Delhi's feeble steps on J&K not enough

The Congress and BJP should keep out of Kashmir politics.

The appointment of former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma as the Centre’s fully-empowered interlocutor in Kashmir should not be seen as anything more than a weak attempt yet again of grappling with the fragile and explosive situation in the Valley after the outbreak of street violence in 2016 following the killing of self-proclaimed Hizbul Mujahideen “commander” Burhan Wani. It’s not likely to lead to any significant breakthrough. On the other hand, it poses a serious challenge to the political legitimacy of the People’s Democratic Party-BJP coalition government in the state. The Kashmir – unfortunately, there has been no comprehensive Jammu and Kashmir initiative — moves of the BJP-led NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi tell more about the thinking of the BJP than it does about the issues and situation in Kashmir. It needs to be remembered that Kashmir is a core ideological issue for the BJP since the Jan Sangh days and the death of Syama Prasad Mookerji in a Jammu prison in 1953. It is but natural that the BJP takes a calibrated stance when in power and adopts a strident tone when in Opposition.

In 2014, Mr Modi fired a measured salvo during the Lok Sabha campaign when he asked the people of Kashmir to assess for themselves whether Article 370 – the clause in the Constitution which guarantees a special status to J&K — has done any good for them. The abolition of Article 370 is part of the core agenda of the BJP. Despite its belligerence, however, the party is quite aware of the constitutional problem and the political implications of doing anything reckless. The Kashmir issue beats the BJP government and its ideologues due to the Pakistan factor. Former finance and external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, who led a BJP team to the Valley last year to meet the Hurriyat leaders, came back with the insight that the solution to the J&K issue does not lie in Srinagar — that is, solving the Kashmir problem will resolve the problems of India-Pakistan bilateral relations, but a solution to the Kashmir issue lies through Islamabad. Of course, Pakistan too feels that once the Kashmir issue is settled between the two countries, then everything will be well between them. India cannot accept the view openly and unconditionally, and the compulsions are real, and this has nothing to do with which party is in power at the Centre.

The Narendra Modi government has been quite enthusiastic about improving ties with Pakistan. The friendly overtures of Mr Modi, which sent liberal elements in India into bouts of ecstasy, turned out to be real duds. The surgical strikes last September did not have the desired effect either. So the Pakistan pathway to the solution of the Kashmir problem turns out to be elusive. In the last three years, the BJP has gone through many political exercises on Kashmir. The fact that it is part of the coalition led by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed has been a matter of pride for the party because it had at last made a place for itself in the politics of the state. But according to Kashmir insiders, it is the presence of the BJP in the state government that is the root of the wave of unrest in the Valley. These insiders are not particularly biased against the BJP. They hold that even the Congress shouldn’t be part of the power structure in Srinagar. This would create the pragmatic myth that Kashmir is on its own and there is no interference of any kind from the Central government. There is no insidious sedition in this thinking. Politicians in Tamil Nadu also think power in state should remain in the hands of regional Dravidian parties and that pan-Indian parties like the Congress or BJP have no place or role in the affairs of the state.

The problem and solution of the Kashmir issue lies with political parties in the state — the National Conference and the PDP. Of course, there are the Hurriyat factions, which want a share in the political pie, and which was denied to them by the NC’s vile games while it was in power. The PDP on the other hand wants to outflank Hurriyat by adopting a more strident position than that of the separatists. The PDP and the NC must deliver to the people on their promises of governance, Instead, they refer to the need to solve the Kashmir through talks with Pakistan to cover their own failures in government. Srinagar-based political parties must abandon their delusions of a Greater Kashmir of the old Dogra kingdom which include Northern Territories (Chitral and Baltistan), parts of Kashmir now under occupation by Pakistan. They should realise that Pakistan would have no patience with the tantrums of the NC, PDP and Hurriyat. Islamabad would want to use them as pawns against India, and nothing more. Once Kashmir’s political parties turn their backs on Pakistan, there will be greater clarity on what needs to be done. Greater autonomy for Kashmir shouldn’t pose a difficulty except in working out the details.

Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, who was wrongly berated as a dove by mindless right-wingers, had explained to Kashmiri leaders who were demanding that the high court and the state election panel not be answerable to the Supreme Court and Election Commission that it would harm their own interests as well as that of the people as there would be no remedy against the machinations of the dominant party in the state. It is after all India, not Pakistan, that can offer Kashmir the fruits of democracy. There’s no need to be apologetic about this. The Congress and BJP should keep out of Kashmir politics. The PDP, NC and Hurriyat should also cease playing the Pakistan card. As a part of the Union of India, Kashmiris have democracy and freedom to create their destiny.

( Source : Columnist )
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