Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 06 April 2018
The common perception is that Kashmir is sinking into abyss which is far from the truth. In ‘deliberately dressed-up perceptions, the narrative of divide between Kashmir and the Nation is being created’. Lots have been done for Kashmir. But surely there is need of some baby and some giant steps and both these kinds are well within the realm of possibility.
Historically, India has legitimate sovereign rights over complete Jammu & Kashmir. Instrument of Accession by the State of Jammu & Kashmir on 26 October 1947 and United Nations Resolution of 13 August 1948 have been illegitimately challenged through armed aggression and state-sponsored terrorism. Jammu & Kashmir thus remains a conflict zone; at least it is seen as such. Beyond many wars that have been fought over J&K, Kashmir conflict is now being pushed into the mind-space which shall set the agenda in this contest of will.
Let’s put our hands on the heart and ask, ‘is Kashmir in a state what it is made out to be’? With the killing of 13 terrorists last week, Kashmir is seen to be on the boil again with civil governance again being on test. But facts are stranger than fiction. Except for some engineered protests and stone-pelting, such instances are only sporadic and few. Shops are briskly selling shawls and carpets, cafés are serving quick coffee and leisurely-brewed kahwah, Sopore apples have done well, Shikaras are exciting couples, tourists are thronging Residency Road for Kashmiri Wazwaan and honeymooners are yet to have enough of the snow-covered slopes of Gulmarg. Thankfully due to NIA initiatives, funds with Hurriyat and terrorists are drying up, so are such protests and common man is slowly having sense of peace.
But why India appears to be on edge, whenever Kashmir is on news? Obviously, it’s the mind-space which is being targeted through perception of bedlam and stoking insecurity. Most of the incidents are miniscule and may be one off, yet a girl student throwing stone at CRPF vehicle, inimical voice narratives riding over cunningly collected video footages, funerals being glamorized, women wailing over dead bodies, terrorists firing during funerals; do create a sense of desperate fall and failure. Obviously social media has lot of role to play in this and so is local print media. Social media is being well-aided by Pakistan’s ISI and global virtual-jihad factories. Wahabism is failing the aspirations of common people in Kashmir. Local journalists are busy destroying the truth, busy vilifying and selling their conscience in their race for daily bread. Mosque-power well financed by Wahabi deep pockets and traction for false perceptions are fast capturing the Kashmiri mind-space.
So what’s the will of people in Kashmir? One thing is clear in the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of Kashmiri Awam that ‘they can never get independence from India and they will never like to join Pakistan’.And this silver line challenges us ‘not to postpone but rekindle dreams in Kashmir’
Who can revive peace in Kashmir? Nation and people often meet the destiny on the road they often take to avoid. Unfortunately Kashmir is not in control of Kashmiris. Peace has been outsourced to Pakistan and jihadist and that’s where Kashmiris are themselves to be blamed for being used as pawns and cannon fodder. The prevalent perception of the Kashmiri militancy being an industry which is beneficial to all its stakeholders may not be totally wrong. Militancy has been well monetized and is aiding politicians, maulvis, ulemmahs, teachers, students, journalists and many businessmen as well. Separatist leaders have gained maximum for themselves during last three decades. They get financial, political and military support from Pakistan, foolproof security apparatus from India and though limited but blind following from the Kashmiri youth. They have not made any sacrifice for the so called cause or peace. They are not united in their ideology and actions. They use situations to serve their vested interests. They have survived not on popular support from the Awam but on the false importance given by some short sighted Governments in Delhi. So it’s the Kashmiris who have to take a call as to what future and what type of peace they are looking for. Kashmiris have to control the narrative and actions in Kashmir. Speed is of essence as the fire which is burning the flavor of Kashmiriyat into ashes must be extinguished at the earliest.
How to revive peace in future? In the recent past mass uprising and protests have been witnessed in the Valley after Machhil encounter resulting in 112 civilian deaths; during Amaranth Shrine land agitation and now after killing of Burhan Wani causing more than 90 civilian deaths. The first two actually took place at short intervals and can be considered happening in tandem. But the latest protests after July 2016 have happened after relative peace of six years. This was the time when security forces had restored normalcy in the valley and political dialogue, good governance and mature statesmanship by leaders could have led to finding a lasting solution, but the golden opportunity was squandered. The present situation compels us to do some crystal gazing and see how that period of relative peace could have been utilized by various stakeholders.
What should be done to revive peace? There have been far too many historical blunders. But yet Churchill has said ‘if we quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future’. The crowd seen during militants’ funerals is not there for love of Azadi but due to fear of gun and social boycott. The large number of youth queuing up for Army Recruitment, limited state and central government jobs, sports and adventure activities, demand for good convent schools and colleges, unhindered movement of tourists, peaceful conduct of annual Amarnath yatra and full freedom to celebrate religious festivals like Mahashivratri are silver lines which speak the mood of people. After all why people should meet only in graveyards and why people should meet police, security forces in encounters? Obviously Kashmiris and people have to converge on the idea of peace and have to create common grounds for mutual aspirations to meet. The present situation requires a well thought out plan to address the fault-lines and strengthen the silver lines.
What are these baby and giant steps for reviving peace? Strategies of all stakeholders need to operate in tandem at various levels and in different spheres. The kinetic force of Army, CPFs and JKP will have to be judiciously used to contain the situation, restore normalcy and prepare conducive environment for dialogue and peace initiatives. The cross border infiltration and influence will have to strictly checked and so are the needs against influence of Wahabism and virtual-jihad. NIA has to continue with its mission to expose real face of Separatist leaders to the Awam. Women, students and youth are the ones among which resides the unfathomable idea of peace. The silent but harassed peace loving majority with full faith in Kashmiriyat must be given due attention and importance to do every bit to revive peace. Education must be modernized so that aspirations of Kashmiris are aligned to the global aspirations and Kashmir gets integrated into the idea of global village. Let Ramaswamy take admission in Pulwama Degree College and let Manjoor be happy studying in Bhagalpur University. A well coordinated strategy at national level with sincere and genuine efforts by all stakeholders and most importantly Kashmiris has the potential of solving the Kashmir problem and fix the historical mistakes. We all have just to illuminate the wonderful light from within and once it happens the future shall turn from appalling to appealing. And surely the best way to protect the future is to create it.
Lets’ rekindle the dreams.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 15 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.