If separate meetings with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the the other major pro-freedom leaders like Shabir Shah and Prof Abdul Gani Bhat are any indication, then the visit of the five member delegation led by the former Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha has been a moderate success. The delegation also met the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Governor N N Vohra. However, the meetings alone are not going to be the measure of the team's accomplishment. What matters is what happens next.
A day after the delegation left Valley, Government released the ailing JKLF supremo Yasin Malik. Now Government is also expected to release other pro-freedom leaders like Shabir Shah and withdraw the PSAs slapped on the students. While these gestures will be important they will matter little so far finding a resolution to the current crisis is concerned.
The arrests of the leaders and the youth are the products of the current upsurge, not the cause of it. So freeing them basically resolves nothing. Resolving starts when you move beyond this. And engage with the fundamental issues at stake. Whether this happens will be known in the delegation's future activity.
True, the delegation's activity is hobbled by its ostensibly independent nature as its report and recommendations have no official sanctity. But this very independence offers it the freedom to engage with pro-freedom camp and hold the dialogue unconstrained by the government red lines. The engagement now could be hoped to promote mutual understanding and the recognition of each other's positions necessary for an incremental progress towards the solution.
In fact, this is what Kashmir needs more than anything else: an engagement that tends to look at the problem for what it is and not seek to be driven bythe pursuit of the normalcy and for the sake of it. And once the normalcy returns, such engagements wind up quickly and are never ever to be seen or heard again. The history of the past 27 years is a testimony to this. All previous initiatives have lasted up to restoration of normalcy.
Should the latest Track-II effort follow the suit, it will be of a piece with the traditional practice. And it is this approach which has made the people in the state cynical of the centre’s successive initiatives on the state. People are inclined to suspect that the centre’s political initiatives on the state are only an adhoc measure to respond to a specific situation in Kashmir, almost an end in themselves.
But this can change if centre exhibits due seriousness this time and either sets up its own engagement with the forces in the state challenging the status quo or supports the initiativeof the Sinha-led team. Not doing so will come as another severe blow to the credibility of the centre’s efforts to address Kashmir.However, the future doesn't necessarily have to follow the past. The new team can be hoped to chart a new path. Least they can do is to create a more informed understanding about Kashmir in the country.
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