Modi’s offer to Kashmir youth fell very short

I write with immense sadness about the prevailing situation in the valley of Kashmir. I have no doubt in my mind that the situation has been allowed to go from bad to worse while the rest of India remains in denial.
Our indifference to the continued violence in the Valley and the loss of precious human lives there is a matter of great concern.
When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Jammu to inaugurate the new Chenani-Nashri tunnel, I had hoped that apart from opening a more convenient physical route to the Valley, he would also try to open a new and more convenient route to the hearts and minds of the people there.
He did not do so – and his offer to the youth to choose between tourism and terrorism left them cold.
The least that I expected him to announce on the occasion was the appointment of an interlocutor to engage the various stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir in a dialogue process, as promised in the Agenda of Alliance (AoA) between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the coalition government in J&K was formed.
We must not forget that the agenda is a political document agreed upon between two political parties, one of which is in power at the centre.
It is therefore superior to a government paper and binds the governments of India and Jammu and Kashmir as nothing else does. It is instructive to recall what this document says.
In its very first sentence, it says, “The purpose of this alliance is to form a coalition government that will be empowered to catalyse reconciliation and confidence building within and across the Line of Control in J&K thereby ensuring peace in the state.”
One among the five reasons of the alliance mentioned in the Agenda is to create conditions to facilitate resolution of all issues of Jammu and Kashmir.
It goes on to say: “The earlier NDA government led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had initiated a dialogue process with all political groups, including the Hurriyat Conference, in the spirit of insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat aur Jamhooriyat. Following the same principles, the coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders, which will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilection. This dialogue will seek to build a broad based consensus on resolution of all outstanding issues of J&K.”
The Agenda also recognizes that economic development, though important can on its own neither bring about peace nor prosperity in the given situation in the state.
It also contains an assurance that the present position will be maintained on all constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K, including the special status granted in the Constitution of India.
This document was agreed upon between the two parties more than 25 months ago. Where are those lofty promises today?
Most of us in the political system and in the media are either illiterates or have short memories. So either we are unaware of what the Agenda contains or we have conveniently erased it from our memory.
The smart anchors on the TV channels that hold their durbar every evening, and the learned participants in their programmes, have no use for this sacred piece of paper. Their conclusions are predetermined by their maaliks and their intellectual acrobatics are only meant to somehow end the programme with these predetermined conclusions. The spectacle goes on evening after evening every day as the people in Kashmir count their casualties.
I am appalled at the violence in the Valley. I am appalled at our indifference to that violence. I am appalled at the selective amnesia of those in the government and the party regarding the commitments they made to the people of J&K more than two years ago.
The Lok Sabha by-poll in Srinagar has turned out to be a violent farce. The circumstances under which the Election Commission went ahead with the conduct of this election should be subject of an enquiry.
Fortunately, good sense has prevailed and the Anantnag by-poll has been postponed. Such elections can only lead to loss of face for us before the world community.
My appeal to the Election Commission is to countermand the Srinagar by-election and hold fresh elections for that seat also as and when the situation returns to normal.
The silence of the government of India on the issue of dialogue is deafening to say the least. The group of concerned citizens of which I was a part and which visited the Valley twice in October and December last year pleaded with the government to start the dialogue process.
Many other eminent people have also made the same plea from time to time. I am absolutely unable to understand why all these pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Jammu and Kashmir is a story of lost opportunities, sometimes of lost golden opportunities. One such opportunity had presented itself in the winter just gone by when there was some semblance of normalcy in the Valley. We failed to seize it.
I did not prepare the Agenda of Alliance, but today I am appealing to those who did to take it out of its closet, dust it and act upon it. For God’s sake, please start talking.