With tension in Kashmir slightly tempered and curfew relaxed in select areas, parliamentarians who had visited the Valley early this week brainstormed today on the way forward for a political initiative.
“Some confidence building measures (CBMs) should be taken as soon as possible,” said CPM’s Sitaram Yechury. He had led a group of MPs to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who had turned down the invitation from the delegation.
While government functionaries in Delhi are enthused by the positive vibes created by the success of the all-party delegation, which had reached out to three prominent separatist leaders, they are also conscious that some messages from the Centre must go sooner rather than later. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) will meet next week to finalise CBMs.
What measures they can take still remain a matter of debate. “There are too many conflicting demands and views. Valley has a view; Jammu has another. In the rest of India, different political parties have different views. Within the Valley, there have been demands for azaadi, self-rule and autonomy,” pointed out a cabinet minister. “What we finally do must not inflame new passions.”
The Centre is in a mood to take some “calculated risks”, said a senior official. This could include scaling down the presence of security forces in the Valley, but a decision on reducing the areas under AFSPA could come at a later stage.
Over two days in Jammu and Srinagar, the delegation had met around 800 people, representing a cross-section of the population.
“Many people took offence to the description of the protestors as having sympathies to Pakistan. They reminded that the people of Kashmir stood by India during all wars with Pakistan,” a leader said.
Lack of employment opportunities and the question “why fire at those who are only throwing stones” were the other recurring concerns.
Many also pleaded specifically with BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj to be accommodative of the aspirations of the protestors.
Jaitley, while reiterating the party’s integrationist approach towards Kashmir, acknowledged: “A distinction should be made between the protestors and separatists.”
“The separatists should be dealt with firmly,” he said, arguing for doing away with the special status for J&K.
Government sources suggested that the visit helped all political leaders to understand the issue better and closer.
A medium-term solution — once the current wave of violence recedes — will veer around the question of ‘governance deficit’ raised by the CCS last week.
“There are two sets of issues. One about azaadi is more at an abstract level. The other set concerning daily lives can be addressed if the state government gets back on track,” an official said.
Another union minister missed the days when the Congress-PDP alliance government between 2003-2008 had virtually brought the entire political discourse in Kashmir to questions of development.