The Idea of Kashmir

With an enemy like Pakistan, the Modis have very little to worry about for the upcoming parliamentary poll. Not that 'Pulwama' was the only occasion to force political parties, cutting across ideological divides, to project a united face against terror, rather cross-border terrorism. They did it on many occasions in the past. And they would do it in future. But condemning terror attacks and paying homage to martyrs doesn't mean they have any political programme to counter politics of terror. After each carnage they could think more of the same—strengthening security. Militancy is not born out of thin air or some kind of mythical phantom. What matters is pertaining to the idea inseparable from the concrete reality of the daily lives of human beings, not militants. Meanwhile Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan didn't take too much time to authorise the military to respond decisively to any Indian misadventure. And Mr Khan's army spokesman Major General Ghafoor went a step further and issued a warning that they would respond to any attack with "full force". In other words a war hysteria is back on both sides of the fence. And  hysteria will reach its peak in the coming months after India's response to 'Pulwama'. At the time of writing New Delhi claimed that Indian Air Force bombed a JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Paktunkhawa province, killing about 300 trainee terrorists. The moot question is who is going to gain from sabre-rattling. Quite expectedly Pakistan's top security establishment said they were not involved in any way in the Pulwama incident, which they claimed, was 'conceived ,planned and executed indigenously'. Both ruling and opposition parties are totally isolated from the masses of Kashmir. As the army now enjoys freehand in Kashmir people continually live in a permanent state of fear psychosis. They can not talk freely. Nor can they express themselves in a democratic way. It's rather controlled democracy or manipulated democracy they have been witnessing in Kashmir for so many decades.

Daily wage earners, small traders and peasants are being constantly haunted by uncertainty and insecurity. No political party looks willing to organise them on their just demands—economic demands .How many young Kashmiri people are languishing in jails across the country simply for protesting against the tyranny and army brutalities is not known. Prison population in Kashmir is on the rise. But political parties seldom talk about release of political prisoners. With job opportunities for the educated youth getting stagnated it is quite logical that militancy will have lasting appeal to the disgruntled. Unless Pakistan is isolated from masses of Kashmir no amount of blaming game will serve any purpose. Then no party is interested in taking on Pakistan politically in the valley. As for isolating Pakistan internationally the Modis depend too much on the Uncle Sam which is after all a bad idea. No doubt U S President Donald Trump described as horrible the dastardly terror attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed in Pulwama but it was routine. Reading too much between the lines cannot be anything but counter productive. Despite change in America's strategic perception for South Asia, it is unlikely that they would do anything decisive against Pakistan. If the Modis think Washington will help them in getting rid of the Kashmir mess, they are at worst nursing a utopia that doesn't exist.

All parties, not excluding left parties review the Kashmir imbroglio through the prism of military. Then the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) doesn't lose any opportunity to communalise the Kashmir polity. All are out to cash in on the martyrdom of soldiers. They forget the simple logic that the dead militants too are someone's martyrs. And these people are not idle–they too are mobilising Kashmiri people on the emotive issue.

Nobody denies the importance of dialogue in resolving the vexed question of Kashmir. Then everybody avoids it under one pretext or another. The best way to solve a complex question is not to solve it all. And Kashmir fits in this scheme of things. The insurgency in Kashmir gets new recruits mainly from the valley proper. That militants get local support is a fact of life. No insurgency anywhere in the world can sustain itself for long without popular support. Security forces seem to have reached a dead end in Kashmir. Before initiating dialogue or peace process what is needed is to reach out to the alienated people of Kashmir. This alienation is so glaring that even former Congress minister P Chidambaram explained an irony in India's approach to Kashmir: 'Some people want Kashmir to be part of India but don't want Kashmiris to be part of Indians'. Maybe, this is precisely the reason why Kashmiri students were specifically targeted by saffron goons in the aftermath of Pulwama massacre. And former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah was caustic enough in accusing both BJP and Congress of maintaining silence about the systematic attack on Kashmiri students.


Vol. 51, No.35, Mar 3 - 9, 2019