Is Mehbooba Passing The Buck By Blaming The Separatists?

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Friday alleged that the separatists were not allowing schools in the Valley to function because they wanted a new generation of uneducated youths who can pelt stones and can be used as "cannon fodder". She added that the separatists were exploiting children from the poor families by instigating them to attack army camps, police stations and CRPF camps and were using them as shields, while their own children were safe.

Mehbooba’s statement(s) come in the wake of what has been labelled as a “Track two” initiative aimed at restoring normalcy in Kashmir. One issue that has come out in the public domain re “Track II” parleys is the one of education. In this sense and given the context, Mehbooba’s statements do not help. The statements could antagonize the separatists and make them more truculent. However, more to the point are the implications of Mehbooba’s statements.

The JK CM appears to be drawing on the fatigue that has set in amongst the people and playing to the gallery by laying the onus of blame on the separatists. While it is true that the protests and those enforcing the protests gyrate to the protest calendars given out by separatists, the fact is that the response to these calendars accrues from the wide and deep alienation that exists amongst the youth of Kashmir. Another implication that flows from Mehbooba’s utterances is that the protest movement that has engulfed Kashmir in the past three and a half months is a subaltern movement in the sense that those at the forefront of the protests rank low in the economic, political and social hierarchy of Kashmir. This is plain wrong. The wide and deep mood of angst that descended upon Kashmir after Burhan Wani’s killing cut across social and economic classes.

Moreover, historically, even in the context of Kashmir, it has been observed that creating new economic and social classes has not helped eliminate alienation and the essential political problem of the conflict in and over Kashmir.  Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s rule- defined by populism and patron clientelist governance- aimed to creating stakeholders and thereby throwing a spanner into the conflict- is a case in point.  The conflict in and over Kashmir, after Bakshi’s rule, mutated, morphed and transformed into a deadly, widespread insurgency.  The issue then is neither economics, governance nor is the alienation in Kashmir a subaltern thing. This is the first and cardinal lesson that powers that be within and without Kashmir must draw and take to heart.

The real question is the conflict in and over Kashmir. It is the conflict that breeds alienation, resentment and violence.

It, then , is paramount that the real issue, be grasped by the horns, to use a  clichéd phrase.  Specifically, this means instituting a conflict resolution paradigm that redounds to the benefit of all stakeholders- especially Kashmiris. Unless and until, this paradigm is instituted, all other attempts or efforts amount to deflecting the issue and focusing on stuff that is merely tangential if not irrelevant.

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