Rajnath’s Kashmir Visit: An Exercise In Futility

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As the dance of death- which has exacted two more lives – continues in Kashmir, Rajnath Singh, the home Minister of the Government of India(GoI), has arrived in the vale for a two day visit. Singh, before leaving for Srinagar, tweeted that, “ He was staying at Nehru Guest house. Those who believed in Insaaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat were welcome”. It may be stated here that Singh’s visit was preceded by flying and deploying an additional contingent of scores of Border Security Forces(BSF) in the troubled vale. These troopers have been billeted in various schools of Kashmir. Given this context and the continuation of killings, what can we make of Rajnath’s visit and his professed statement?

The visit, it would appear, is or would be as vacuous as Rajnath’s usurpation of Vajpayee’s terminology.

The reasons pertain to the conditions obtaining in Kashmir, upcoming elections in the what is called the “ Hindi heartland”, the state’s refusal to countenance Pakistan as a stakeholder in the conflict in and over Kashmir and other structural reasons. Overlaying this is the fact that the terms that Singh has used have been rinsed and denuded of meaning in the blighted vale. ( Jamhooriyat) Democracy, as the common refrain goes in Kashmir stops at Banihal tunnel; Insaaniyat (Humanness- the premise of human rights) seems like a hollow joke given the cascading of violent deaths and Kashmiriyat, as is well known is a construct promoted by the state- hence denuded of meaning too.

The foregoing is in the nature of a discursive critique of the terminology employed. We may be being unfair though if we see Singh’s statement merely through a discursive prism. The Home Minister might be employing Vajpayee’s terminology to make a fresh beginning in Kashmir. However, sieving through and probing further, it appears that this may not be the case. The reasons for our skepticism revolve around context and structure.

First, the ongoing protest movement is not an aberration: it revolves around real, genuine and historical grievances of Kashmiris and their aspirations. However, this time around, while the catalyst has been Burhan Wani’s killing, the reasons also pertain to the foothold that the PDP gave to the BJP in Kashmir by entering into an alliance with the far right Hindu nationalist party.

Second, Pakistan has been undercut and attempted to be excluded by the GoI in the conflict in and over Kashmir. In this sense, this is a departure from Vajpayee’s approach where Pakistan was seen and recognized as a stakeholder and diplomatically dealt with accordingly.

Third, this is a different Kashmir where the baton of conflict has essentially be transmitted to Kashmir’s Gen Next. It is the youth of Kashmir who are at the forefront of the protest moment and they are in no mood to listen to patronizing declamations. Who then is Singh wanting to enter into a dialogue with? His party’s coalition partners and perhaps opposition parties are the answer. But it is against this power structure much of the anger of the youth is focused against. Given this, will Rajnat’s attempts to “reach out” bear fruit?

No is the answer. This “no” however is a qualified answer. The GoI‘s approach will only yield some fruit if and only if it takes a stakeholder approach to the conflict in and over Kashmir. Till then, any approach that is exclusive and only focuses only on the endogenous aspects of the conflict will constitute exercises in futility. This includes Rajnath Singh’s 24th August visit.

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