Reach out to Kashmir truly ‘within the ambit of Insaniyat’

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First time in 46 days of the uprising in Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown signs of waking up to the crisis in Kashmir. He expressed “deep concern and pain at the prevailing situation” and said "those who lost their lives during recent disturbances are part of us, our nation".  And more significantly,  Modi  called for dialogue to “find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem” in Jammu and Kashmir “within the framework of the Constitution”.  Modi’s outreach came following his meeting with the J&K Opposition delegation led by the former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday. The delegation urged him to “initiate a credible and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders to address the unrest in the State”. The J&K delegation also submitted a memorandum to the PM which called for immediate measures to address the “grave situation” in the state as the “tried and tested formulations” of dealing with the issue in Kashmir administratively rather than politically had further exacerbated the situation and created an unprecedented sense of disaffection and disenchantment – especially among the youth. On Sunday, the same delegation had met the President Pranab Mukherjee and urged him to use his good offices for a political resolution of the current imbroglio in the state.

 

However, signals from New Delhi haven’t so far been encouraging enough, Modi’s belated expression of pain and a promise of the dialogue notwithstanding. Centre has been wildly ambivalent in its approach, pulling between two extremes. The approach has largely been apathetic in nature, with senior figures calling for the use of tough military means to quell the strife.  However, even while the PM has called for dialogue, there is no knowing the form of this engagement and who the centre is going to talk. If the discourse emanating from New Delhi is any guide, there is little hope that there will be talks with Hurriyat.    In fact, the situation is now such that even if Delhi offers dialogue, Hurriyat may not be able to engage. For one, centre’s possible efforts at a political outreach to the separatist groups are likely to be inherently  hobbled by the history of its previous unproductive engagement with them.

 

 

And also because of the now adhoc unity among the top three separatist leaders   – Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik – whereby response to any talks offer will have to be jointly decided by them, unlike in the past when centre only talked to the Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz, something that was vehemently opposed by the Geelani group “as a sell-out to New Delhi”. The separatists are already chary of a dialogue with New Delhi “which doesn’t promise  concrete redressal of the political issues underlying the  ongoing unrest”.

 

Given this context and New Delhi’s own drastically reduced willingness over the years – more so under Prime Minister Narendra Modi – to engage either Pakistan or the separatists in Kashmir for a solution to Kashmir, the fresh offer of talks  to separatists or for that matter even a back channel engagement holds little traction with the Hurriyat factions. More  so, with centre treating  Hurriyat as one of the several parties and the shades  of opinion that it is going to talk to. And the talks themselves are intended for the restoration of peace rather than subsumed as a part of the larger process for the resolution of Kashmir, as separatists want. This leaves little chance for the current stalemate to end in some win-win solution unless something dramatic happens. One can only hope that the centre gives up its ambivalence and reaches out to Kashmir within the ambit of not  a political but a sincere Insaniyat. 

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