For the time being New Delhi must be thinking that situation has been controlled and with the arrival of spring and influx of tourists the Centre will again forget Kashmir and if this happens then things could be more dangerous.
Srinagar: On Saturday, five member delegation of Concerned Citizens of India led by former External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha that visited Kashmir twice during the uprising of 2016 asked Centre and State governments to initiate a multi-dimensional dialogue with Hurriyat leadership besides at the earliest improving the human rights situation in Kashmir and encourage more humane attitude by the security forces towards people. Whenever Kashmir is on boil and youths get killed that result in the series of protests, the state and Central government start is looking up towards ways and means to curb the protests and put an end to the alienation brewing among of the people of Kashmir. And every time whenever street protests threats to undersize the writ of state and the Central government and government begins a process to find out solutions that will break the impasse in the state through dialogue and initiatives. Even parliamentary delegations are being sent to speak to people who have grievances. Apart from parliamentary delegations, some powerful groups and NGO’s also try to break the ice and open channels of communications with people and parties who are on the streets protesting against state and central governments. However, after the situation get normalized the reports or recommendations are seldom implemented. It happened in many times in the past. Even the report working groups are gathering dust that causes further alienation among the masses and New Delhi loses its credibility. Sending delegations to Valley to look what is wrong on the ground is not new but soon after the partition when Kashmir got divided into two parts with one side being administrated by the Pakistan, the seeds of alienation were there right from the partition when erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh decided to annex Kashmir with India and the founder of National Conference Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah also endorsed the decision. However, promises were never fulfilled instead the Laws granting special status to Kashmir were violated that generated mistrust in the hearts and minds of the people especially in the Valley. Instead of giving full rights to the people New Delhi stated managing everything by using different leaders of mainstream political parties. And in other part of Kashmir that is under the Pakistan story is no different and affairs are being run directly by Islamabad. In fact they are facing worse owing to strict curtailments in the allocation of budget with no special economic packages for the upliftment of poverty.
With the start of militancy in 1989, the political process crumbled in the state and local youths joined militant ranks and it took around more than one decade for New Delhi to restore law and order in the state. Though political governments were again appointed, however, militancy still remains in the Valley. In 2008, the Amaranth land row became a trigger for the unrest and more than 100 civilians lost their lives in the protests and then again Valley witnessed mass agitation in 2010 and 2011 that left dozens of youths dead. Again to calm the tempers the New Delhi started sending parliamentary delegations and members of civil society to have impartial view of the ground situation but the recommendations by these delegations were completely ignored by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Congress.
After 2011 Kashmir didn’t witness any massive protest but after the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) decided to form government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) it left many in the Valley surprised as the PDP leadership has always been busy in trying to portray BJP as villan and against the people of Kashmir and the special status. But after elections when both the parties decided to form coalition government the message didn’t get well within in grassroot workers of the party especially in South Kashmir that is considered as the bastion of the PDP. After the death of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed when his daughter Mehbooba Mufti endorsed the alliance and then BJP and its affiliates parties started raising controversial issues like separate Sanik colonies, Pandit Colonies and the domicile certificate to the West Pakistani refugees. And in July when Hizbul Mujahideen’s tech savvy commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Bamdoora village – the killing sparked massive protests in the Valley and the extra use of force left more than 90 civilians dead and over ten thousand injured with many youths who were hit by deadly pellets were blinded. The separatist leadership led by Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, chairman Yasin Malik started rolling out weekly protest calendars that were judiciously followed by people for initial four months without hesitation. Though separatist leadership is still rolling out the protest calendars however the shutdown has been reduced to only two days a week. Initially to break the cycle of protests and shutdown New Delhi used different tactics and send various fact find teams and delegations to Valley some even met the Hurriyat leadership.
In September when Valley was on boil and there was no writ of government in most parts of the Valley a 27 member, All Party Delegation came to Kashmir, the delegation was led by Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh. The separatist leadership decided not to meet the delegation and Syed Ali Geelani even didn’t open doors of his Hyderpora residence cum office when three members of the delegation D Raja, Sharad Yadav and Sitaram Yechury tried to meet him. Geelani said that so far 150 delegations have visited Kashmir and these visits are always fruitless. Though some members of the delegation managed to have brief interaction with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabir Shah who were in custody both however refused to talk to them. The All Party Delegation later met some mainstream politicians and office bearers of some Tour and Travel Association and took firsthand account from them. After the parliamentary delegation failed to break the ice, New Delhi started looking towards track two diplomacy in which members of civil society, retired bureaucrats and some journalists were asked to use their influence to break the ice as the situation was getting from bad to worse. The separatists declined to meet the APD members as they blamed the state government putting them behind bars. ”How could we have met the delegation when the entire leadership was behind bars,” Mirwaiz Omar Farooq said. He, however, said that had government been sincere they should have initiated steps for the meeting by releasing the leadership. Despite the fact Mehbooba Mufti being the head of the PDP had extended offer for talks with the separatist leadership. After failing to break the ice and no end to violence, two different teams led by members of civil society and journalists again made efforts to contact the civil society of Kashmir, trade bodies and separatist groups. Though the members of the Indian civil society and journalists tried to convey that they initiated these efforts at their own level however their meetings with separatist inside jail were facilitated by the government making it clear that these initiatives had nod from the government at some level. Finally another five member delegation led by Former External Affairs Minister and Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha visited Valley twice. Apart from Sinha, the other members of the delegation comprised Wajahat Habibullah, Former Chief Information Commissioner and former Chairman of National Minorities Commission, Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak, Bharat Bhushan, Editor, Catchnews and Executive Program Director of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation – (CDR) Sushobha Barve.
The delegation besides meetings separatist leadership including Syed Ali Geelani also traveled to rural Kashmir to interact with the people. Though the group members claimed that they did this on their own level but it was facilitated by CDR, the group is well connected with political circles in New Delhi and is also close to the state government. The group has released a detailed report asking government of India to initiate a multi-dimensional dialogue at the earliest. “As for as India-Pakistan dialogue, it is contingent upon several other issues,’’ reads the report. The findings in the report further said that youth are fed up with New Delhi and there is distrust with New Delhi and also said that some people during interactions conveyed them worst things.
“What happened in 2008 and 2010 was of moderate intensity. The 2016 events were of a higher magnitude. What happens next will be of a much higher intensity if the Indian state does not take the right steps (to contain the situation). What will happen in 2017 or 2018 will be of catastrophic proportions,” one civil society activist in Shopian told the delegation. This prediction is now part of the report that has been submitted to the Central government. For the time being New Delhi must be thinking that situation has been controlled and with the arrival of spring and influx of tourists the Centre will again forget Kashmir and if this happens then things could be more dangerous. Presently, the youth are dejected and if steps are not taken to end the alienation then things in future could be more deadly that will be drastic not only for the state but it will have far reaching effects on New Delhi and will also serve dent to the mainstream politicians.
The story appeared in the print edition of 12-17 January 2017.