As tourists have started arriving in Kashmir, the state’s pro-India camp and a host of agencies, including top brass of army and police, must be working on rehashing the old script: ‘increasing tourist influx suggests that peace and normalcy have returned to Kashmir.’ This lie has been told and retold, time and again, with even Chief Minister Omar Abdullah parroting, quite often, that peace is gradually “taking root” in Jammu and Kashmir. Two years ago, in a moment of optimism alongside Dalai Lama, Omar talked about vanishing of a “period of darkness” and “days of desperation”. But his peace remarks have hardly struck a chord among a large section of population in the state, particularly in the Valley, for whom peace is the most abused word by the state. It’s not because people don’t want peace but because this peace exists in a vacuum and is for the large part inexplicable and vague. Besides, there are some really uncomfortable questions at stake. Can a place that has seen so much trauma and bloodshed simply be at peace with itself and move on unless there is some resolution of the problems that triggered the conflict in the first place 67 years ago? Every section of the society in the state has borne the brunt of the conflict in one or the other way, as has been acknowledged by the Chief Minister on more than one occasion. But what most people will baulk at is the assertion of the pro-India camp and the security grid that the state is “gradually moving towards peace and development.” Here again, the objection is not to the development of the state but the tendency to present the development as a solution.
Before taking over as Chief Minister of the state, Omar Abdullah used to make no bones about the fact that Kashmir is a political dispute that needs a durable solution. But as his government is about to finish its six-year tenure in the state, one can say, without any fear of contradiction, that so far there has been no sincere attempt to address the sources of discontent in the state to justify this peace, while Omar continues dishing out contradictory statements.
What is required is a sense of closure to the suffering of Kashmiris’ which will not be possible alone by trumpeting about arrival of peace in Valley. It will be possible by resolving the larger dispute that has turned Kashmir into a place of perennial conflict over the past six decades. Until then we may see peace in Kashmir but Kashmir not be at peace.