J & K dialogue, a step in the right direction

Dineshwar-Sharma-with-N-N-Vohra-1

Crises are endemic to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir. Violence has begotten violence and in the process, paralysed everything, including rational thinking among stakeholders and political leaders, both in the state and at the Centre. Amidst this ongoing tragic setting, the voices of sanity in the Valley and beyond are hardly audible.

At a time when the Centre has taken a commendable step for the J & K dialogue among all stakeholders in the state, it was politically imprudent on the part of the former Home Minister and Congress leader, P Chidambaram, to have raised the question of “greater autonomy” for the state. What prompted him to do so? Did he wish to politicize the issue and deflate the BJP-led NDA government’s move for the dialogue? Chidambaram is a shrewd person. The timing of his utterances shows his ulterior motives to complicate the whole dialogue process.

Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, has the mandate to talk to everyone, including separatists, if they come forward. The Hurriyat, as expected, has already said ‘no’ to the talks. The separatists and militants are known to speak only for a section of Muslims in the Valley, that too Pakistan-aided Hurriyat persons.

The problem in Kashmir today is that the separatists do not wish to sit across the table because of certain external factors. It is a known fact that militancy in Kashmir is a proxy war under the direction of the ISI, funded largely by the money provided by drug lords of Pakistan. That is why the operation against narcotic trade has to taken seriously. Then, there has been quite a sizeable flow of money into the Valley from various Islamic fundamentalist outfits in West Asia and other places. Mercifully, the NIA is on the job.

Indeed, if right and comprehensive measures are evolved by the interlocutor and authorities concerned, we will, sooner or later, be able to silence the guns of the militants and mercenaries. We have to break the backbone of militancy so that the people feel reassured of the protective umbrella of the police and security forces.

In any case, what makes the current initiative for dialogue interesting is its wide-ranging ambit since it will also involve the state’s youth. Says Dineshwar Sharma: “The youth of J & K are the most important stakeholders I shall be talking to. I will listen to their views and problems and convince them that solutions can and will be found through peaceful engagement. Let me understand what the youth really want”.

Apart from varied political and non-political outfits, the interlocutor’s idea of engaging with youth could turn out to be a path-breaking move, provided the dialogue with them is handled with care and in a constructive spirit. Besides caring attitude, what Kashmir youth want is a credible plan of action for educational and employment opportunities.

Positive action on the ground can create the right atmosphere and help to wean away the youngsters from the path of radicalization and violent protests fueled by fundamentalists and secessionists through social media.

For a long time, Kashmiri politicians have been diverting the people’s attention from the basic issues of development to issues like autonomy. It is high time the state and Central authorities focused firmly on development and economic and educational empowerment of the youth, women, as well as on the skill development of workers and artisans.

There are, however, a number of issues relating to public and private investment which have to be examined. These are: how can investment flows reach the state when its leaders have erected a “Berlin Wall”? When an outsider cannot acquire land, how can he set up an industrial unit? Enterprises need land, factory sites and workers’ colonies.

All these facilities have to be provided for the much needed generation of jobs. The process of development for the people cannot be blocked under the cover of Article 370. Indeed, if Kashmir has become a problem, it is because we continue to live in a make-believe world. What is more, over the years of wrong policies, the plea for autonomy has turned into a demand for greater autonomy.

It may also be worthwhile to examine the possibility of setting up independent development councils for all the three constituents units of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Also, a way has to be found to distribute equitably the revenue of the state among the three units. These councils may have an apex body to coordinate their activities.

As for the question of autonomy, the issue has, once again, acquired emotional and political overtones, courtesy P Chidambaram. No wonder, out-of-job National Conference leaders – Farooq and Omar Abdullah – have got into a highly volatile political mould, vitiating the atmosphere in the Valley.

Incidentally, even last year the Congress leader had suggested that J & K should be accorded greater autonomy as promised in Article 370 to defuse unrest in the Valley. Chidambaram’s autonomy talk does not reflect well on his understanding of the Kashmir problem.

Mercifully, the Congress has distanced itself from Chidambaram’s statement. But the damage has already been done. Ironically, the former home minister has given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi an opportunity to exploit the “greater autonomy” and “azaadi” issues against Rahul Gandhi’s poll campaign in Gujarat. May I ask: whose purpose Chidambaram has served by raising the autonomy issue at this juncture?

It needs to be acknowledged that India can be governed only by a measure of firmness with a human touch. But, alas, we have allowed our principles and values to be eroded for the expediencies of personal and electoral politics. It is a pity that power has become the sole objective of politicians of all shades and hues, both at the Centre and in the states.

This impels me to ask one question: are our politicians not responsible for the mess in Kashmir today? How is it that only in Kashmir the question of autonomy has become a matter of life and death, whereas in all other states, there is  recognition that autonomy is the product of an evolving Centre-state relationship, of a process of give and take? How is it that we failed to tell the Kashmiris that they already have more autonomy than fellow Indians in any other state of India? Instead, we started haggling with their leaders on the “quantum” of autonomy to be given to the Kashmiris. The Sarkaria Commission Report showed how the autonomy question could be solved. But we have hardly given the report its due importance.

Kashmir has always been part of Indian civilization since time immemorial. Is Kashmiriat not a part of this civilisation? No one is going to extinguish Kashmir’s identity. The fear on this count is a false alarm and part of the mischievous tactics of those who are opposed to India.

Finally, J & K has great potential to develop, provided the political leadership gives up its dirty games and engage itself seriously in bettering the lot of the people. Corruption at all levels, coupled with the lack of political will to generate employment and investment, has prevented the state from reaching the required level of prosperity that is within its reach. I hope things would change for the better.

J&K footballer back home

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Finally, a mother’s cries and father’s pleas prevailed.

A week after he announced on Facebook that he was joining the Lashkar-e-Taiba, young footballer from Anantnag, Majid Arshid Khan, has come home, ending his brief life of militancy and violence.

IGP, Kashmir, Muneer Khan said, “Majid has neither surrendered, nor has been arrested. He has returned home.”

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