The Predicament in Kashmir

July 2010

The Governments in J&K and in Delhi have in a sudden turn of events accepted that the situation in the Kashmir valley has fast deteriorated and have called in the Army to its rescue; its claims to heavy tourist rush, successful Khir Bhavani pilgrimage and decline in terrorist related incidents notwithstanding. We had been warning the Indian State about its skewed understanding of events and had carried out a series of write-ups and editorials for more than last one year to warn it against its flawed policies and the gathering disaster in the form of an Intifada.

The fact remains that the Indian state is facing a serious predicament in its Kashmir policy. This predicament is mostly self-created.  Instead of contesting and exposing the regressive content of various variants of separatism in Kashmir, GoI has over the years concentrated mostly in transforming its violent expressions into non-violent form. GoI has been more ill at ease only with the violence of separatists, rather than their ideology. It conveyed implicitly as well as explicitly that it was violence which was taking separatism towards a regressive manifestation.

GoI never exerted itself to bring to the fore that the violence unleashed in the state was an inevitable consequence of the regressive exclusivist content of separatism. When GoI started describing terrorism as militancy, and terrorists as misguided youth, it has been not merely a cosmetic or tactical ploy, but reflected the outlook which guides its Kashmir policy. This outlook accords respectability to separatist cause.

The predicament is not merely how to counter the thrust of a non-violent mass mobilisation. GoI is in fact face to face with a dangerous cocktail of non-violent Intifada and calibrated violent Jihad. Recent events in the state have shown that violence has not abated at all in intensity or sophistication.

Indian predicament only deepens the way it has allowed elected democratic dispensations to be undermined by none other than the elected governments themselves. GoI facilitated the People’s Democratic Party’s emergence on a soft secessionist plank. It introduced fierce competitive secessionism between PDP and NC on the ground. When PDP-led government assumed power, its leader described the elected government as merely an interface between Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The impression has been inculcated that elections are merely a makeshift arrangement for day to day requirements.

The ruling National Conference, taking a cue from PDP even before getting elected, described elections not a solution, but only a day-to-day use arrangement. Hundreds of political workers have perished during the democratic mobilisation in the state during the last one decade. When the world started recognising J&K elections as credible, GoI allowed the governments of which it was a partner to undermine their own legitimacy and credibility by describing themselves as mere ‘interfaces’ or temporary arrangements. The entire democratic mobilisation against the blackmail of armed separatism was disowned by allowing ‘Soft Secessionism’ as a guiding principle of Governance.

Democracy in the state has assumed a form which seeks a reach beyond the Constitution of India. It has started ceasing to be an expression of sharing the sovereignty of India on a principal of equality. Instead GoI has allowed democracy in the state to unleash assaults on the very sovereignty of India. We have now a government in the state whose front partner does not hesitate to support ‘Independence’ of the state. Separatism has a partner in the government which otherwise is expected to fight separatism.

Last but not the least, the GoI has allowed segments of our own strategic community and Track-2 diplomats to flirt with ideas of Independence of J&K or fully autonomous J&K. These ideas have been introduced from our side; and the rationale provided has been that counterpoising these options would checkmate Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir. With Pakistan giving clear indications of supporting both autonomy and Independence options, GoI appears to have only checkmated its own self.

The indulgence of a section of the Indian State in promoting religious-based identity politics in Jammu & Kashmir, including the options of Greater Autonomy and Independence, has not been always very subtle. It has been many times crude and ugly.

During the entire mobilisation for the present intifada in Kashmir, Jamaat and Dukhtaran-e-Millat cadres have been given a free hand last year as well as this year. There are very few persons who know that none other than former Pakistan Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg is on record saying that even Jamaat of Kashmir may support autonomy or independence.

It is now well known that the Intifada that has manifested itself in the organized stone-pelting mob violence is supported from across the border and heavily funded.  Isn’t it an irony that no less a person than the CM of J&K had mooted proposals to rehabilitate the stone-pelters by offering them government jobs. 

It is again ironic that how easily the elected representatives and the mainstream political parties have abdicated the political space in favour of the hooligans and the separatists.  The situation has drifted to a point where only a serious and strong handling is required to bring this intifada to an end.  The blame game must stop.  And in case a political consensus to retrieve the drift is not achieved, the Governor’s Rule should be imposed with Congress refusing to be a part of an alliance that is inapt to handle the situation.