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Oct 02, 2010
Open Space

Politics of the package

Peerzada Arshad Hamid

There is a buzz about the recently announced New Delhi’s eight-point initiative to address Kashmir’s ongoing unrest. The political initiative, as New Delhi prefers to call it, was announced following all party delegation of Indian parliamentarians to the troubled state.

Before going into discussions over whether the initiative in its totality is truly aimed at easing the tensions or just another process that would achieve nothing other than consuming time, let us underline what the plan offers?

To be precise enough the initiative says New Delhi will appoint a group of interlocutors to talk to various social and political groups of the state. It called on state government to release the jailed protesters, reviewing cases of detenues booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), review the Disturbed Areas notification and deployment of security forces. It asked for reopening of educational institutions. It also announced a financial compensation of Rs five lakh for every person killed in civil unrest since June this year and an additional assistance of Rs 100 crore for improving infrastructure in educational institutions of the state.

The announcement is presumed to bring down the tempers that are raking up over the past three months and have seen 109 people mostly teenagers and young men killed in police and paramilitary action on protesters that feel alienated with New Delhi.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the psyche of majority of Kashmiris because of the repeated apathy at the hands of New Delhi.

Protests seeking end of New Delhi’s rule are going on relentlessly across Muslim majority areas of state. The efforts by government forces to stop such protests often trigger clashes with youth pelting stones and police and paramilitary troopers retaliating by firing tear smoke shells and bullets.

Police action either results in deaths or wounding of civilians.

The state policy has been to use force to quell dissent especially since the inception of armed insurgency in the state.

Unfortunately state government as well as centre has not been able to come up with a strategy other than running affairs through the barrel of gun.

The gulf that is widening between the people and state government, which represents Indian Union is widening with each passing day. The confrontation has rendered Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his coalition government ineffective and gave separatists the upper hand.

Mere rhetoric and blame games won’t work. The government has to accept the aberration in the system that triggers protests relentlessly.

During the initial phase when death toll rose to 17, government ordered an inquiry promising action against the accused, the report is yet to be submitted. By now the death toll surpassed 100 besides wounding hundreds. So where stands the elected government’s promise?

Apart from this, strikes called by separatists and strict curfew imposed by authorities have paralyzed the life. The closure of markets, business establishments, educational institutions, government offices has suffered losses, some of which are tangible and some intangible.

According to estimates by economic experts, in the past 100 days, the valley alone has lost Rs 8000 crore for in wake of the cessation of service mobility, movement and businesses.

The loss to the student community cannot be quantified.

There is no denying the fact that Kashmir is a political problem and needs a political solution. Whosoever, tries to find solution to this imbroglio outside the political frame has not understood the issue and needs the fresh orientation on the subject.

In the given situation where does the eight point initiative stand?

In fact, things in Kashmir look more hopeless than ever in the past three months.

In the past there have been efforts by New Delhi as well as separatist groups to get engaged in talks to find a suitable way out but every time the moves ended in futility, for they were half-hearted.

Flicking the pages of history we come across central team meeting Hizbul Mujahideen leaders in 2000. Moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference during the tenure of governments headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh entered into talks with New Delhi. The talks failed to break ice and dialogue process could not pick up.

Besides this the renewed offer instead of being an exclusive one appears to be more generalized in nature.

So, who will be central government approaching right now for talks and what will be the agenda?

Separatists are demanding specific and absolute political concessions. Is government in New Delhi ready to give that?

As far as issue of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and curtailing security is concerned again New Delhi has contradiction. AFSA gives stationed troops the legal authority to shoot any person on mere suspicion of being a threat, and guarantees immunity from prosecution. It also provides a soldier a cover from being tried in a civilian court, for a civilian court requires the permission of home ministry in such a matter. Rights activists say more than 400 such cases are still waiting the home ministry sanction.

If on one hand government says militancy has come down drastically over the past one decade and number of militants operating in the state is less than 500, then they should equally reciprocate with meaningful gestures.

Why not curtailing the number of troops and withdrawing the special powers to the soldiers? After all after two decades of militancy, the people in the state want a change in the scenario.

Jammu and Kashmir is considered as one of the highest militarized regions in the world. Officially India does not reveal the actual number of its troops deployed in Kashmir. Rights groups say that India has deployed more than 700,000 troopers and paramilitary troopers in the region to counter militants fighting in the region. The troops are often being accused of indulging in human rights violations.

Separatists in the region have been consistently demanding the withdrawal of troops and scrapping of their special powers and have even made it a pre-condition for entering into formal talks with New Delhi. So why not acting on this before engaging into a fruitful process?

Prior to this the much talked about working groups on Kashmir nominated by Prime Minister submitted their reports, why is New Delhi taking time in considering even those recommendations.

The groups were nominated in May 2006 to find a permanent solution to the conflict in the state. One of the committees headed by former Supreme Court judge Saghir Ahmad recommended autonomy for the state.

The demand of autonomy in the region is being advocated by the pro-Indian ruling party of the region National Conference. The party has passed autonomy resolution in the state legislature in 2000, which was turned down by New Delhi.

Why pushing for fresh committees to hold dialogue process to find a solution and not start implementing the recommendations of working groups?

Reviewing cases of detainees booked under PSA and compensation to kin of deceased, the steps are not the answer to the problem instead an obligation of the responsible government to its people.

The people’s backlash that was manifested by setting ablaze anything that represents government (offices, police stations, railway sheds, etc) is highly condemnable and cannot be justified. But at the same time state cannot afford to be at war with its own people.

Tailpiece

New Delhi has to politically equip the people, no matter mainstream leaders or the separatists. After all the people should realize that there are people listening to their demands.

So if the agenda has failed to deliver on the political front, then it is simply undoing of the eight-point- initiative.

peerzada@kashmirnewz.com

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