Government appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma has started the talking process in Jammu and Kashmir. He has met several groups during his four day stay in Kashmir and two days in Jammu. The Kashmir leg is more significant as it is the valley which has been mostly reeling under frequent terror violence. And the response from the various valley groups will go a long way in shaping the approach-policy of the centre. So far in the three years, the Modi government has taken a hard view at the valley happenings. And now when the terrorists and their supporters have been hit hard by some tough action, the centre has offered a hand for peace and talks.
During his first visit to the valley as interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma has met a near 100 groups and representatives. These include political, social, and civil society groups. And the kind of response that has been generated is worth understanding the roots of Kashmir problem.
Former Chief Minister and working president of National Conference Omar Abdullah said after the interlocutor went to his residence, “What I told him is between us but I have given him some suggestions on how to expand the scope of his dialogue and I hope that he will implement those.” However his father, Dr Farooq Abdullah is being dismissive of the whole exercise. All he is batting for is autonomy of the state. He said, “That autonomy for both parts of divided Kashmir without changing borders is the only possible solution to the Kashmir problem.”
This is a former union minister and a person who sometime back was lobbying for vice-president and president of India posts. He is sworn to the constitution of India which entails integration including that of the state of J&K. His son Omar Abdullah too was a central minister during Vajpayee rule. Then there are several other veteran leaders in the valley who met the interlocutor during his Kashmir stay. Old timer CPM leader Yusuf Tarigami said after the meet, “Only a serious, credible and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders will help. The onus of restoring credibility to the dialogue process is on New Delhi.” He along with People’s Democratic Front chief Hakim Yaseen and Democratic Party Nationalist headed by Ghulam Hassan Mir issued a joint statement in which they demanded that “conducive atmosphere for meaningful dialogue” be created. And for this they want PM Modi to assure Kashmiris on article 370 and 35 A through a statement in Parliament, review cases against political detainees and withdraw cases against youth involved in unrest. The state Congress said it is for dialogue but wants the interlocutor to present a roadmap and mandate.
The ruling PDP wants the centre to do everything to gain the confidence of the people and the stake holders to sustain the process of dialogue. The party vice-president Sartaz Madni said, “The dialogue process should be seen as a sincere and honest effort to address issues than a mere response to violence.” Besides these politicians there is another group which believes in challenging the integrity of the nation and bats for the separatist lobby. One of them is the independent legislature Engineer Rashid. He did meet the interlocutor but demanded unconditional release of terrorists and anti-India pro Pakistani leaders like Masrat Alam, Aasiya Andrabi and Qasim Faktoo.
During the first trip of Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor to Kashmir, all eyes were on the separatist groups. On Pakistan’s direction the separatist groups have formed The Joint Resistance Forum. It includes: the hardline Syed Ali Shah Geelani’ Hurriyat faction, Maulvi Mirwaiz Omar Farooq’s moderate faction and Yasin Malik’s JKLF. Geelani, however, is calling the shots and sets agenda on the direction of Pakistani establishment. So in line with the directions from Pakistan this conglomerate has decided to stay away from talks. Instead they put forth a statement and dubbed his appointment a time-buying tactic.
This statement has not come as a surprise given their allegiance to the Pakistani establishment. Hurriyat is known to follow diktats from Pakistan and never makes an independent understanding of the situation. Their insistence has been to involve Pakistan in the talks as a third party. Infact Hurriyat has repeatedly rejected the talks offer from the government. The only time they held talks were during the Vajpayee government but, unfortunately, they abandoned the efforts later on due to pressure from Pakistan. This time also they have not opted for talks even though it is being said that there are some sections within the group who favour talks. But till the time pro Pakistan supporter Syed Ali Shah Geelani is at the helm, Hurriyat is likely to stick to the hard line.
Now compare the statements, conditions put forth and the stance of the political parties with that of the separatist groups. It seems that there is not much of a difference. What Hurriyat is demanding the hard way, all others too are seeking in a subtle way. Whether it is the CPM’s Yusuf Tarigami or NC’s Farooq or Omar Abdullah or Engineer Rashid, the theme is nowhere for the nation. Farooq Abdullah passed the resolution for autonomy in J&K assembly in 2000 when his party was in the saddle. He wants both India and Pakistan to sit together with the people of both parts of Kashmir and work out internal autonomy for both parts within the existing border.
It is rather intriguing that the political parties in the valley do not hold a narrative for India. Right from 1989 when the terrorism began in the valley, all these leaders have never ever held their fort. Most of them have coyly bowed to the narrative set by the separatists and the hard line Hurriyat. In fact most of the political leaders hold Syed Ali Shah Geelani in ‘respect’. None has stood against the calendar of protests set by Geelani and his supporters. None of them stood in support of the minority Kashmiri Pandits when ethnic cleansing was being carried out in early 1990s. None of them campaign for the benefits with standing for the country than falling for falsehoods of a failed state like Pakistan. In fact when the valley was reeling under intense terrorism, most of the political fraternity including the Abdullahs ran away to either other parts of the country or the cool climes of London. It is during those difficult times in early 1990s that Hurriyat took the centre stage and has been trying to dictate the narrative ever since. When the security forces brought the situation under control in mid 1990s, all the runaway birds flocked back to valley and have been milking the cow ever since. All of them want the centre to do the job in their state and they themselves live in security with plush funds and amenities being provided to them on the name of security and counter-terror measures. Former army chief and now central minister General V K Singh had mentioned in a candid interview that many of the leaders in the valley have been taking lot of secret funds on the name of counter terror action. But in reality, this very political spectrum has all along failed to meet the challenges.
It is rightly said leaders and thinkers shape the nations. But, if the narrative is not honest and is enveloped in cloak of religious fanaticism, the outcome is what has been witnessed in the valley. In the absence of an honest narrative, anti-India elements like Burhan Wani, Geelani, Asiya Andrabi are bound to hog the imaginations of the young minds. So long as a pro-India narrative is not build up in the valley, discussions and talks are not going to yield results.