It may be a case of clutching at straws, but the first interactions of the Kashmir interlocutors have not gone off as badly as many expected. The fact that many in the political firmament did not talk to the three persons deputed by the government does not seem to have put them off. In fact, they have been able to talk to many jailed militants from many factions. The fact that the BJP has chosen to rake up the issue of the team mentioning the involvement of Pakistan is unfortunate and derails the whole issue of finding a solution to the problem that has brought life to a standstill for the people of the Valley.
As mentioned in these columns before, no door should be shut in trying to find a way out of this impasse. The likes of hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani may find it politically useful to stick to their diktat of pushing for students to stay away from their classes, but this is not helping anyone. A generation of young people cannot be held to ransom by politics that will yield them no dividends in the future. The three may or may not be able to proffer any immediate answers to the intractable problem of Kashmir, but at least they should be given a chance to engage with all the people involved in a final settlement. And this will certainly involve the people and not just those who speak on their behalf. To that extent, the team has spoken to students, many of whom have found their education cut short by constant calls for boycotts and curfews, who want to look at life beyond this mess.
There is no doubt that the team will have its work cut out given that political leaders in the Valley were dismissive of it even before it began its work. And naturally, the issue of Pakistani involvement will surface as it already has. But this should not be a sticking point in the efforts to restart the peace process. The fact that most people that the interlocutors have spoken to have sought that a congenial atmosphere be established is a positive sign. In the days to come, we can expect some hyperbole like that of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq asking for the direct intervention of Barack Obama in the Kashmir dispute. But for the moment, the very fact that a dialogue has begun once again after months of turmoil and bloodshed is a sign that we might well be looking at a tiny silver lining in the ominous cloud.