Kashmiris are longing for peace, democratic rights, economic and political empowerment
By Ashok Bhan
On the onset of spring, Kashmir is again on burn. Innocent civilians are getting killed. Security forces engaged in targeted counter terror operations are being distracted to operate, despite the stern warnings by the security forces. The funerals of the slain militants are being attended by thousands of local people. A renewed wave of protests seemingly is in the offing. The phenomenon of death and destruction and loss of lives has already set in before the onset of expected tourist season and economic activities in the Valley. The new age youth across the length and breadth of the Valley is up in defiance and revolt against the State. To address the issue in hand, it is strongly urged to PM Narendra Modi and HM and the other power centers, that a holistic political process be started with all the stakeholders. It is the time for the process to take in the past efforts and adopt the best practices from around the world on resolving such unrest.
New Delhi needs to approach the issues keeping in sight that India’s strategic interests are intertwined with the goodwill and welfare of public in general. Before the new age violent upsurge yet again gets out of hand, New Delhi needs to deal with the issues in hand with a grand vision promoting the Idea of India in Kashmir. One of the causes of the new age turbulence is attributable to the betrayal of democratic expectations that were roused by the election campaign and frequent visits and speeches of the main stream political leaders. Formation of PDP-BJP coalition further fueled the hopes that their aspirations would be addressed.
The mainstream politicians currently are seeking votes and separatists are canvassing publicly for poll boycott. In democracy seeking votes and campaigning for boycott is a legitimate democratic exercise that promotes the ‘battle of ideas’. The Mehbooba government instead of encouraging such discourse chooses to stifle the process. Kashmir mainstream politics in past has always been accused of tinkering with the election process that is why people are not inspired to participate in large numbers and blame is always attributed to New Delhi. Uninterrupted legitimate political debate as battle of ideas is fundamental to democracy, disallowing and negating the debate raises serious question mark? Law and order problems as excuses generally raised by State Government to gag promotion of contrarian political thought process is blatant abuse of power. Canvassing peacefully for the boycott of ensuing polls in Kashmir is deemed participation which any intelligent Government should allow. This is an opportunity for the political leadership to strengthen the political process and engage with all the stake holders for finding a meaningful answer to the people’s aspirations.
The turmoil in the Valley has brought Pakistan at the central stage to internationalize the internal strife of Kashmir consequently the international players and Human Rights activists are plunging to demonize and condemn the security forces.
Pakistan has entered the Valley through militancy and succeeded in changing the demographic profile of the Valley. It has entered grand alliance with China and vowed to seceded part of almost a full region of Kashmir to it. With India it is always belligerent in its friendly relations. Modi honestly tried his best to build friendly bridges; in return India received the acts of terror, border hostilities, unabated militants, violence in Kashmir and no diplomatic engagement because Pakistan always canvass domestically and internationally that the agenda with India is unfinished agenda of Partition.
The relations with Pakistan have been defined by the partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir conundrum and the military conflicts fought between the two Countries. The relations have always been plagued by conflicts, hostilities and suspicion; despite the two south Asian countries share the common linguistic, cultural, geographical and economic linkages.
PM Modi has been trying his best diplomatically and personally to reach out to the govt. of Pakistan with a hand of friendship. He is now publicly acknowledging that unless the various power centers in Pakistan come on the same page for the friendship agenda with India, the whole exercise is meaningless and it is for Pakistan to come forward and cooperate for building friendly relationship with India. People of India would welcome such initiatives at the diplomatic level and at the people’s level also.
There is still the opportunity to prepare the ground for effective socio-economic empowerment of the people, before the new age population hit the streets with fresh protests and agitations in the onset of summer, there is an urgent need for course correction to address the affairs of Kashmir with fresh initiatives. In this context, the following confidence building measures become necessary to be implemented on priority basis before a comprehensive peace process is initiated:-
- Resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio should be accorded the time bound highest priority, for which all the stakeholders, “Including those who for various reasons have not been part of the mainstream politics”, should be engaged for identifying and resolving all the contentious problems and issues.
- A detailed action taken report on the recommendations made so far by the various Expert Groups should be put in public domain for eliciting feedback from all the concerned sections of the society.
- Grievances of all the sufferers of insurgency and militancy, including migrants and displaced persons should be addressed to create a congenial environment for peace and development. All the victims should be suitably compensated.
- Use of lethal weapons, such as pallet guns/bullets, by the security forces should be banned and all those who have suffered physical damages should be medically treated and financially compensated.
- Conducive socio-political environment should be created for return of native Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley within a time frame.
- Diplomatic environment through back and official channels should be made to carry forward the spirit of Shimla Agreement to sort out the contentious issues with Pakistan. And create atmosphere of trust & hope in peoples for peaceful resolutions of all the problems and for friendly relations.
- Efforts should be made to ensure sustainable and equitable empowerment of all the three regions, Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir regions. Devolution of resources should be planned and executed on the basis of requirements of each District and region.
- All the political prisoners and other detainees against whom no serious cases are made out should be released and invited for participation in a credible peace process.
- All the democratic institutions should be strengthened; and, accordingly the Panchayat institutions should be duly operationalise to ensure proper implementation of Central Schemes like education and other poverty alleviation programs on health care etc.
- Effective implementation of the Centre’s Schemes, namely, J&K Students Special Scholarships for post secondary education and Udaan for promoting employment so as to remove alienation among the Kashmiri Youth, for which the schemes were designed should be ensured.
In our considered opinion, initiatives taken by the Central and the state governments in respect of the above points for action would surely improve situation in the J&K State, which in turn would facilitate the long-term objectives of restoring peace, prosperity and development of the State.