Kashmir needs ambience for talks, besides interlocutor
The appointment of an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir is a gingerly first step. The move’s welcome as it shows the Centre’s inclination to set up talks after a sustained scorched earth policy to isolate separatists, take out militants.
But it’s a half-measure, or stage-one of the dialogue architecture envisaged by the Centre. The interlocutor, former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma, isn’t a politician. He’s a political appointee whose mandate is unclear except that he’d engage with all stakeholders.
There’s no time-frame for the completion of the task assigned to him. It’s assumed that he’d make a report to the Centre that, in turn, will evolve a modus vivendi to take the process forward, factoring in the political, social and security implications of issues under focus.
A start it is of a difficult journey with its share of bumps, potholes and unavoidable speed-brakers. But the core concern one often hears in the Valley has to be resolved right away: the Kashmiri Muslims’ sense of being abandoned and despised by a vocal section in the rest of India.
The alienation compounded each night by belligerent television programming and incidents of majority vigilantism has afflicted even those who abhor militancy. “There’s a sentiment for dialogue with dignity,” remarked Srinagar-based journalist, Zafar Miraj.
For dialogue to gain traction, the interlocutor will have to speak to all — including separatists — without preconditions, said Miraj. “But first a climate of trust has to be built by putting a stop to parochial political statements (from Jammu) and vile television propaganda.”
Towards the same objective, the Centre and the state government would do well to resort to some creative unilateralism even as the interlocutor goes about his task. A ‘human touch’ administrative approach could smother the pain of counter-terror operations and pre-empt what the security forces fear: recurrence of a Burhan Wani type trigger that provoked unprecedented outrage.
Now what could be that balm, that human face? Creating jobs for youth is one obvious option to keep them aloof from guns and intoxication. That was suggested with some emphasis by the state police chief, SP Vaid.
For starters, all states, especially those under BJP rule, must be vigilant against identity-driven mob violence of the kind that finds resonance and vitiates the atmosphere in Kashmir. Generally speaking, the anti-Kashmiri political narrative that has been the religious right’s raison d’etre will have to be curbed. The greater the identification of Kashmiri Muslims with Pakistan, the bigger will be the room for the western neighbour to stoke ferment to derail the proposed intra-Kashmir talks.
In specific terms, there should be no repeat of attacks seen in the past on Kashmiri students in educational institutions outside the State. It’s only through the opportunities for learning and earning will the Valley’s youth develop a stake in the survival and prosperity of mainland India.
But is such expression of love possible in the times of elections? Perhaps not, but the risk is outweighed by the prospect of winning Kashmir for India. The challenge is for the entire political class, not just the NDA.