Statement on Kashmir

THE names are as eye-catching as their message is sobering. On the death anniversary of Gandhi, prominent Indians describing themselves as “thinking citizens of the world’s foremost democracy” issued a statement condemning the repression in India-held Kashmir and have called for a more humane approach to the disputed region. The unprecedented joint statement by a number of highly regarded retired government officials, security officials, diplomats, journalists and rights activists is a welcome reminder that violence, repression and unjust policies of the state are resisted the world over by right-thinking individuals. And while the Indian government will undoubtedly try and dismiss the latest appeal by many of its own citizens as a partisan and political attack, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government will be unable to easily shake off the central claim in the joint statement: that the violence in IHK since the killing of Burhan Wani last summer is squarely the responsibility of the Indian state.

At the root of the current crisis in IHK are two disturbing realities of the Modi-led government: a total denial that the Kashmir dispute is in fact an internationally recognised dispute between India and Pakistan; and an unwillingness to approach the people of IHK in any way other than through a hard security prism. Consider that on the recent Indian Republic Day, the central government announced gallantry awards for the security forces involved in the killing of Burhan Wani. It was that very killing that sparked a wave of protests across IHK, but the Modi government appears unmoved and, worse, unwilling to even recognise the failure of its violent, repressive tactics in the disputed region. Moreover, the BJP central government seems unwilling to give its partner in the IHK government the space to try and reduce tensions by initiating dialogue with the restive sections of the people. In effect, the BJP appears to believe that the unrest will eventually be quelled by tough security measures and that the repression will not be questioned by the outside world, or indeed anywhere in India.

The Modi government is wrong. The joint statement this week is a clear sign that disquiet at home is growing. The legitimacy of the grievances of the people of IHK is too established and too widely known for a new regime, no matter how determined, to simply wipe the past and present away. There is only one sensible approach: dialogue inside IHK and dialogue with Pakistan. Anything else and the BJP is likely to be as surprised as it was by the Kashmiris’ reaction to the Wani killing, a killing that the Modi government fundamentally erred in considering a great success. As the signatories to the joint statement have rightly warned, not only is the Indian state on the wrong track in terms of policy, it is also morally on the wrong side in IHK.

The Article First Appeared In Dawn
 

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