Back to square one in Kashmir

As was expected, the Centre had ended the temporary respite in search operations by the security forces in Kashmir after the end of Ramzan. Apparently, it will make no difference to the ground situation. Local separatist elements and terrorists sent into the Valley by Pakistan will continue their attacks and killings. The merit of the cease operations (the Government insists that it was not a ‘ceasefire’) lay in its political message. It was an expression of intent of the Government to have a period of peace. Everyone in the Valley welcomed the step. But ultimately it failed to initiate a process of dialogue between the Centre and the stakeholders in Kashmir. The stalemate continues. India-Pakistan dialogue remains suspended because the Centre thinks ‘terror and talks’ cannot go on together. The separatists remain where they are. The relationship between the two ruling coalition partners – the PDP and the BJP – is anything but happy. It has been proved that they are two incompatible partners. It is only power that holds them together, but for how long nobody knows.
Meanwhile, the situation in Kashmir continues to drift. Pakistani border guards and armed militants continue to kill security forces personnel and civilians. The security forces kill terrorists and home-bred militants. There is no political initiative on the part of New Delhi to break the deadlock. The Centre has rejected the 33 page report of the UN Human Rights Commission on Kashmir on alleged violation of human rights in Indian Kashmir because it thinks that the report is biased in favour of Pakistan. India has also objected to the reference in the report to “Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan” because India does not recognize the existence of “Azad” Kashmir. Its stand is that that the entire Jammu and Kashmir State is Indian. Only a part of it remains under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.
But mere rejection of the UNHRC report cannot evade the issue. Kashmiris apart, many Indians also believe that innocent people have been tortured and killed in Kashmir by the security forces in course of their operations. Raising this question invites the charge of being pro-Pakistani or anti-national but the alienation of the Kashmiri people from India is an undeniable fact. Statesmanship demands breaking the deadlock, open channels of dialogue and discussion with all concerned. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus-yatra to Lahore in 1999 was a major initiative to break the ice. But the present leadership does not have the maturity and farsightedness of Vajpayee. And the situation continues to drift – dangerously.

Monday, 18 June, 2018