Kashmir in turmoil again

Ashok Bhan

The recent developments in Kashmir are certainly alarming and have added fuel to fire not only owing to non-fulfillment of the promises made to people but also showing no signs of improvement in socio-economic conditions of people. The alienation among the people, particularly the youth, has increased so much that an atmosphere is created to encourage militancy, on the scale and intensity that was witnessed in the early nineties. Who is responsible for this – the alliance government or the people of the state?

Unfulfilled Promises

Kashmir in turmoil againThe BJP and PDP alliance was formed largely on the promise of development and good governance in J&K state. In the hope of ache din, the people of J&K provided overwhelming support towards formation of government at the Centre and the state as well. Prime Minister Modi made oft-repeated promises during three visits to the State to address the problems and issues faced by the people, especially due to floods and prolonged militancy in the region. The flood victims were assured of a liberal special financial package for rehabilitation. BJP-PDP alliance also promised to provide need-based assistance to people whose houses were submerged in floods and whose agricultural fields were destroyed. The state government, which is entirely dependent on the Centre for financial support, has passed the buck on the Modisarkar. The Prime Minister himself has seen the devastated state during his last visits, when he also had interaction with the flood victims as well as other victims of human rights violations. The people were swayed by emotions and there was no reason as to why people should not believe in the words of the PM. They expected that the Centre would sincerely apply healing touch. But, they are hugely disappointed owing to callous attitude of the authorities, which is responsible for perpetuation of sufferings of the victims. A meager amount of less than Rs 5000 was paid to those whose houses were partially damaged and Rs 75000 to those whose houses were totally destroyed. By offering such a paltry assistance, the government has virtually insulted the people who have suffered due to nature’s fury.

Against the government’s apathy, flood victims as well as the traders and businessmen came together to express their resentment on September 7, 2015, and to demand for fulfilling the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-PDP alliance government, headed by the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Until recently, the Hurriyat leaders gave frequent shutdown calls and, at times, curfews were imposed by the local administration. But, the business community, whose expectation of economic revival of state was promised, enforced this shutdown call, which was unprecedented. The state’s economy, which heavily depends on agriculture and tourism, did not get the boost that was required to augment income and employment in the state. The youth are hugely frustrated and deprived of opportunities for realizing their aspirations. If they exercise their democratic rights to claim for genuine entitlements, it may be construed to mean that the youth are engaging in militancy for non-fulfillment of what is owed to them. The state must therefore own the responsibility of messing up issues concerning the welfare of people in the state.

By the same token, it must be stated that the Central government must release the grants to the state, which was promised at the time of formation of alliance government. As the state has limited resources of its own, it cannot meet the challenge of rehabilitation of flood victims and those who missed the opportunity to earn from tourism. The Centre must step in to provide relief to the poor people.

Debacle in the Dialogue Process

In the aftermath of the understanding reached between India and Pakistan at Ufa, the NSA-level dialogue did not materialize despite the fact both the countries publically acknowledge that the challenge of laying a roadmap for resolution of all the contentious issues have to be resolved through a dialogue process. The people of the state expect from their elected leaders and governments to provide economic and social security by neutralizing internal or external disturbances. Since the Indian Independence, people of J&K have suffered due to wars and militancy in the region. The state’s territory has been used as a battlefield by the two warring neighbouring countries, which have standing rivalry in the region. Such objectives should not be pursued at the human cost.

PM Modi has righty said that all the political differences can be resolved through an active engagement of the stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue process with Pakistan. Both the countries should therefore resolve to adhere to the principle of maintaining and promoting the process of uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue. If it does not happen, as the last one-year shows, the people of J&K who had acceded to India rather than Pakistan in 1947, will become perpetual sufferers. And the Indian state cannot be oblivious of such sufferings of Kashmiris.

Unfortunately the red-line drawn by Pakistan for dialogue process is not intended for commencement of the peace process but is fraught with diplomatic mischief.  On Indian side, the only question about the red-line of Kashmir is the unanimous resolution of Indian Parliament to retrieve the Pakistan-administered Kashmir.  It is a matter of fact that Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly has kept 24 Assembly seats reserved for that territory.  The other issue is regarding barter of Kashmir territory in the Northern Areas to China.

Grievances of Migrants

Lakhs of Kashmiri migrants and other displaced persons have been assured of justice on legal and humanitarian grounds. Kashmiri Pandits, in particular, have been culturally uprooted and their economic wellbeing is in jeopardy. The Central and the state governments have assured proper return and rehabilitation of the “exiled” people. But, even after lapse of one year of the Central government and six months of its alliance with PDP, there is no blue print available to demonstrate that the decades of sufferings of migrants would be assuaged by government.

Removal of Alienation among Youth

In the aftermath of brutal killings of 120 youths and widespread violation of human rights, in 2010, an all political parties delegation visited the state and recommended a slew of measures for removal of alienation among the people of the state in general and the youth in particular, who have missed the opportunities for realizing their socio-economic aspirations. The Centre’s appointed Interlocutors have submitted a comprehensive report and recommended set measures to address the grievances of people. While the Central government, of late, has sought comments from the state government, no worthwhile progress has been made for implementing those recommendations. The promise of good governance for the common people remains a distant dream.

To alleviate the sufferings of youth of the state, due to conflict and violence, the Central government in 2011 has had launched at least three programs, namely: i) Special Scholarship Scheme for post secondary education, ii) UDAAN for on-the job training and placement; and iii) Himayat for promoting self-employment. But, the concerned Central Ministries, MHA and MHRD, have adopted a lackluster approach for implementation of these schemes, because of which the benefits are not reaching to the target groups. The youth are frustrated due to lack of empowerment and opportunity to participate in the process of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas. Lakhs of youth are getting disillusioned with the kind of governance that is sadly being experienced.

Undeclared War

In the wake of on-going war of words from both the sides and continuous violations of ceasefire at the LoC, the people of the state have suffered irreparable losses, which have to be avoided at any costs. The indulgence in frequent skirmishes and blame game from both the sides, howsoever justified, has led to mudding of the dialogue process, the outcome of which has turn out to be a flop show. This must be avoided. And, an opportunity must be seized to explore the ways to find solutions in piecemeal to all the problems that we face today. It is expected that both the countries may chart out the path to cooperate with each other in dismantling the terror training camps as well as to ensure that the financers of such inhuman activities are brought to book.

Government of India should commence, as a large democracy, the bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan for improved neighbourly relations.

Author is Senior Advocate Supreme Court and Chairman of Kashmir Policy and Strategy Group

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