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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

A beginning can be made with Omar Abdullah’s call for all-Party talks in Srinagar. Let stone-pelters be represented too. There is already a hint that the Army will be withdrawn on July 13, after Martyrs Day.

Crisis as Opportunity

The tragedy of “Kashmir” from the start has been that the part has been conflated with the whole. Kashmir is less than J&K.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 11 July, 2010

“Kashmir”, that is the Valley, and not even all of it, is in crisis. The very premise so suggestively and breathlessly articulated that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh, is afire is roundly mistaken. The tragedy of “Kashmir” from the start has been that the part has been conflated with the whole. Kashmir is less than J&K. The latter, properly and completely defined (but seldom done so, especially by the Hurriyat, the jihadis and, certainly, Pakistan), must include PAK and the Gilgit-Baltistan Area, outposts of post-war colonialism never granted self-determination. The caveat is not intended to beg the question or the current crisis in parts of the Valley, but in order to get the facts right.

A second faulty premise is that the current crisis revolves around the induction of the Army in a few towns and parts of Srinagar in aid of civil power through flag marches and a more extensive curfew that by and large shut down affected areas for the duration. Harsh; yes. But why did the State government call out the Army in this limited role? It is not Omar Abdullah’s folly, as so readily made out. The local police, assisted by the CRPF, still remain in the forefront. Both have been fully stretched by weeks of studied stone-pelting and, now, ensuring security for the Amarnath Yatra. In the circumstances, the Army was summoned in aid of civil power, a perfectly constitutional and well known practice. Those who lament this development would have been among the first to berate any tardiness in so doing, as was the case in Delhi in 1984, Ayodhya and Bombay in 1992 and Ahmedabad in 2002 and so on down the line. Misgovernance has been cited. However, the first duty of any governance is humane maintenance of law and order.

Critics and punditry would have it that the Valley’s youth, a lost generation of 14 to 25 years who have seen nothing but suffering and indignity for the past two decades , are angry. One must acknowledge their legitimate pain, resentment and anxieties over human rights abuses, unemployment, highhandedness, and lack of the opportunities, services and amenities to which they aspire. There are lumpen elements too. But what is all the stone-pelting about, especially when these same youth have so many other democratic avenues for self-expression even if, as argued, they reject the entire current political leadership: the government, opposition, the Hurriyat, and also parental authority.

There is by now fairly well documented evidence of intercepts that separatists and cross-border mentors are instigating, funding, recruiting and organizing young stone-pelters through agent provocateurs. Stones are provisioned, targets selected and there is a call for more “martyrs” – a dangerous word sometimes overworked to include victims of jihadi assassination like Mir Waiz Maulana Farooq, Adbul Ganni Lone and Fazle Haq Qureshi (who survives, severally injured), all men who dared to talk of dialogue and peace as an alternative to senseless violence and cross-border agendas.

There may indeed be some genuinely local stone-pelters; but no more virtuous for being home grown. A boy in Baramulla was killed by a mob when his vehicle was stopped en route to hospital. Peaceful citizens have suffered when going about or being prevented from attending to their lawful occasions. Civic and economic life have been routinely disrupted. When? Most often after Friday congregational prayers. In the absence of any better explanation, it must be assumed that mosques are being used as political platforms, giving murderous agitation a righteous jihadi halo from touch-me-not sanctuaries.

What thereafter is the cycle of events? Riotous processionists attempt to take control of the streets, perhaps marching towards sensitive targets and provoking police action. It is true that the police and CRPF should be better trained and equipped to use non-lethal force, an all-India requirement; but this cannot be the sole cause for the mayhem that often follows.

Lamentably, much has been said by responsible leaders to justify “anger” and stone-pelting. Have these same leaders have sought to pacify or channelise this “anger” in more constructive ways? It is further exaggeratedly argued that the problem is “political” and that offers of dialogue have come to naught. The Prime Minister has held out the olive branch more than once and quiet dialogue has been initiated. The failure has been not boldly to dialogue and decide on a consensual package of reforms emanating from the PM’s Task Force reports, such as they are, and build on them. Unfortunately the Centre has been waiting for too long for the right climate and has handed a veto to spoilers such as even the “moderate” Hurriyat. Umar Farooq’s latest rubiyat is that by dialogue Delhi means peace and development while the Hurriyat seeks “a political solution”. Yet he has time and again refused to come to the table, always insisting on first “consulting” Pakistan!

There has also been a gross and repeated failure of communication. Both the PM and Omar Abdullah as chief minister should have gone on the air over AIR and Doordarshan to speak directly to the people. They never do. They allow their words to be filtered by the media or other intermediaries, resulting in angled views and interpretations, masking what they say.

The dialogue with Pakistan has resumed. This is good, but must not be axiomatically linked to the internal dialogue. The two are independent though interdependent, the former being far the more important – a factor that Delhi has consistently failed to recognize.

A beginning can be made with Omar Abdullah’s call for all-Party talks in Srinagar. Let stone-pelters be represented too. There is already a hint that the Army will be withdrawn on July 13, after Martyrs Day. Hence the Army’s role can at best only be incidental to the real agenda. This round table must be followed by a larger national dialogue on an internal solution embracing “autonomy”, regional issues, reconciliation, the Pandits, development, et al , even as talks with Pakistan proceed. The present crisis represents an opportunity. Seize it.

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