The latest round of street violence and shutdown of normal activity in the Kashmir Valley is completing nearly two months. No amount of persuasion has worked with youths incensed over killing of Burhan Vani at the hands of the security forces. Nearly 60 lives have been lost during violent engagement and scuffles with police. Young lives are getting lost and businesses have suffered immense losses.
Burhan Vani’s death was just a trigger. It is no secret that the woes of the people go much beyond the recent excesses. It is also plainly evident that the discontent is rooted in what some sections of people perceive as the ‘undecided political fate’ of the state despite the State’s accession to India under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Even the BJP, currently a coalition partner in the State Government, has dropped its opposition to the continuance of the Article that integrates the State with India. Stationing of a large number of security forces and continuance of legislations like the AFSPA too pose serious roadblocks to the progress of peace and restoration of normality. Infiltration of armed militants from across the border adds huge complexity to the problem. Pakistan’s bid to raise the issue in international forums for the last seven decades has only exacerbated the tensions between the neighbours and encouraged the militants. It is a quarter century since the Kashmiri Pandits left from the State.
While large sections bear no antipathy against them and want their return, some elements are hell bent on keeping them out of the State.
The situation is unenviable in all aspects of its meaning. Elected Governments have been in the seats of governance since 1996. Central largesse has subsidized the essential commodities in the State for all these years. Students from the State find admissions all across the large country that India is. Similarly, Kashmir emporia and carpet-sellers carry on business activity everywhere without any hassle. Secular character of the Indian Constitution and special status of the State provide ample scope for people from the State to retain autonomy in internal affairs. The multi-ethnic character of India carries enough guarantees for the State to retain its socio-cultural hue within the colourful tapestry of the nation. Contrastingly, Pakistan has failed to be a melting pot of cultures what with Urdu-speaking Muhajirs still being dubbed ‘muhajirs’ and the country refusing to allow Urdu-speaking Biharis to return from Bangladesh despite the passage of four decades of cessation of the eastern wing from the Federal Pakistan. Moreover, it is totally unwise to rake up territorial reconfiguration in the region after seven decades of the devastating Partition of the subcontinent. Muslims had been the worst victims of the Partition.
Allowing the destructive legacy of Partition will only rip open the seams of the wounds caused by the hateful politics dividing a region that was one civilizational entity all through the millennia.
The issue should be viewed in this broader perspective by all parties interested in settling the issue. No purpose would be served by disturbing the status quo, which admittedly, does not work to everyone’s satisfaction. But then people everywhere have issues with their lot under every dispensation. Many nationalities are still cribbing and quibbling within Europe where nation-states were formed over a century ago. Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s formula ofKashmiriyat, Jumhuriyet and Insaniyat provides enough substance to work upon and heal the State back to normalcy. No other State within India has had so much autonomy than Jammu and Kashmir. Pain of Kashmiris over their distance with the kinsfolk across the Line of Control too has to be taken into account. It was during Mr. Vajpayee’s time that meaningful measures were initiated to bridge that distance with introduction of bus services between the two parts and opening of trading ties and posts. Militancy and disturbance can jeopardize that arrangement which holds some promise of reconstructing the severed links.
It is also time for Pakistan to desist from abetting militancy in the Valley. The country has not merely lost its eastern wing, but has enough troubles at its western borders and in Baluchistan to handle. Encouragement of terrorism has proved counterproductive and the nation is in the throes of suicide-bombings on a daily basis. It will be better advised to promote nationalism within its borders and the contending ethnicities rather than pursuing religiously motivated irredentist dreams.