Author: Saadut
•6:32 PM




No sooner had Nawaz Sharief won the elections in Pakistan, politicians in Kashmir rushed to put up billboards screaming ‘we seek resolution of Kashmir.’ But behind these declarations of ‘we hope the peace processes is restarted’ lies a contrary will. While these politicians, for the sake of convenience are apt in shifting the responsibility of the ‘peace process’ beyond the borders of Kashmir, in reality the achievement of such noble goals may not be in their professional interests.

The disenchantment (and the conflict) in Kashmir began decades ago, not only against Indian machinations here, forced by a military arm, but also against a political system which aided these machinations, by providing them a cover of legitimacy. By forcing a political paralysis and institutional decay in Kashmir, it was New Delhi only, in league with its well-groomed local political elites, which turned political discontent into a popular separatist uprising. And such a political system exclusively survived on being subservient to political manipulations executed in New Delhi, which not only fueled this conflict but also reinforced the disenfranchisement of the common people. In such a scenario, would a political resolution or any ‘peace processes’ in Kashmir, be in favour of those politicians who survive on the continuity of the conflict here?

Balraj Puri claims that in 1953 he advised Jawaharlal Nehru to extend political freedoms in Kashmir. Nehru apparently replied “we have gambled at the international stage on Kashmir, we cannot afford to lose it. At the moment, we are there at the point of the bayonet. Till things improve, democracy and morality can wait.” (Kashmir Towards Insurgency, 46)

The same political tools in Kashmir controlled by New Delhi have been used to stealthily force economic subjugation, political deniability and social engineering here. Political parties, which include both pro Delhi units and the ‘political convenience conflict shops’ that were setup during the conflict in Kashmir, would be decimated in any free and fair democratic exercise and will surely want no political settlement that ensures such fair processes or resolution.

Since the conflict in Kashmir is not only about political demands, but also about (and against) the colossal war crimes committed here against civilians, a resolution has to be addressed not only at the political level but also in the context of local governance. While a political settlement should include tripartite participation (India, Pakistan & Kashmir) the local political setup that has always claimed to be in power for ‘governance issues only’ (yet conveniently harps on the ‘peace process’ rhetoric), fails to address the problem where it can. Not only has this political power failed to deliver justice to common citizens for crimes committed against them by organs of the state, this denial of justice is often seen as deliberate. And more often than not, the same state political apparatus has been seen to promote suppression on the ground, and involved in the trampling of human rights.

What talk of ‘peace process’ and ‘conflict resolution’ by politicians whose oppressive tools for extending this conflict (like AFSPA & PSA) remain intact and in practice? Does conflict resolution not also mean restoration of civil liberties and respect of human rights? Is it possible to have ‘conflict resolution’ when political classes extend this ‘conflict’ by sustaining the reasons that fueled the conflict in the first place? And how meaningful is a trumpeted ‘democratic’ process that claims to have people ‘elect’ the same set of political powers that are responsible for their present plight? It has been often observed that in conflict areas, the occupying power, in order to strengthen its grip and oppress any dissent, often creates a political oligarchy presented as ‘democratic change’. And since these oligarchies thrive on political arrangements with the dominant power, would not the resolution of conflict be against their interests? What solution to the conflict can such political forces offer, except for maintaining and enforcing a status quo? But if the status quo was any solution, why clamor about any ‘peace process’ and ‘resolution’ rhetoric?

The same politicians who can’t stop talking about ‘justice and reconciliation’ in Kashmir are the ones who have failed to provide any justice in a single case related to the thousands of missing or disappeared young men or the numerous extrajudicial killings. Ironically not only have such ‘managed’ political arrangements weakened India’s case in Kashmir, they have also utterly failed to justify its claims of identifying with the common people on ground. And in spite of the overwhelming military presence of India in Kashmir and an identified political class, nothing has been able to change the disputed nature of Kashmir nor has it been able to improve (or rescue) India’s relationship here.

Even while India may present ‘democratic’ changes in Kashmir over electoral periods, in ‘embedded and controlled’ democracy there can be a constant change of political elites but this ‘change’ will not cascade into any real change on ground, where the clamor for ‘political resolution’ and ‘conflict justice’ shall continue.  

The first step to any peace process does not lie in Islamabad or New Delhi; it lies in the corridors of power in Srinagar (which is paradoxically controlled by New Delhi). It lies in allowing political dissidence, not in muting them behind armed barricades, nor in denying them their civil, political and religious rights. Any suppression of people’s political, social, cultural or economic interests by a political power can only delay a revolutionary change, not deny it.

The observation of Sir Francis Younghusband in 1909 about Kashmiris “The name of the “owner” was entered, but “owner” is really an incorrect term, for all land in the Kashmir valley is “owned” by the State'. The actual holders have a right of occupancy as against the State as long as they pay its dues, and are practically sub-proprietors; but they have no right of alienation or mortgage” stands true even today, albeit for political and economic ownership's here. Now the ‘political ownership’ is manipulated and controlled by the New Delhi (who replaced the Maharaja earlier) and the economic ‘ownership’ of Kashmir has been sublet to arms of New Delhi (like the NHPC) and by the tactic approval of the same political arrangements that India has been enforcing in Kashmir.

New Delhi and Islamabad can deliberate and agree upon a resolution mechanism only if Kashmris are onboard. But such efforts cannot override the need for justice for the victims of this conflict and the responsibility of local ‘political powers’ in dispensing this justice. Having consciously denied justice to all victims of the conflict in Kashmir and having led an apparatus that only extended such crimes, what logic does it serve to look up to Islamabad for peace?

Justice Rajindar Sachar after one of his visits to Kashmir (1993) is reported to have remarked publicly “ I do not know how and in what manner the Kashmir question will be solved with its nuances of Azadi (freedom), plebiscite and greater autonomy. But one thing is certain and that is India will remain the loser unless the face that it presents to the people of Kashmir valley is humane, compassionate and understanding. At present the face is ugly and insensitive”

Not only has this face become uglier since then, but those hands hidden in gloves have had more innocent blood on them. And it is this face that India needs to look in the mirror before looking up to Islamabad. 





Srinagar



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