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Is Kashmir beyond Repair?

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (anusaba@gmail.com) is executive editor, Kashmir Times.

New Delhi’s hard line is closing all options for dialogue.

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal writes:

The decision at an all-party meeting on 9 May, called by the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, to beseech the central government to start a Ramzan ceasefire evokes more scepticism than hope. Hypothetically, if such a ceasefire is announced, it is difficult to predict its response in Kashmir where the new form of rebellion led by youth is articulated through guns and street protests. It is no longer a question of “alienation” and “anger” against repression. The rage on the streets shows definite signs of rebellion with no sense of fear of the bullets and pellets sprayed by security forces; and no signs of fatigue. It is a battle of do or die, whether it is driven by a sense of blind conviction, dictated by the strategy of bleeding India by killing or tiring its security personnel or a choice of defiance over constant humiliation. The huge trust deficit between Kashmir and New Delhi is fast eroding any faith in peaceful resistance. The recent case of a University of Kashmir faculty, who preached to his students about peaceful resistance and liberal ideas, joining militancy two days before he was shot dead, is a shocking reminder that this is no longer about choked spaces for peaceful expression; it is also about a lack of faith in peaceful resolution or resistance.

The larger question, however, is whether a collective plea from all political parties would inspire the centre to think any differently on Kashmir. So far, the latter has ignored several appeals by Mufti to start a dialogue in a bid to end violence. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government follows a far more hawkish policy than its predecessors. Unlike previous regimes, it does not couple brutal power with the pretence of democratic practices punctuated with cosmetic and erratic confidence building. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-inspired BJP makes no pretence. It is driven by an ideology not just to brutally suppress Kashmir but also to alter the very idea of India and damage its democracy. Kashmir is a project of its long cherished idea of changing the state’s demography, suppressing its Muslim population and achieving its larger ambition to turn India into a Hindu rashtra. A chaotic, violent, radicalised and unstable Kashmir serves that end.

If not the blood of the Kashmiris, the substantial loss of soldiers should have been a cause for concern. But it is not. While 40 militants have been killed in 2018, 24 soldiers have lost their lives. At a ratio of more than 2:1, the military wisdom of the centre’s Kashmir policy is questionable. Besides, 37 civilians including a tourist (in stone pelting) have been consumed by the violent conflict and hundreds have suffered bullet and pellet injuries. Such a huge collateral loss has been unable to decimate or reduce levels of militancy. For the unhealed minds of Kashmir, the blood of militants and civilians is like fertiliser on which new militants are resurrected in larger numbers.

Therefore, in all likelihood, an all-party delegation may not cut much ice in New Delhi. In such a scenario, Mufti may have little or no leverage for actions that can ameliorate the conflict. One possible step that could make a marginal difference, and which is well within her jurisdiction, is a rollback of the hard-line approach towards stone pelters. Caught in the trap of arrests, first information reports and constant harassment, many stone pelters feel compelled to graduate into gun wielders. However, this exercise of power may only be cosmetic. The case of separatist Masarat Alam, who was released by the late former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed soon after the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)–BJP government was sworn-in, but had to be rearrested following evident pressures from centre, is illustrative.

The traditional structures of power, putting Delhi in absolute command with respect to Kashmir, place limits on the power and ability of the state government. At present, the PDP’s reconciliation attempts or any other proposals are vehemently stamped out by Delhi. Mufti’s ability to take a firm stand on the Kathua rape and murder case, despite stiff resistance from the BJP, may be an exception. It was probably because the BJP’s larger ambition was to deepen the communal divide in Jammu, which it has successfully managed to do, rather than obstruct the course of justice in the case.

The PDP’s push for dialogue may fail. But it can still carve out a positive role in channelising the venomous youth energy towards creative engagement. Instead of shutting down schools and colleges every time something happens, it can allow educational institutions to become free spaces for articulation of ideas and opinions. There is no way the government can stop resistance. It is deeply embedded in the psyche and hearts of the new generation. The only thing it can do is to allow free space for peaceful and more meaningful resistance that is also enabling for a dialogue.

 

 

Updated On : 17th May, 2018

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