Dialogue it is: How Rajnath’s assuaging remarks in Kashmir mirror Delhi’s realisation

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first_imgThe Valley is witnessing the first stirrings of its famed autumn as chinar leaves turn russet-brown, clouds play a celestial symphony and purple-green hills herald the onset of winter. Sure, an encouraging altered security matrix offers a modicum of normality. But a feeling of anomie and dejection is still palpable.,The Valley is witnessing the first stirrings of its famed autumn as chinar leaves turn russet-brown, clouds play a celestial symphony and purple-green hills herald the onset of winter. Sure, an encouraging altered security matrix offers a modicum of normality. But a feeling of anomie and dejection is still palpable. Many factors have contributed to this, including the grim economic situation, a severe downturn in tourism, cross-LoC shelling, persistent India-Pakistan tension and the absence of political dialogue between the Centre and stakeholders in Kashmir.Kapil Kak In the security milieu, the army’s ‘hard posture’, more credible and actionable local intelligence and enhanced inter-institutional synchronisation have enabled security forces to achieve counter-terror successes and eliminate the top militant leadership. On the flip side, fidayeen strikes have seen an uptick. The youth, deeply alienated, are joining militant ranks. Local Kashmiris in the Central Armed Police and the army, serving and retired-who were never targeted before-are now increasingly under attack.Scores of incidents of mysterious braid-chopping in the last month are the latest addition in the security dynamic. These have led to rumour-mongering and hysteria and caused avoidable public action against innocents. Unless expeditiously resolved, the issue could cause a security setback. Encouragingly, stone pelting and the associated unrestrained use of pellet guns have nearly ceased, as have the huge militant funerals and a predominant pro-Pakistan sentiment. There have also been some protests over the mindless terrorist killings-a trend that could adversely impact the local socio-logistical ecosystem terrorists need.Over the past two months, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, a Congress collective led by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s Concerned Citizens’ Group and former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s grouping have visited the state. Their separate outreach efforts, through wide-ranging conversations with diverse civil society entities, have helped garner political grievances on wide-ranging issues.advertisementAmong the many concerns are the decades-long political betrayal on constitutional guarantees, attempts to undo Articles 370 and 35A, fears on national right-wing forces and vigilantes targeting minorities, and the singular reliance on the use of force. Home minister Rajnath Singh’s assuaging remarks appear to suggest a realisation in Delhi that without a dialogue, the situation in Kashmir can only worsen.Attempts by ruling party ideologues to judicially whittle down Article 35A, which extends special rights to permanent residents of J&K, caused a flutter among mainstream political parties and separatists alike and drove them to a rare unity. That the Centre did not uphold a constitutional provision, passed the buck to the state and averred in the Supreme Court that the issue raised ‘sensitive questions that need a wider debate’ confirmed the Kashmiris’ worst apprehensions. The Centre may have to file a counter-affidavit at the next hearing-as has been done three times since the 1960s when the subject came up-else the matter could spin out of control.Among the youth, green shoots of attitudinal socio-economic change are discernible within the layered Kashmir conundrum, despite unemployment at 26 per cent against the national 13.5 per cent. Central and state governments, civil society bodies and NGOs continue to assist young professionals in Kashmir to develop creative models for youth engagement and entrepreneurship-the latter under public-private partnership. State sports bodies are imaginatively engaging young students in scores of sports across Banihal and Zojila passes that help bridge the regional divide. Recently, nearly 20,000 people watched a high-voltage football match at Bangus, near the LoC, without security-something unthinkable in years gone by.This trend of constructive change offers the Centre another opportunity to hit ‘refresh’ on Kashmir, because a sincere political outreach, through a multi-level dialogue with all stakeholders, could transform Kashmir. Tardiness on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in redeeming his Independence Day pledge to ’embrace the Kashmiris’ would confirm their suspicions that he was only giving to them, to use Thiruvalluvar’s words, “the gift of the gifted tongue.”Air Vice-Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak is part of the Track II process in Jammu and Kashmirlast_img

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