Even as the separatists have spurned the offer of talks, the Narendra Modi government must keep the dialogue going, having overcome the initial drift when the Valley was engulfed in prolonged disturbances. It has become imperative for the BJP-led NDA government to realise that an Angry Kashmir is a reality and administrative measures in soothing more than the ruffled feathers has failed miserably.
This is not the “Naya Kashmir” or the “Ram Rajya” that Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah had promised in his doctrine. At the same time the hardline approach of the separatists that the panel of all party MPs headed by Union Home minister Rajnath Panel has no mandate is making their own position weak. At least three of the 28 Parliamentarians — Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), D Raja (CPI) and Sharad Yadav (JD (U)) — walked the extra mile on Sunday to meet Syed Ali Shah Geelani but the separatist leader refused to open the gates for them.
By and large it was a well meaning effort by the Parliamentarians though Rajnath Singh was disappointed with the rebuff of the separatists of which he made no secret. At the same time if such Parliamentary delegations had not made any impact in the past, giving it another go is commendable in the interest of peace. While Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti invited the separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference for the talks, the centre appeared reticent. Rajnath Singh, however, said what the “separatists did was neither Kashmiriyat nor Insaniyat.”
The separatist leaders wanted New Delhi to acknowledge Kashmir’s disputed status as a pre-condition for formal talks. “There are no two opinions that Jammu and Kashmir was and is an integral part of India,” Rajnath Singh affirmed to reporters.
The prevailing trust deficit is self evident. It is apparent the separatists don’t want to give credit to the Centre for the engagement particularly when some of them are in prison or under house arrest. They are acutely aware of the consequences staring them in the face in case they have an interface with the all encompassing Parliamentary delegation.
Hurriyat hardliners said they needed no lessons on democracy or humanitarianism from people “whose hands are drenched with the blood of our innocent people.” The current scenario is one of angry young children of Kashmir barely in their teens who believe that stone pelting and blockades can win them “azadi.” Their ire is against the previous generations for betraying their cause particularly those who were their age during the unrest six years back in 2010 when 130 lives were lost. Under the circumstances they believe they can shape the new Kashmir of their choice.
This time the death toll has been 70 or thereabouts so far which is a pointer to the situation having suffered a serious setback. Kashmir cannot be viewed as a law and order problem. The Centre and the state government are struggling to find answers to calm the situation hoping fatigue will catch up with the agitators and the besieged people. At the same time they are unable to find a political solution even as no calm is in sight on the streets since the eighth of July when JeM commander Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces. Behind the unrest the picture of Pakistan’s patronage is looming large. What is causing concern is that the new Kashmir is being shaped by stone throwers. Is this what Kashmiris are looking forward to? Militancy can be fought. It is quite another matter with the mobs on the streets. Indecision has already spelt disaster. The district bureaucracy working under political influence has failed to assert itself.
The urgent need is to evolve a plan to ensure that children return to schools with pens rather than stones. Kashmir is once again at the crossroads. Dealing with the complex situation requires pragmatism and thinking out of the box. And this type of engagement will remain an exercise in futility if it is carried out in the glare of television cameras.