The state has gone on an aggressive overdrive in its military action(s) against militants operating in Kashmir. The pattern since a while is now clear: eliminate as many militants as possible and break the infrastructure of militancy in Kashmir. The premise of this approach by the state appears to be this will neutralise militancy in Kashmir and portend the end of the conflict over Kashmir. But the thinking that informs this approach is both fallacious and amounts to wishful thinking. A metaphor with a contemporary resonance- technology and computers- might illustrate and throw into sharp relief this point.
The sine qua non of the computing world is both hardware and software. Hardware – computers, desktops, handheld devices or mobile phones – are mere contraptions and devices without software. The centre of gravity or the key operating element of hardware is software – bits and bytes which actually underpin the technological and computer worlds.
By analogy, the same thing holds true in the world of politics especially in the context of Kashmir. Militancy could be held to be the hardware of the sentiment and the politics that is informed by this sentiment in Kashmir. This sentiment is the software of the valley’s politics. So if the state thinks that neutralizing the hardware- militancy- would eliminate the software (sentiment) that defines Kashmir, then obviously this is an improbable or an impossible goal. Key and the most important element in Kashmir, to underscore the point, is the sentiment of Kashmiris.
Fundamental to sustainable peace in Kashmir, if we may stretch the metaphor and the analogy further, is alignment and complementarity of software and hardware. This essentially means a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Kashmir- a politico-diplomatic paradigm which not only takes a stakeholder approach to conflict resolution but also integrates the aspirations of the people into it. It is in this integrative and shibboleth breaking paradigm that the path to sustainable peace lies. The aggressive, military approach adopted by the state merely means prolongation of the conflict in an idiom where the only recourse for powers that be lies in containment and conflict management. Both have – in retrospect and prospect – proved to be deleterious and are approaches that Kashmir does not need. What it needs is comprehensive and sustainable peace which can only ensue by a vigorous, stakeholder based approach to the conflict with people-centric to this approach.