Looking beyond politics in the Kashmir Valley

HARI JAI SINGH

It is the same old story. Kashmiri Pandits and migrants continue to be the target of militants and Islamists in the Valley. The April 4 attack was the first on Kashmiri Pandits since October 2021 when militants had shot dead a prominent businessman, M. L. Bindroo, in Srinagar. According to a police officer, the motive behind the attack on migrants was to create fear among them and drive them out of the Valley. Such an approach is certainly not in the interest of Kashmir especially since the Centre’s new stress is on faster development in the Valley and creating jobs for young Kashmiris.

It is crystal clear that over the years the situation in Kashmir has assumed alarming dimensions. A number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years to woo separatists and militant leaders with a view to winning the hearts of those who have been supporting rebel groups, whether out of convenience or conviction. However, the country needs a new strategy and plans of action against Pakistan’s ISI cadres who are aiding and abetting the forces of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.

Viewed in a larger perspective and considering geopolitical compulsions, New Delhi has to work out a new strategy and an action plan to tackle the problem effectively to handle Islamabad-supported militants. The situation is surely precarious and there cannot be readymade answers to the problems. All the same, we have to explore new avenues to bring the various militant groups in the mainstream of national politics. This is not an easy task because of one-point obsession of Kashmir on the part of Pakistan’s leaders. Small wonder, New Delhi’s considerable efforts to tackle Pak-sponsored militancy have failed. Perhaps, one cannot win over those who have tasted blood or those who have made fortunes through gun or grenade fire or by mere assurance and hollow promises or by Islamic sermons.

Nevertheless, New Delhi will have to generate the right conditions to create job opportunities for the unemployed. India must work out a definite plan for pulling the state out of the economic morass it finds itself in. It is equally vital in this setting to increase efforts to handle the plight of Kashmiri Pandits.

I reproduce the text below from an article I wrote way back in 2001, which is still relevant today:

“History cannot be allowed to repeat itself because of small time sectarian interests of small-time leaders and fundamentalists. There may be certain aberrations in Indian thinking and action, but our beliefs are genuine. If Pakistanis keep their minds open and shun past prejudices, a breakthrough can be achieved on Kashmir. Two essential ingredients for a solution are flexibility and pragmatism. This will be easy if the Pakistani authorities put an end to the proxy war in Kashmir and rein in the fundamentalists and militant groups who have played with the peace and harmony in the Valley and beyond.

Ironically, there are several elements in the Jammu & Kashmir situation. How come the Valley seems to dominate all discussions? How is it that we hear so little of the voice of Jammu and Ladakh? Fundamentalism-cum-militancy has taken a heavy toll of Kashmiri traditional moorings over a period. It will be educative to see today’s situation against the backdrop of the observations by South Asian expert Sir Walter Roper Lawrence during the decades of the 19th century. He writes:

The Sunni Mussalmans do not strike (one) as zealots or earnest in the profession of their faith, except in their quarrel with the Shias, they are free from all forms of fanaticism.”

In matters crucial to Indian nationhood, history and identity, we cannot allow passions and prejudices of the times to overwhelm us. We need to look beyond today and rebuild our nation in new lines of secularism, harmony and brotherhood.

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