Kash­mir, a big chance for PM Modi to stride into his­tory

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Vol 14 Is­sue No. 313 The au­thor is a se­nior lawyer

After Naren­dra Modi’s his­toric vic­tory, peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions have risen sky high and as­pi­ra­tional In­dia is look­ing up to him as a new mes­siah, who can solve all critical prob­lems that the na­tion faces — ter­ror­ism, eco­nomic slow­down, un­em­ploy­ment, agrar­ian dis­tress, Kash­mir, is­sues of Ar­ti­cle 370 and 35-A, re­turn of ex­iled Pan­dits back to Kash­mir — and vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing un­der the sun.

Though ex­pec­ta­tions have been raised high on the ab­ro­ga­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 and 35-A, ex­perts be­lieve it might not be doable.

Kash­mir and the coun­try’s re­la­tions with Pak­istan has to be the main fo­cus of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and home min­is­ter Amit Shah, who has to re­alise that the Kash­mir af­fair has wheels within wheels and in­ter­na­tional play­ers

Ashok Bhan are keenly watch­ing the In­dian gov­ern­ment’s next move.

The gov­ern­ment also needs to ac­knowl­edge that the use of ter­ror­ist force is not a so­lu­tion to the com­plex sit­u­a­tion in Kash­mir.

To win peo­ple’s trust is the real is­sue. It is pos­si­ble through en­gage­ment with all stake­hold­ers. In the name of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, peo­ple have no voice of their own and are con­trolled by prox­ies from across the border.

The cit­i­zens know the dis­as­trous con­se­quences of what Pak­istan and ter­ror­ists have done to the cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of Kash­mir. But equally, an anti-in­dia sen­ti­ment that has grown over the years, is so strong that com­mon peo­ple refuse to see the logic.

Pak­istan plays spoiler when­ever there is an at­tempt to open talks with Kash­miris for peace and progress — in other words, it is en­gaged in a hy­brid war.

Se­cu­rity forces and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have over­looked and misjudged the po­ten­tial of this hy­brid war. The re­sult is that tourism, ed­u­ca­tion, health ser­vices, law and or­der, de­vel­op­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties and pub­lic griev­ances sys­tem have all col­lapsed in the state.

Demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions stand marginalis­ed and dis­cred­ited. Drugs, black mar­ket­ing of es­sen­tial goods, smug­gling of tim­ber, hawala and fake cur­rency have be­come the back­bone of a par­al­lel con­flict econ­omy.

Kash­mir de­serves to be man­aged by an out-of-box “vi­sion” that can en­com­pass a com­pre­hen­sive process to re­solve out­stand­ing is­sues, rather than dither­ing. Gover­nor’s rule is no substitute to democ­racy and elec­tions have to be held.

Peo­ple’s sup­port to ex­trem­ism, seen in their large par­tic­i­pa­tion at fu­ner­als of slain mil­i­tants, are is­sues that should worry cit­i­zens and even more, the gov­ern­ment.

Ter­ror­ism in the Kash­mir Val­ley has de­vel­oped an au­tonomous rai­son d’etre in the ab­sence of a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy and di­a­logue with stake­hold­ers.

Un­rest in Kash­mir has fre­quently been at­trib­uted to cross-border hos­til­i­ties and ter­ror­ism. But po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence in the state is rooted deep in the de­nial of jus­tice, dis­re­spect for le­git­i­mate as­pi­ra­tions and skul­dug­gery re­sorted to by New Delhi over the years, al­lege the Kash­mir in­tel­li­gentsia.

An­a­lysts are sur­prised that po­lit­i­cal man­agers in New Delhi have not left any space for both main­stream and non-main­stream Kash­miri lead­er­ship to ex­ert a mod­er­at­ing in­flu­ence that could pre­vent young­sters from tak­ing up the gun.

Kash­mir has been on the boil for more than 29 years. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, both civil­ians and sol­diers, have died and the pop­u­la­tion of Kash­miri Pan­dits ex­iled.

Ter­ror­ism has ren­dered the state, es­pe­cially the Val­ley, with­out liberty and in­di­vid­u­al­ity. It has dev­as­tated the econ­omy, ed­u­ca­tion, the nor­mal liv­ing pat­tern and the plu­ral ethos. The so­ci­etal psy­che is turn­ing cyn­i­cal and de­spon­dent, which is also the avowed aim of the Pak­ista­nis.

Modi 2.O has raised ex­pec­ta­tions in Kash­mir. The av­er­age Kash­miri has both hope and fears. Hope — that Modi’s mas­sive man­date may help him to think out-of-box to re­solve the is­sue and go down in his­tory as a legend. Fears, that his gov­ern­ment’s be­lief in a strong mus­cu­lar pol­icy and pro­nounced rhetoric about the ab­ro­ga­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 and 35-A of the Con­sti­tu­tion and change in re­gional elec­toral de­mog­ra­phy by re­freez­ing the de­lim­i­ta­tion in Jammu & Kash­mir state, could be dam­ag­ing.

There is an ur­gency to cre­ate con­sen­sus across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. Op­po­si­tion par­ties, in­clud­ing the Congress, have a big stake and role in shap­ing the fu­ture Kash­mir pol­icy. Kash­mir has to be treated as a na­tional pri­or­ity and an in­de­pen­dent is­sue that de­serves col­lec­tive na­tional at­ten­tion and a com­pre­hen­sive na­tional pol­icy in­stead of a party-cen­tric ap­proach.

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