The spirit of accommodation with which the Indian Government and more specifically, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is viewing the Kashmir problem especially so after the recent bout of violence is now-a-days a subject of intense debate. There is a predominant perception that a response of this nature is correct since the issue is vitally linked to the security of the country’s citizens, the integrity of its borders, the hopes and aspirations of a segment of its population and the preservation of its democratic ideals. The Prime Minister is known to be a man of sound principles buttressed by a liberal dose of pragmatism. He also has the reputation of propounding workable solutions rather than spouting empty rhetoric.
The Prime Minister has broken new ground by acknowledging that there was some kind of a chronic problem in Kashmir. His belief is that there is a need to address the “Alienation and emotional needs” of the people of Kashmir. This belief, by implication, acknowledges the existence of an injury or a state of sickness. It would help perhaps if one dwelled slightly on the nature of this injury or sickness which has resulted in a psychological disorder. The two words ‘injury’ and ‘sickness’ have different connotations. The first alludes to intentional harm caused by an external agency, while the second points to the possibility of an internally generated state of ill health. Which of the two is the cause of the Kashmiri malaise, needs to be precisely diagnosed if one is to attempt a healing touch.
The prevalent view that emerges from within Kashmir of course refers to repeated injuries caused by the Union of India on the person of Kashmir and Kashmiri’s. In fact, such is the hysteria and hyperbole that has been generated along these lines that the real germane issues seem to have got eclipsed somewhere along the way. What after all is the harm that the Indian Government has caused to the State and people of Kashmir? Which are the atrocities perpetrated on the people and property of this region? Was it a crime to render aid when the region was reeling under the impact of a devastating earthquake? Was it an ingression on the liberty of the State if the Union government built a railway line that helped connect far-flung remote areas of the State with the capital as well as with each other? Or is it an attack on the self-respect of the Kashmiri’s if the Indian Government subsidises helicopter services to hard-pressed civilian population located in unapproachable areas in times of hostile weather conditions? Was the Kashmiri right to self-determination compromised when the Union Government poured developmental aid into the state or will it be compromised now when the Kashmiri people once again grasp the Prime Minister’s economic offering which will come by soon enough?
The tirade being run against the central security forces using the pretext of civilian deaths has been raised to such a frenzy that the Union Government in its attempt to normalise the situation is bending over backwards and inviting all interested parties for dialogue, such parties which are baying for ‘Azaadi’ though what they plan to do with it once they have it is anybody’s guess. There are those who want to remain independent and there are those who would like to join Pakistan. Both eventualities are non-starters. For what kind of independence would it be if they left India to join Pakistan whose own record as far as democratic rule is concerned is dubious to say the least? In case they decide to remain independent, would hawks such as Pakistan, China or the Taliban for that matter allow it? Would Kashmiri’s like to perhaps go the Afghanistan way?
The hue and cry often raised by Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists about Kashmir being under the occupation forces of India also needs to be tested. For instance, which occupation force would allow masses to protest the way they do every other day in Kashmir? Which occupation force would stand by and try to dodge stones being pelted at them by so called innocent civilians? Have we forgotten Chechnya, Bosnia or for that matter even Tiananmen Square? That is the stuff totalitarian regimes are made of. The very fact that Kashmiri’s, under the present regime, are being given the liberty to express so openly and fearlessly their harangue against the Indian Union speaks volumes for the tolerance of the Indian political system and its belief in the ideals of democracy.
On its part, the Union Government also needs to realise that dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is not going to change the situation because the main grouse is not against the Army in the first case. This policy of appeasement is not going to help anybody other than the terrorists who will get the much needed respite to recoup and then intensify their nefarious activities. In the socio-political milieu it can be expected that despite this initiative the Kashmiri’s will continue to survive on dole being given by the Centre, continue to berate the Centre, and continue to ask, nay demand for more. So long as the Kashmiri’s do not realise or are made to realise that ultimately it is their own region to which they are causing almost permanent damage nothing can be done to help them. This is certainly no way out of this conundrum!