By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
Seven decades on, Kashmir, the conflict torn zone continues to yearn for resolution. Time and again, Kashmir erupts to make its voice audible to the world especially India but it is met with muteness. After the 2008 agitation, a new wave of largely non-violent protests emerged in Kashmir with youth actively playing part . The 2016 uprising left such an impact that even after a year, peace and normalcy struggles to prevail in the region and people are adamant not to change their opinion vis-à-vis Kashmir. This has perhaps resulted into change in government’s callous attitude which hitherto used all sorts of repressive measures to gag the voices of dissent, to choose the path of previous regime- that is, appointing of interlocutor to hold dialogue.
The objective of dialogue has always been to achieve practical and peaceful solution to the problems and ultimately, is only the productive way to settle issues. Politically, it is the most preferred mode for resolution of matters. However, dialogue with respect to Kashmir doesn’t hold much significance for common masses of valley. The reason behind its insignificance is the bitter memories of talks on Kashmir that have been held in the past.
It is noteworthy that appointing interlocutors for dialogue on Kashmir is not new to its people and leadership. The incoming interlocutor Dinesh Sharma is the fourth interlocutor appointed by the Centre since 2002. The first one was former Union minister KC Pant, the second, NN Vohra, the present governor of the state, and the last was a three-member panel comprising former bureaucrat MM Ansari, academician Radha Kumar and late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar- all were appointed by government to break ice on political fronts but couldn’t yield results. After the 2010 uprising, when three-member panel arrived to engage Kashmiri leadership for talks, the move was appreciated by all and people of Kashmir especially pinned hope and anticipated development. But to their dismay, the approach proved to be mere “Eye-Wash”. The report submitted by the panel was not considered by government of India and continues to gather dust.
The report asked the government to look into need for revoking of AFSPA and PSA but no such steps were taken. To the contrary, after the 2016 uprising , hundreds of youth were booked under PSA. Not only youth, aged men have been imprisoned under this black law. Even people from professions like teaching, journalism and so on , have not been spared .AFSPA continues to be the “license to kill” and tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination, allowing the members of Armed forces to perpetrate abuses with impunity. Hence, for the people of Kashmir, announcing and appointing Dinesh Sharma as an interlocutor is not going to make any difference.
The people of Kashmir believe that when previous interlocutors couldn’t persuade the government even to revoke draconian laws, declared as illegitimate by Human Rights watch and other human right organizations, how the newly appointed can resolve long standing Kashmir dispute? People ask what is unknown about Kashmir conflict that interlocutor now wants to know; plus it is a well established fact that no such dialogue would work in which all the stakeholders are not involved. India, that terms Kashmir as bilateral issue on international forums cannot neglect role of Pakistan.. Similarly, ignoring the resistance leadership who are having massive support makes dialogue a futile exercise. Also, the recent statement of BJP leader about interlocutor, in which he described him “special representative and not interlocutor”, has made people to pre-judge that this initiative would not bear fruit and consider it mere headline- management exercise. So, before taking such initiative it was important for the government of India to overcome trust deficit, build confidence among people of Kashmir, to show some leniency and outreach all the stakeholders. Since no such effort has been made, people have no expectations from this initiative.
Doubtlessly, every section of society in Kashmir wants peaceful resolution of Kashmir problem through talks. The Hurriyat conference termed as “Separatists” have also repeatedly expressed its willingness to dialogue. No one is averse to this option provided it is sincere, productive and meant to solve problem rather than a delaying tactic and an attempt to befool international community.
Think tankers in Indian administration must understand the fact there is no solution to Kashmir Issue other than sincere dialogue and no progress can be made unless a Kashmir-centric approach is taken into consideration. Moreover, Kashmir-issue if not addressed-, will remain a sore in the body of Indian politics and permanent peace cannot be ensured in South Asia without settlement of this dispute.
—The author is the in Education Department. He can be reached at: [email protected]