Union home minister Amit Shah’s announcement that the government will have no talks with Pakistan but instead wanted to speak to the people of Kashmir looks more like his aiming at scoring a political point than making an attempt to address the real issues of the people there.
Given the continuous support the Pakistani establishment has been giving to the terrorists operating in Kashmir, there is no need for India to rush for talks with Pakistan. In fact, even peaceniks on either side of the border are not pushing for a dialogue now, especially since Pakistan has been going through turmoil, politically and economically. That nation is at war with itself and there is little point in talking to them now. At the same time, it cannot be ignored that the Shimla Agreement, which commits this nation to solving the Kashmir issue bilaterally with Pakistan, has not been rejected by any Indian government. India has spurned overtures by foreign governments, including those which have been friendly, citing the agreement. So, raising the issue of talks and then rejecting it does not seem to be the wisest thing the government of India can do now.
The Union home minister, however, would want to talk to the people of Kashmir, especially its youth, “to know what it wants”. From the looks of it, it is a great suggestion but given the track record of the NDA government with respect to the UT, the statement inspires little confidence. It gave very little weightage to the will of the people of the state when it went ahead and hollowed out Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and stripped J&K of its status as a state in the Indian Union, bifurcating it. The government did not even bother to check the will of Indian people when it pushed through such an important piece of legislation in one day in each House of Parliament. If the Union government wants to know what the people of Kashmir think, then it should push for early elections in the UT and then talk to the government installed. Any attempt outside it will be undemocratic, unconstitutional and ineffective. Talk of development and data on investments cannot supplant democracy.
Mr Shah sought to dismiss the Gupkar Alliance, made up of all major political parties in the state barring the BJP, saying they gave only stones and grenades. The veracity of the home minister’s words may be checked later but it may be remembered that the Union government has taken on board even extremists’ outfits operating in the Northeast in its efforts to find lasting solutions to militancy-related issues of the region. It pays to accommodate different voices; trashing them hardly helps.
Mr Shah has announced that the Pahari community in the region would get Scheduled Tribe status, making it the first linguistic community to get such a status. From the looks of it, it’s a welcome decision in that such minorities, whether linguistic or religious or cultural, add beauty to the idea of India and attempts to protect them contribute directly to the protection of the idea of India which can thrive only by promoting diversity. However, the government may ensure that it has a game plan to address the voice of Opposition which has already been heard against the decision, and also to deal with such demands that could come up from other such linguistic groups.