Shhhhhh! Quiet talks are about to start

Arshid Malik

In 1865 German chemist Friedrich August Kekul? suggested that the structure of Benzene contained a six-membered ring of carbon atoms with alternating single and double bonds, a subject that had puzzled scientists for decades. He said that he had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail. Fascinating, isn’t it. This was long ago, yet it bears similarity in the element of surprise to Indian government’s sudden though reprising initiative to hold talks with the alienated people of Kashmir. It seems the union government had a “Kekulian” run down to come up with the initiative again after a long slumber.  Now the point of intrigue is to what intensity the government’s initiative would match the divulging reverie of Kekule. It appears that the government has not worked up a proper appetite for success which would of course have been possible through a proper and widespread ground exercise, mention of which is also missing in the announcements made by the executives of the government in their speeches and press statements.
The big announcement arrived with the Union Home Minister, P Chidambram during his latest visit last week. He said the union government was embarking on “quiet dialogue and quiet diplomacy to find a unique solution to Kashmir”, and has successfully created some ripples in the socio-politico-economic spheres of the Valley. The “offer for talks” is the talk of the town with every Sula, Gula and Jamal discussing the possible outcomes and modus operandi of the current offer and the general opinion is that much cannot be anticipated in the light (read shadow) of the fact that the past efforts at taking the proverbial bull by the horns have utterly and miserably failed due to lack of circumspect ground initiatives.
This time over, the central government has possibly nothing new to offer to the “people of different shades of opinion” of J&K and to separate the specter from the spectator the hue of “quiet” has been lent to the offer. Besides, when we are talking about dialogue in situations of conflict, we must comprehend the fact that dialogue is a holistic approach to a problem that offers solutions and insights by breaking its stereotypical representations and those chosen for the dialogue are not necessarily outspoken leaders (for whoever they are, they speak as individuals whose own unique experiences differ in some respect from others on their side). To achieve the goals of the dialogue process intensive ground work is needed wherein pre-meeting contacts and preparation of participants are essential elements, besides ensuring that the environment is conducive and safe for holding the dialogue. By all standard measures no such thing has preceded the talks initiative of the government as has been the case in the multitude of attempts made earlier to reach “common ground” and resolve the crisis to a certain and viable extent.
Waking sluggishly up to a reverie like Kekule and expecting the results of a genius is a far-fetched dream and the central government must realize that besides the fact that that millions of lives are at stake. Not having been able to initiate measures for bettering the position of the common Kashmiri in the shape of proper rehab packages, failing to contain the human rights violations being committed in Kashmir, not being able to offer any clues to the forced disappearances and cold blooded murders of youth, and not having been able to provide justice to the victims of rape, the central government is off the hook from attempting to achieve anything out of the current initiative.  All we can hope for is that the “quiet dialogue and diplomacy” does not violate the partial quietude that we as a people have somehow attained.

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