How Geelani’s Freedom Will Help End Impasse in Kashmir?

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Srinagar: As the protests in Kashmir meander onto the 103rd day and as the weekly calendar issued by separatists is on the anvil with all eyes on the next calendar,  Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the octogenarian separatist leader- stands incarcerated(albeit house arrest) and isolated. He is shut out from public opinion, people contact and even contact with the media. While it’s not known what the nature of the next calendar will be, it may be safe to posit that there will be one.

The calendar will come at a time when a degree of fatigue has set amongst the people and when after 5 pm- during the relaxation period- life in Kashmir is normal and streets bustle with activity. There can be two kinds of interpretations on this: one, either Kashmiris have adjusted to the calendar or the break period is seen as a reprieve. Under these conditions what are the separatists to do? And what is the state upto? We cannot speak for the separatist’s strategy or future approach but we can infer from the past that they would like to prolong the protests as much as they can. The same can be said about the states; while we cannot suggest its future course of action but what can be stated is that the state would like to bring the current unrest to an end.

This is the “end game” or “ end goal” of the state but the question or issue is of the means. What means is the state adopting towards its end goal? From the house arrest and the isolation of Geelani who is held to be the face of the protests and leader of the protests, it would appear that the state wants the octogenarian leader to – either by omission or commission- adopt a course of action that would make him either unpopular or turn public opinion against him. This may or may not work but if indeed this is the state’s strategy, it is a short sighted one. What is at issue is not merely the ongoing protests and unrest but the larger issue of the conflict in and over Kashmir. The conflict cannot be resolved in isolation; it has to be resolved in a way that involves all credible stakeholders. The separatists which represent a substantive sentiment that obtains in Kashmir are these credible stakeholders. Moreover, isolating the separatists and creating or engineering a disconnect between them and the people, will not really work.  At some point or the other, there, if the past can be held to be a guide and pattern of events and incidents correlated with these, will again be an alignment of the separatist sentiment , mood and separatists in Kashmir.

Prudence then suggests that separatists be allowed to come out of their state imposed fetters, assess the situation on the ground, so to speak. Again, this, if it is allowed to happen by the state, will be in the nature of a palliative. The real issue, is the conflict in and over Kashmir and it is to the resolution of this conflict that energies and attention must be devoted to. All other approaches are temporary that essentially leave the dispute to fester. Let minds and energies be devoted to crystallizing , developing and implementing a conflict resolution paradigm that redounds to the benefit of all stakeholders – sooner the better!

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