Unlike Kashmir’s summer of discontent (2010), this summer, by far, has been calm and economically productive for the state. Already, 140,000 tourists have visited the famous tulip gardens of Srinagar and reports say that hotels and houseboats are booked till July. So the obvious question now would be: are we seeing a turnaround for the better after decades of endless strife? The unfortunate part is that there are no clear answers. Even the most optimistic among us would say that one swallow does not a summer make. That is because Kashmir’s peace is linked to not only its relationship with New Delhi, the aspiration of the people, the performance of the State apparatus but also with what is happening next door. It is in this backdrop that one must assess the report of the three Kashmir interlocutors — Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari. The report of the team, which was appointed in 2010, was made public last week. The contents of the report are an outcome of the interlocutors’ interactions with more than 700 delegations held in 22 districts of the state and three round-table conferences, two in Srinagar and one in Jammu. While it has been panned by many, some even saying that New Delhi keeps the pot boiling even during peace times, one must remember that it was never supposed to be a magic wand to solve the myriad issues that beset Kashmir. It was set up to understand what Kashmiris want and the way forward for resolving the state’s issues.
The report proposes a “new compact” with the people of the state, with three components — political, economic and social and cultural; rules out a return to the pre-1953 position; favours the setting up of a constitutional panel to review all central Acts and articles to the state extended after 1952; deals with Centre-state relations and internal devolution of powers and suggests a roadmap listing confidence-building measures that include review of the Disturbed Areas Act and a re-appraisal of the application of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It also talks of finessing Article 370 and proper devolution of power and hassle-free movement of people and goods across the LoC. Among the confidence-building measures (CBMs), it talks of initiating an inter- and intra-Kashmir dialogue. Among the economic CBMs, it talks of better educational and health policies.
While it is true that many of the suggestions are not mint-fresh and should have been part of a normal governing process, this report must be seen as a beginning of the healing process. It is a step forward on the path everyone agreed to walk in 2010. While chief minister Omar Abdullah is yet to comment on the report, the PDP spokesman, Nayeem Akhtar, was more forthcoming: “A lot of resolution literature has been generated, but what is important is the implementation and follow up”. This is what Kashmir requires without delay. The ball has been set rolling, now it must not be stopped at any cost.