”What is to be done?” : “In the meanwhile, it is doubtful that tying a Kashmiri who had just cast his vote to the bonnet of an army jeep is the best way of winning over the people.”
When in 2014 the Peoples’ Democratic Party, having fought the Assembly elections on an anti-RSS plank, decided to tie up with the Bhartiya Janata Party for governance, well-meaning observers believed that this was done not to occupy state power but on an act of faith.
The Party’s faith was that its coalition partner who ruled New Delhi with an absolute majority in parliament would be as keen to resolve the political issue of the Jammu & Kashmir state—and would be best placed to do so, since the Hindu right wing had historically remained the chief obstacle to such a resolution—as the PDP itself. There were those more cynical ones who had at the time pointed out that such faith may be grossly misplaced, since it involved a far-too-naïve misreading of the “nationalist” interests in the matter of Jammu & Kashmir.
As we have seen, the coalition’s “Agenda of Alliance” became, especially in its promised political content, first a farcical and now a tragic dead letter with incalculable damage to the material and psychological profile of the valley which, like it or not, remains at the centre of the problematic.
In the last three years or so, not only have the usual indices of “disturbance” become viral, democratic forces in the valley have come to suffer grievous, if not terminal, demise. To wit, by refusing to turn out to vote in the least of respectable numbers, it is the people who have disenfranchised the leaderships and their political structures rather than the other way around.
In that context, the defeat of the PDP in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency is a clear proof that the mere “faith” does not measure up to the travails and aspirations of the people. Indeed, had people voted in larger numbers, the results would have been the same. Only the terminally uncaring—like the “nationalists”—or the terminally imbecilic may still persuade themselves that militancy in the valley is a “fringe” phenomenon fueled by the wicked enemy from across the border.
The more caring and the more objective watchers of the situation know that the cruel refusal to dialogue and the cruel readiness to shoot have turned every young Kashmiri Muslim today into a willing militant, with complete loss of faith in the secular-democratic promise of the Idea of India. Indeed, the more that right wing forces gain ascendance in the mainland, the more the valley sees itself pushed back into an answering Muslim majoritarian assertion.
So what is to be done? It would be a helpful beginning to disregard the ostrich-inspired “deliberations” that routinely happen at prime time—deliberations that are characterized forever by one chief motif: talk about everything but the real problem.
Then set up back-channels with mandate from the Center to address the diverse contours of the issue as reflected in the spectrum of opinion available in the state with no exceptions. And do so without laying any a prior conditions or time lines. Carry forward that process for as long as it takes, remembering the time that similar issues in other parts of the world have taken (for example Ireland).
Weaken the toe-hold of the interventionist elements in Pakistan by owning our own, and by showing a determination to listen and dialogue till the cows come home, although not in the way they have in Uttar Pradesh. Keep channels of dialogue open with Pakistan on the back of the earlier exchanges, some of which were fraught with substantive promise.
All that taking into account also that the contemporary situation in Pakistan may truly be materially different from what it was some years ago, although Indian “experts” seem forever unwilling to keep abreast with that truth.
Easier said than done. Who will bell the cat? Alas, had I half the faith in god as Mehbooba ji continues to have in the promise of the coalition partner, my Easter may well have happened.
In short, so decisive is the rejection of India in the valley that “mainstream” opposition parties there have not the smallest leeway. If you are not blinkered, expect only more of the same at least till the next general elections in 2019, if not much worse.
The article was first published here in online newspaper Kashmir Observer.