Peace-seeking in Kashmir

The Centre seems to have changed tack on Kashmir. From confrontation it is now seeking conciliation and consultation with a view to reaching a possible consensus. The appointment of a former Director of Intelligence Bureau, Dineshwar Sharma, as the Centre’s interlocutor with all stakeholders including, according to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of 26 political and religious bodies which champions Kashmiri separatism, is indicative of this. Congress leader P. Chidamabaram has called the decision an admission on the part of the Centre of the failure of its ‘muscular’ approach to the Kashmir problem.
Any initiative at restoring normalcy in Kashmir and arriving at a lasting solution of the problem that has dogged India since the dawn of independence is welcome. If the Centre is taking a fresh initiative in this direction it should be wholeheartedly welcomed. Significantly, Rajnath Singh has said that it has been left to the interlocutor to decide with whom he should engage. Which means that the interlocutor would be guided by the Centre’s briefing which may have already been given to him. The negotiations will have to be conducted with skill, patience, perseverance and a spirit of understanding and accommodating the sentiments of the people of Kashmir within the framework of our federal Constitution. Insisting on the abolition of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution will only throw a spanner in the negotiations.
At the same time that the initiative for talks was announced, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Syed Shahid Yusuf, son of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin, in a 2011 terror-funding case. The timing of the arrest raises some questions about the Centre’s idea of the scope of the talks and the organizations that it intends to engage with. It has by now been established that no solution of the Kashmir problem can be arrived at without engaging with those bodies which are called ‘separatist’.  The mishandling of the Kashmir issue by successive governments – at the Centre and in J. & K. -- has created a situation in which those advocating separation of Kashmir from India have won over some sections of the people to their way of thinking. It will be unwise not to recognize this reality. The sort of disturbances that swept the Kashmir Valley in the wake of Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter with the security forces in July last year underlines the need for talks with everyone, including extremist bodies like the Hizb.

Tuesday, 24 October, 2017