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The three Jammu-Kashmirs

india Updated: Aug 16, 2008 22:49 IST
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For David Devadas, author of In Search of A Future: The Story of Kashmir, the latest land dispute in Jammu and Kashmir is yet another case of three parties seeing three completely different things in what is one entity: J&K. Here he looks at the three extreme views: in Jammu, in Kashmir and in New Delhi

Like a pair of utterly dissimilar twins, Jammu’s Hindus and Kashmir’s Muslims are in a bitter brawl. Throw in their guardian, the Government of India, and you are witnessing a horrible psychodrama. What has been taking place over the last 57 days is an explosive clash of narratives that tell the same story where three protagonists are seeing different, conflicting things.

Over the last many weeks, these narratives have swayed from resentment and fear to open hatred. Neither side comprehends the other’s logic; both see fanatics on either side. Worse, each side is convinced that the government favours — and colludes with — the other.

The consequences can be much more terrible than they already are. Combined with the conviction that the other side comprises evil-doers, the cause to escalate violence is already there in the bag. In Kashmir, talk of ‘occupation’, ‘economic blockade’ and ‘fanatics in Jammu’ is bound to feed into the larger discourse of pan-Islamic victimisation, particularly in the minds of a generation that has grown up during the militancy years and has followed the ongoing global war on Islamic terrorism.

Before anything else, the government has to regain credibility. Brute repression hasn’t helped in the past and won’t this time either. Consistent policies and firmness are vital. The government must re-establish communication not only with leaders on both sides but also with the public in Jammu and in Kashmir.

To engage, one must first understand. And to understand, one must first see what the disparate narratives of Jammu’s Hindus, Kashmir’s Muslims and of the Government are. These are views that must be heard. And, of course, they’ll be jarring to many.