Kash­mir: the sec­ond up­ris­ing

The Pak Banker - - Editorial - Shahzad Chaudhry

Kash­mir needs more hon­est treat­ment. The prob­lem is now far be­yond its ter­ri­to­rial colour. The slight­est in­dig­na­tion of Kash­miri sen­si­tiv­ity rekin­dles a pas­sion for azadi. Let us face it, not only from In­dia but from Pak­istan as well

1989 was Kash­mir's first sig­nif­i­cant up­ris­ing and it ran its com­plete cy­cle. From ini­ti­a­tion to ac­ti­va­tion to ap­pli­ca­tion, it cre­ated a furore in the In­dian es­tab­lish­ment that at­tracted a dis­pro­por­tion­ate re­sponse from the cen­tre. Close to 750,000 mil­i­tary and para­mil­i­tary troops were po­si­tioned in Kash­mir to fight off what looked to In­dia like a cross-border spon­sored ef­fort at se­ces­sion. The ma­jor­ity of these forces still re­main in Kash­mir and con­tinue to po­lice any sen­ti­ment that seems in­im­i­cal to the In­dian es­tab- lish­ment's per­cep­tion and fears. It has now be­come the source for Kash­mir's sec­ond up­ris­ing, the pangs of which re­ver­ber­ate through the val­ley with death, blood and the stench of gun­pow­der.

In some of the more re­cent par­leys at the track two level be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan, a point has been re­peat­edly made: Kash­mir looks un­usu­ally peace­ful, tourists have re­turned and busi­nesses seem to have picked up; will it re­main so as Kash­mir heads into its peak sea­son? We, the Pak­ista­nis, have gen­er­ally lis­tened to what has al­ways seemed loud think­ing full of pre­mo­ni­tion and ap­pre­hen­sion ac­com­pa­nied with a strange in­quis­i­tive­ness as if we could pro­vide some clues.

Kash­mir has been a dif­fi­cult case for both coun­tries. It has been a hard nut, dif­fi­cult to crack, a men­tion loathe to In­dian sen­si­bil­ity. Kash­mir has been such a psy­cho­log­i­cal bind that has held to ran­som all mat­ters be­tween the two states and those that needed to be ini­ti­ated be­tween Jammu and Kash­mir and the cen­tre. Some­times its men­tion and an­other time its lack of men­tion are both seen as po­tent trig­gers of ex­treme emo­tion on both sides. Kash­mir begs ra­tio­nal treat­ment.

Some­where along the course of the erst­while 'com­pos­ite di­a­logue', the is­sue has been dealt vary­ing re­sponses, at times bold when the back chan­nel dur­ing the Mushar­raf years seemed to be prof­fer­ing a so­lu­tion of sorts, at other times with ut­most cau­tion when the In­dian politico-bureau­cratic es­tab­lish­ment has been wary of bring­ing Kash­mir into fo­cus with their Pak­istani in­ter­locu­tors.

In this cur­rent phase of the Kash­miri up­ris­ing, the treat­ment of the is­sue is again in­struc­tive. The broader In­dian in­tel­li­gentsia opines dif­fer­ently from the es­tab­lish­ment's view when it in­sists that the is­sue is home-grown and based on se­ri­ous in­ad­e­qua­cies of suf­fi­cient po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic sen­si­tiv­ity. The In­dian na­tional se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment on the other hand, af­ter an ini­tial ac­qui­es­cence to the need for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion, has gone back to harp on the old tune of cross-border spon­sor­ship. Both ap­proaches work at counter-pur­poses to each other and defy what seems to be the emerg­ing new tack in In­dia on Kash­mir: that of in­ter­nal­is­ing Kash­mir as a do­mes­tic is­sue and ex­ter­nal­is­ing Pak­istan from any­thing to do with it. When blam­ing Pak­istan, the In­dian se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment im­plic­itly makes Pak­istan a rel­e­vant player, even if in a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion, and largely sub­verts the im­mi­nence beg­ging im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion by triv­i­al­is­ing it as an ex­ter­nally mo­ti­vated prob­lem. The ef­fort by In­dian non­estab­lish­ment agen­cies, such as the me­dia, con­tin­ues to rant from the fresh script of avoid­ing Pak­istan's men­tion and, by im­pli­ca­tion, mak­ing Pak­istan ir­rel­e­vant. In the on­go­ing de­bate on Kash­mir in the In­dian print and elec­tronic me­dia, any in­clu­sion of a Pak­istani per­spec­tive is strictly out of bounds.

Fol­low­ing the 2009 elec­tions, credit was claimed for wide en­fran­chise­ment of the Kash­miris. To­day, iron­i­cally, it is a fre­quent lament of a lost op­por­tu­nity and a waste of po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal in Kash­mir, when both the state and the cen­tre have failed to build on the in­cre­men­tally im­prov­ing po­lit­i­cal cli­mate within the val­ley. For some rea­sons, the poli­cies ei­ther change or are put to waste. The re­cent spate of killings in Kash­mir, the Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act (AFSPA) and the highly cal­lous treat­ment of some high pro­file hu­man rights cases in­clud­ing den­i­gra­tion of women, all add fire to the resid­ual sen­ti­ment of dis­ap­point- ment when both the state and the cen­tre dis­re­garded Kash­miri sen­si­bil­ity on the Ama­ranth land case a few years back.

The na­ture of Kash­mir's de­fi­ance has clearly changed, and that must shake the In­dian es­tab­lish­ment out of any com­pla­cency. What is home­grown is usu­ally deep, builds slowly, but per­sists, as is the case with the cur­rent cy­cle of ag­i­ta­tion. What will come from ex­ter­nal mo­ti­va­tion must of essence be short, vi­o­lent, de­struc­tive and aimed at giv­ing quick re­sults. Any ef­fort by the In­dian es­tab­lish­ment to de­mean the im­por­tance of what is hap­pen­ing in Kash­mir is, at best, op­por­tunist and de­vi­a­tional.

There are two con­cur­rent ap­proaches to Kash­mir in In­dia. One be­lieves in the safer op­tion of keep­ing Kash­mir out of fo­cus, also pop­u­lar in Pak­istan un­der the rubric of plac­ing Kash­mir on the back­burner.

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