The Track-11 delegation led by former Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha is once again in Valley, this time engaging with the civil society groups. The team held meetings with the Kashmir High Court Bar Association, businessmen and the other professionals besides venturing into the districts to meet various delegations of the people. Talking to media Sinha, however, has made it clear that their group doesn’t represent the government or any organization and that they were only concerned citizens of India on their voluntary mission to the state. He said their role was not to establish dialogue between New Delhi and the separatist groups which was something the government was capable of doing on its own but to show the way to the government.
Sinha certainly stressed the need for a dialogue geared to resolve the larger Kashmir issue. Earlier in their report, the five-member group had suggested release of first-time offenders, resumption of dialogue with separatists and judicial probe into police excess. The group also recommended compensation to kin of the civilians killed and those wounded, rehabilitation packages for those permanently blinded by pellet guns and setting up of a blind school in Srinagar for children who lost their vision to pellet pump action guns.
However, as with all similar initiatives in past, they appear puny and diminished relative to the overarching nature of the problem in Kashmir. But people still look at them in terms of the resolution of the larger Kashmir issue which is neither their mandate, nor are they competent to do so, a point the group’s members never fail to drive home. However this unrealistic public expectation seems there to stay, in part driven by the presence of Sinha in the team. The former finance and foreign minister of India, Sinha is seen to have the necessary political weight to influence the direction of New Delhi’s Kashmir policy. Also in his interactions with the civil society groups in Kashmir, Sinha has laid emphasis on a political resolution of the recurrent crisis in the state. He has expressed serious apprehensions about the situation graduating into something “terrible”, if things were allowed to drift along in the absence of an effort for a solution.
So far, the central government has adopted a can’t-care-less approach towards the prevailing situation in the state. After a feeble attempt at an outreach by sending an all party delegation to the state, New Delhi has relied exclusively on the security means to put down the current uprising. One can only hope that the Sinha-led initiative fills in the consequent vacuum and pursues a political way out through a long range engagement. Yet another adhoc process geared to usher in normalcy will only damage the cause of durable peace. Though, it is unrealistic to expect the Sinha-led group to make a big difference but it can through a sustained engagement certainly work towards arresting the growing alienation between Valley and New Delhi. While political resolution is a drawn, complex process, the group can make a redeeming difference if it pursues the cause of justice for the victims of the state oppression during current unrest.
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