Kashmir: UPA-era dialogue, not BJP’s aggressive stance, is the solution

The UPA era of ‘dialogue with firm handling’ has given way to muscular, hyper-nationalist stance, which has increased violence in the valley. The current ceasefire must be backed by humane policies

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Ram Puniyani

The green of the Kashmir valley has been regularly coloured by the blood of Kashmiris, armed forces personnel, militants and now even those of tourists. Just this month, a school bus was stoned, leading to the death of an 11-year-old child. This is the background in which Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister of Kashmir, sitting atop the heap of a PDP-BJP coalition which is ideologically spilt down to the last member, requested for a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir in the holy month of Ramzan.

Kashmir lately has witnessed increased violence as the Central Government, which is calling all the shots in Kashmir, has adopted an iron-fist policy, substituting the earlier government’s stance of being sensitive to the grievances of the local population. It is during this period that the encounter of separatist Burhan Wani unleashed a series of protests, and the disgruntled and alienated youth intensified their favorite method of protest, ‘stone pelting’. Now the frustration levels of the protesters are so high that they are not scared of the consequences of the repressive steps of the state.

The earlier UPA era of ‘dialogue with firm handling’ has given way to BJP’s muscular, hyper-nationalist high-handed attitude, which in turn has increased the incidences of violence in the valley. So far in 2018, 40 militants, 24 soldiers and 37 civilians have died. While Mufti’s PDP earlier was talking a separatist language, it tied up with Hindu nationalist BJP, which has been asking for abolition of Article 370, the Constitutional clause which gives autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, for the sake of grabbing power. BJP, as such, is wearing its anti-minority stance on its sleeves and is out to undermine the Muslim majority of the state.

Mehbooba Mufti is in a Catch-22 situation. Neither can she exercise the policies which can soothe local sentiments, nor is she able to counter the high-handed Hindutva policies of her ally BJP. Mufti sits as a mute witness, barring probably the lone example of the heinous case of rape and murder of an 8-year-old child in Kathua, where she could assert herself and the BJP leaders had to bite the dust.

The earlier UPA era of ‘dialogue with firm handling’ has given way to the muscular, hyper-nationalist high-handed attitude, which in turn has increased the incidences of violence in the valley

The present scenario, worsening by the day, may affect tourism, which is the prime source of revenue in the state. The plight of the average Kashmiri needs all empathy, as with BJP rule in the Centre, the situation is adverse for them. The simmering discontent, which came out in the form of stone-pelting, is worsening by the day due to lack of mechanisms of democratic protests and the possibility of dialogue from the authorities. Mufti has been calling for dialogue but she has been overruled by the BJP, as its interests are to keep up the intimidating dominating attitude for its electoral and divisive Hindu nationalist goals.

Most of the time, all the blame of discontent is passed on to the instigation from Pakistan alone. The fact is that Kashmiris are dissatisfied due to multiple factors, and the role of Pakistan is just one of these.

The attitude of the Army is not helping matters. Here is a civilian area is under Army’s control for decades. Army’s attitude was exemplified when Farooq Ahmad Dar, a weaver, who had gone to cast his vote, was used as a human shield and Army is trying to defend the action of the officer who subjected a civilian to such an ignominy. He was tied for over five hours and now he stands to live with humiliation all his life. Can such attitudes let the people live their lives normally in such a situation?

Earlier there were articulations about autonomy to state assembly, as promised in the treaty of accession; this is no more on the minds of those in the power. The central hallmark of democracy is the process of dialogue, which is missing in the state.

Many earlier leaders had attempted to bring peace; Atal Behari Vajpayee’s famous doctrine was aiming at peace, progress and prosperity in the Valley by bringing in the spirit of Insaniyat (humanity), Jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (identity of the people of Kashmir). It also aimed at improving relations with Pakistan. Mehbooba Mufti is reminding the present rulers of the Vajpayee doctrine, but her plea seems to be falling on deaf ears

UPA II undertook a major step by appointing a team of interlocutors, Dileep Padgaonkar, MM Ansari and Radha Kumar. They undertook extensive interaction with diverse groups within the state and submitted their recommendations, which were basically asking for promoting autonomy of state assembly, dialogue and improvement of relations with Pakistan. The report is lying ignored. It is time that this report, the last major step at reconciliation on the issue, is revived to bring in peace in the Valley.

The BJP’s role in the PDP-BJP alliance has been very negative and has marginalised the Muslim community in a Muslim majority state. Can Mehbooba Mufti assert herself to articulate the democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir is the question we need to ask. The anger of people against Mufti has grown immensely. The ceasefire declared by the Government is a welcome move and it needs to be backed up by humane policies to restore peace in the valley.

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