Reaching out to the Hurriyat

The Centre seems to have realized at long last that a military or muscular approach to the continuing political unrest in Kashmir will not solve the problem. First, there was the announcement that security forces would discontinue their operations during the Ramadan month. This was followed by the decision that if the peace was not disturbed then the ‘ceasefire’ would continue even after the end of the Ramadan month. And now Home Minister Rajnath Singh says the Centre is willing to talk to the separatist Hurriyat also. This is in stark contrast to the Centre’s stand up till now that there cannot be any talks with the separatists or pro-Pak elements. The Hurriyat, undoubtedly, is both. And equally undoubtedly, to bring back peace in Kashmir, the Centre will have to talk to all the stakeholders, including the Hurriyat. If the Hurriyat does not respond or reciprocate, the blame will squarely lie on their shoulders.
Already, Rajnath Singh’s offer for talks has been welcomed by a cross section of public opinion in Kashmir. The first thing is to stabilize the peace which is prevailing now. Both sides should refrain from doing or saying anything that may disturb the peace. The second step should be to open talks between the Centre and the different stakeholders, not so much to work out an immediate solution to the Kashmir problem as, to begin with, to create a climate of mutual trust. Once this has been accomplished, then substantive talks can begin on the basic issue of arriving at a comprehensive settlement.
There is no denying the fact that the Kashmir problem has been mishandled by successive governments – not merely by the NDA. Everyone has talked about the necessity of suppressing militancy which is aided and abetted by Pakistan, but very few have asked themselves the question, why the Kashmiri people are getting progressively alienated from India and why army operations have failed to put an end to militancy but more and more people are either joining the ranks of the militants or are actively supporting them. When the security forces reach a spot where some militants are hiding, it is the local people who first start stone pelting so as to give an opportunity to the militants to escape. The root of the problem lies in the alienation of the Kashmiris. And the solution lies in finding out ways of putting an end to the process of alienation and beginning the reverse process of integration – that is, psychological integration of the Kashmiri people with the rest of India.

Monday, 28 May, 2018