Kashmir needs a bold and beautiful approach; Not mere cliches

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J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday made a passionate appeal to youth of Kashmir to “help restore peace” in the Valley following massive protests over civilian killings in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, even as she promised “severe punishment” to those found guilty in the firing “incidents.”
“I make an appeal to my people, especially to youth, to help us restore peace in Kashmir. I assure them that wherever there is injustice, strict action would be taken and severe punishment would be given to the guilty,” stated Mehbooba. She added, “When there is peace, there will be development, happiness, tourism and people will lead a prosperous life. And if God forbid, there is no peace, our people would be the worst sufferers”.
“That is why I make an appeal to the youth and their parents and their families to help us in restoring peace in Jammu and Kashmir so that the state develops and the miseries of people go away.”
Mehbooba’s heart appears to be in the right place but her statement, unfortunately reflects “more of the same”, clichéd and hackneyed approaches. Let’s analyse her statements about youth, development, peace and conflict.
Undoubtedly, there is a correlation between absence of peace( or prevalence of conflict) and development outcomes. Conflict eats up the resources of society, draws the energy of people and the state towards ends other than development and generates an environment that is hostile to investment, economic growth and development. All this is correct and Mehbooba is stating the obvious here but where she errs is in the context that generates frustrations and anxieties of youth (Kashmir’s Gen Next). The reference here is not only to lack of unemployment opportunities. (Unemployment and employment are concomitants to economic growth and development; in a conflict state like Kashmir, it is but obvious that there will be unemployment beyond the Non accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) ).  What we have in mind is the context and the structures that generate conflict in and over Kashmir. This structuring context provides both a psychological, material and real basis for Kashmiri youth’s anxieties.
There can be no other antidote to this structuring context other than instituting a robust and sober conflict resolution paradigm in Kashmir. Putting development first means getting the causality wrong. Or in other words, it entails putting the cart before the horse.  Admittedly, our newspaper recognizes that this is a hackneyed theme but for want of a alternate outcome, this is the only realistic and long term solution.
This is something that stares everyone including powers that be in the face.  For the past 69 years,  all methods have been tried in Kashmir by different stakeholders and parties but the underlying reality remains the same. This “reality”, to repeat, becomes the structuring context for generations of Kashmiris. However, this time there is a subtle difference: the contemporary generation of Kashmiris is more educated, aware, connected and even aspirational than generations of yore. The conflict context, plus blocking of aspirations- economic, social, personal and political- creates a psychic condition that can only, unfortunately , more conflict – intense and perhaps even of a zero sum nature.
Any other “solution” trotted out can but be in the nature of a palliative or a temporary balm. The moment that the patina of superficiality gets exposed, the deep psychic wounds of Kashmir and Kashmiris surface and the condition is back to square one.
Mehbooba is a mature politician and perhaps understands and knows this all too well.  She must not compress conflict and development. What she must focus on is conflict resolution even if she has to pay political prices. Now that her father is no more and we can but speculate, he may have had something up his sleeve, if only to build his legacy. If Mehbooba wants to re-inject life to that legacy, resolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir offers her the best opportunity. She can also cannibalize conflict resolution to the long term, organic survival of her party. But for this, she has to take a step back, understand and assess the nature and reasons of the conflict in and over Kashmir and then craft a strategy and approach that is bold and beautiful. If and when she does it, Kashmir will be better for it and it is then that peoples’ miseries will be alleviated.

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