A meeting in Delhi of the members of the all-party parliamentary delegation, which went to Jammu and Kashmir last week, requested the state and central governments to take steps for a dialogue with all stakeholders. The resolve for a sustained dialogue is a welcome, especially because it comes a day after reports that the Centre was mulling a crackdown on the separatists. Union home minister Rajnath Singh told members that the Centre was not looking to either downgrade their security or freeze their passports. Shutting the door on the separatist leaders — even though they are not entirely in control of the street agitations that have paralysed the Valley over the last two months — would have been disastrous signal at a time when New Delhi needs to hold out an olive branch.
The government has indicated that it is willing to set up a MPs’ panel to carry the dialogue forward. This paper has made a case for continual, uninterrupted engagement and it is important that the process — initiated by the delegation’s visit to the state — be a sustained one. Momentum is of utmost importance and no time should be lost in announcing the panel and its mandate. A serious attempt must be made for a political resolution of the long-festering issue and the Kashmiri stakeholders, separatists included, must also respond because the panel would have the backing of Parliament. Speaking to the media after the meeting, the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said his party has batted for several confidence building measures that include the lifting of the draconian Afspa from civilian areas and the immediate discontinuation of pellet guns. Mr Yechury also asked for probes into cases of alleged excesses that have led to the deaths of civilians.
The above suggestions should have actually come from the state and Centre, but all is still not lost. As the head of the all-party delegation, the home minister should factor these into the plan, which should include both short-term and long term steps. A formal acceptance of the confidence-building measures could help break the unending cycle of violence. Once that is accomplished, the MPs’ panel should work towards a long-term solution. Members at the meeting also suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should engage with Pakistan if he goes there in November for the Saarc Summit. The road ahead is clear, provided New Delhi is serious about walking the talk. The time has come to seize the opportunity and move to the next level in Kashmir. India cannot afford otherwise.