anytime and anywhere have created instability.The State’s   muscular retribution has helped in militants and mercenaries getting killed almost on daily basis and surrender of some dreaded militants . As such, the public support to militancy is considerably reduced but it has not disappeared.Huge assembly of people in the funerals of slain militants is a testimony. The bold attacks on army, paramilitary forces and the frequent incidents of infiltration from across the border are on the rise. Civilian and police/security forces casualties are on the rise. The phenomenon of terror, panic and disinformation is back in the valley. Security scenario, both inwardly and on the border is not very assuring. yet, the people still yearn for peace and peaceful life.  That is why all right thinking and peace loving Kashmiris have been urging Modi Govt.to blend the hot military pursuits with a political outreach.
Now that a representative of Union of India has been appointed to study the aspirations of the people of all the regions and report to Home Minister.The HM Rajnath Singh is expected to formally invite the stakeholders identified by the representative to discuss and sort out the political issue.Eventually, in the next year preferably before next general elections attempt for final resolution of Kashmir Imbroglio is promised.
The State Government appears to be in a tight spot. Civil society has a big role,it has to rise to the occasion to initiate,strengthen and defend peace process agenda. It must ensure that there is no further loss of innocent lives. The fruits of development shall have to reach out to every deserving citizen. All right thinking citizens of the State and the country, including me, are worried and concerned about the current political and economic affairs of the State. Central and State governments in order to instil people’s trust and confidence in the dialogue process may ensure following measures;
*The Prime Minister and the Central Government has to reinforce and implement all the schemes like Udaan, Himayat etc., to augment the employment avenues along with the special scholarship schemes launched by MHRD and creating opportunities for empowerment by the genuine process of ” Vikas”.
*A sustained and meaningful engagement with all the stakeholders for the solution of “Kashmir Imbroglio”.
*Release all the political detainees against whom there are no criminal charges.
*Allocate liberal financial support package for realization of economic entitlement and political rights of the people of J&K. State Government has to strongly continue the hot pursuits against the terrorist and terrorism and the war-like scenario on the border has to end.
*Work out a concrete time bound PLAN to facilitate dignified return and rehabilitation of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits population back in the valley.
*Govt.to initiate intra-regional cohesion and balance of power and resources within the three regions of the State; launching a government sponsored propaganda blitz to blunt the radicalized political discourse. There is need for increased synergy between central agencies and the state police for combating terrorism.
*Last, but not the least, is that women constitute major size of electorate in the State. There has to be some special package for socio-political and economic empowerment of the women.
(The author is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India) & Chairman, Kashmir Policy & Strategy Group)

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