Why Is Kashmir Sacrificed In Perpetuity?

 

by Junaid Azim Mattu

While the situation in Kashmir continues to deteriorate with each passing day, the conflict remains defined by the same factors that have remained unaddressed for the past seven decades. New Delhi’s failure in Kashmir is first and foremost a failure of perception. Successive regimes in New Delhi have failed to understand the political sentiment in Kashmir and have chosen to distort it to fit into changing national and media narratives – and this continues today. In ways, more than one, Kashmir has become this affordable collateral – sacrificed in perpetuity, managed operatively by the State and perceived variably to fit into our preconceived rhetoric.

It is this school of thought that has validated the discrediting of democracy in the State at regular intervals – apparently in the greater national interest. Toppled governments, engineered defections and more recently opportunistic alliances between two purportedly diametrically opposite ideologies – the State has witnessed a systemic devolution of democratic institutions to the singular advantage of those powers that have fuelled the conflict.

While externally, Pakistan’s role in keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir is something that has remained a part of their stated and subterranean policy, flawed policies within have allowed the political sentiment in Kashmir to be exploited towards violent and disruptive ends. The current situation in the Valley is the most recent example. While the romanticism of the ‘North Pole meets South Pole’ alliance was sold to the people as the State’s apparent redemption from internal  and regional friction, the consequences of what turned out to be rank political opportunism are there for everyone to see.

Repeated promises made to the people of Kashmir have been dishonoured at all too familiar altar of national interest. While separatism in Kashmir remains devoid of imagination and a will to resolve the conflict, the separatist politics is youth driven on the street. This today has become the biggest challenge that the mainstream faces. The empowerment of the street has been a direct result of the disempowerment of the system and more often than not, this has been facilitated by a failure of reconciliatory, constructive politics.

The recent agitations – in 2008, 2010 and 2016 – as also the ongoing situation in 2018, have witnessed a progressively radical transformation of thought amongst our youth. Radicalisation is a new challenge and is being regularly augmented by a lopsided investment in operational mechanisms. The national media narrative has become one defined by elimination and eradication of militants, as engagement and dialogue have been stigmatized. The institution of dialogue stands discredited as one initiative after another has been left halfway or abandoned with contempt.

I am of the firm belief that the ‘Idea of India’ is inherently an accommodative, liberal idea that can provide a dignified, sustainable way forward for the political sentiment in Kashmir to co-exist with the greater idea of a progressive, multicultural India. However, the muscular nationalism that has distorted this idea poses a great challenge to peace in Kashmir. The confrontational psyche that has become an almost permanent feature in New Delhi’s handling of alienation and isolation in Kashmir is a threat to not only the State’s stability but also that of the region as a whole.

Pakistan too needs to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of its Kashmir policy – of aiding and abetting radical militancy in Kashmir while itself grappling with its horrors. Recent statements by the Army Chiefs of both countries that the problem in Kashmir cannot be resolved militarily should be built up on and crafted into a comprehensive, long-term initiative that seeks to demilitarize civilian regions, grant an autonomous arrangement to both sides of the divided erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir and gradually build up on the dividends of peace.

While the people of Jammu and Kashmir remain the primary stakeholders in the conflict, it is New Delhi and Islamabad that have the leverage and the stakes to resolve the conflict. Entrenched, rhetorical positions won’t cut it anymore.

Internally, we need to offer a progressive vision – across the divide. There are far too many powers and forces that have become too comfortable with the conflict being prolonged – even benefitting from the misery and pain of devastation that the common-man has to endure. These are the forces that need to be defeated for the victory of our people, for the future of our children.

(Junaid Azim Mattu is the State Spokesperson of J&K National Conference. Views expressed are purely personal and not those of the organization.)

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