Let us never negotiate out of fear; but let us never fear to negotiate — John F Kennedy
By hinting at extension of ceasefire in Kashmir the center has taken the first step of creating an atmosphere that is conducive for dialogue. The joint resistance leadership (JRL) may have its own reservations on whether the Hurriyat should or shouldnt start dialogue with the center but if this issue is viewed rationally and not emotionally then there can be no two opinions that it deserves a positive response from the separatist conglomerate. And perhaps that is why instead of outrightly rejecting this offer, Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has displayed astute political prudence by giving an optimistic but non-committal response on the possibility of dialogue with the center.
Opening dialogue between two parties that look at each other with deep suspicion and blame the other side for the prevailing crisis is never easy. And when one party to the talks is an amalgam of political entities to get differing minds on the same page becomes a herculean task. Thus there may not be any negative undercurrents in Mirwaizs clarification that JRL leadership is in no hurry to respond to Delhis overtures for dialogue and that it would do so only after due deliberations. However, since this could be misconstrued as a sign indicating the Hurriyats reluctance to sit down and talk with New Delhi, such statements are best avoided.
Anyone conversant with Kashmir affairs will tell you that while a segment within the Hurriyat would welcome New Delhis dialogue offer, there is also a section in this conglomerate that will strongly oppose this proposal. And on this issue those who are against dialogue have a distinct advantage since they carry the baggage of the past with them which contains a set of historical preconditions that have in the past wrecked talks and can easily do so now also. While there is nothing wrong in setting down preconditions, but this needs to be done very intelligently and in a gradual way as dialogue progresses. Since there are no restrictions on introducing appropriate preconditions during negotiations, doing so at the inopportune time and scuttling talks because of these even before they start is nothing to feel proud about!
Our youth have done a lot as far as the Kashmir struggle is concerned and made great sacrifices. Now they have a far more challenging task ahead and that is to convince the leadership to take up the dialogue offer. Why I make this appeal to the youth is because like any and every human being, our leaders also have their own fixations and it is only young minds that can convince them to unshackle their minds. Though Im not a political analyst, I fully endorse center-Hurriyat dialogue because common sense tells me that what we have is a win-win situation. And thus it would be foolish not to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and instead rejecting the talks offer solely because of some bitter experiences of the past or apprehensions that the center isnt serious about dialogue. Lets briefly discuss this issue.
One cannot say for sure whats in the centers mind but when it has expressed willingness, there can only be eventualities – one, that it is serious or two, that it isnt. If it is the former then the Hurriyat automatically emerges as the victor as the centers willingness to talk is in itself proof that it accepts the separatist conglomerates stand that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved militarily. And even if the center doesnt accept or entertain the separatist leaderships genuine demands, the Hurriyat still wins because the whole world will witness New Delhis unreasonableness and its acute obduracy. In case the center is not serious about dialogue and is using this only as a diversion or propaganda tool, then New Delhis devious machinations would be exposed and this would have a very serious negative impact on its Kashmir stand.
Thus, either ways things go, center-Hurriyat talks benefit us. And there are other advantages of dialogue too. Firstly, by offering to talk with the separatists the center has acknowledged that the Hurriyat is an indispensable stake holder in the Kashmir issue and thus we have scored a big victory even before sitting down on the negotiating table. Secondly, despite leaving no stone unturned for stirring the international communitys conscience through protests, demonstrations and uprisings for seven decades we havent succeeded and it is only our own people who are being seriously inconvenienced due to demonstrations and frequent shutdowns. Thus, getting our demands fulfilled by dialogue is an option we cant afford to discard. Thirdly, since there is complete unanimity between the UN, international community (including Islamabad) and Hurriyat that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved through dialogue, holding talks with the center will give the Hurriyat a moral victory!
Here I also have a humble request to our freedom fighters. The Hurriyat is doing its best but cannot succeed without your help and thats why you need to strengthen the leaderships hands so that contentious issues can be debated more forcibly. For example, the center refers to instances of militant attacks for rejecting the Hurriyats demand for removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and unfortunately this reasoning has also found international acceptance. If militant groups declare ceasefire for the duration of talks then the center will have no convincing excuse for imposing AFSPA in Kashmir and our leaders will then be in a position to demand gradual removal of this draconian law. Declaring unilateral ceasefire to pave the way for dialogue will also prove to the world that militancy in Kashmir isnt terrorism!
Tailpiece: For the last three decades we have experimented with shutdowns, uprisings and armed struggle in which our youth have made monumental sacrifices and we undoubtedly need to take the unfulfilled mission of our martyrs to its logical end. However, its not judicious to continue using means and methods that havent succeeded in the last three decades despite wholehearted efforts. My request to the youth is to temporarily give up all forms of violence so that the entire focus is on talks and thus give peace an honest chance. Let me assure you that doing so isnt a sign of weakness- infact, in Mahatma Gandhis words, non violence is a weapon of the strong. And even if one doesnt agree with this, the undeniable fact is that he did manage to bring the mighty British Empire on its knees by using non violent means!
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