Which should come first, crisis management or conflict resolution when it comes to Kashmir? All Party Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq seems to think it is the latter and is not too happy with what he sees as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s emphasis on the former. But to quibble over this would be to miss the subtext of Mr Singh’s conciliatory speech and his appeal to young people to return to the classroom. Those who feel that the present round of unrest is Kashmir’s intifada are unnecessarily romanticising something that can only bring more pain and suffering to the people. In the cold hard light of day, the reality is orphaned children, bereaved mothers and wasted lives. The PM has offered a way out with his offer of dialogue and economic opportunities. It may have come too late and it may not be as much as many hoped for. But there can be no mega package or quick-fix solutions to a problem that has been festering for decades.
It is now fairly evident that Pakistan isn’t a viable option for even the so-called separatists in the Valley. The neighbouring country holds out no hope or prospects for young people eager to integrate into a globalising world via the Indian economic growth engine. So it’s counterproductive, not to mention shortsighted, for people like hardliner Syed Ali Geelani to accuse the prime minister of coming up with the same policy. He may have come up with a variant of earlier policies, but this time around he has also spelt out ways in which incremental steps can be taken to address the grievances of Kashmir’s people, especially the youth. Even more obstructionist than
Mr Geelani’s statement is that from Asiya Andrabi, leader of the separatist Dukhtaran-e-Milat, when she accuses India of treating Kashmiris like beggars and asking to be set free to use their own resources.
It would be far more effective and serve the purpose of Kashmir if these perennial Cassandras could come up with their own solutions. At least then a debate could ensue. The PM has tacitly acknowledged the lapses in the government’s approach towards the problem. He has clearly offered to
begin the process of setting things right. Anyone, and that includes the separatists, have to meet him halfway. Those like Ms Andrabi who claim to speak for the people of Kashmir owe it to the younger generation to give peace a chance. The prime minister’s speech will no doubt spur those inimical to peace to carry out more atrocities. But the government and its security forces must be mindful of this and exercise the maximum restraint. Once the process of crisis management begins, conflict resolution cannot be far away.