If India is a democracy, does it have the right to hold unconditional dialogue with one group of people who wish for something that influences many others? What is unconditional dialogue anyway?
When two entities enter dialogue, each have a set of conditions that get negotiated. Without these conditions, it is dictation. Geelani is already doing that without ‘humanitarian’ invitations. I cannot understand how it helps to make India’s participation in the dialogue ‘unconditional’, unless a Kashmir resolution is indirectly being recommended that brushes Ladakh, Jammu and the Pandits under the carpet of “humanitarian”.
The ‘demands’ so far are quite clear for even getting Geelani on the discussion table. They include getting soldiers out of Kashmir, revoking AFSPA, etc. for him to even consider talking with India. Without his word, Kashmir didn’t condemn the murders of two of its own girls at the hands of militants, forget negotiating with India for anything. Geelani is also very clear that is vision for Kashmir is for the entire state and that it is to be an Islamic state. If we see the conditions of non-Muslims in any Muslim regime, with what conscience can we afford to entertain these demands about those we consider our own? Sure, Kashmiri protestors describe this beautiful land where minorities will be protected, but their moral fabric so far shows no indications of anyone actually being bothered if this doesn’t happen as claimed. Jammu wants to be a separate state. Ladakh wants to be a union territory. What is India’s right to negotiate their ‘freedom’ for them then? And why should India separate citizens who are going through considerable effort to make a statement out of belonging?
Without Jammu and Ladakh, you will never get the buy in of separatists, because the valley by itself is not a feasible country and Pakistan doesn’t want peace to begin with. Its dreams are insatiable, if we go by the blatant hate speeches covered in National media ranging from “no problem if nuclear war” to Zaid “Radio Pakistan, Delhi” Hamid. So it isn’t even like accepting these demands would bring peace to the region.
And we still haven’t even considered ‘peace’ for the ‘independent’ Kashmir, because frankly, if that happens, its their headache and I for one will be glad to read news of a neighbour on the subject than part of my own country. However, if Kashmir is currently part of India, the country currently has an obligation to consider these things.
For those who speak of Army atrocities, this is the same Army that has protected Kashmir for decades. India wouldn’t have a prayer in hell of getting Kashmir at all in the first place without the support of locals. Nor could the presence of resistance to “evil India” during the wars have allowed its continued “occupation” when Pakistan attacked with the express purpose of “freeing Kashmir”.
For those who speak of Army atrocities, is there no surprise that such an evil, occupying Army manages to do so little damage while “oppressing” an uprising? We have reports of many uprisings around the world for easy comparison. Far fewer soldiers have managed far more impressive death rates. How come the Indian Army with its express people of killing Kashmiris can’t do better with so many soldiers and automatic weapons that are apparently Kashmir’s only view of India?
If Kashmir wants freedom from India, its rather ridiculous to expect India to fight its freedom struggle too. Yet, it seems to be exactly what Kashmir wants – protests to be allowed undisturbed, civilians to not be killed, etc. Even when militants are found among same civilians. It is ridiculous to expect India to accept Kashmir’s word on Jammu and Ladakh because they have a better PR department.
I don’t oppose Kashmir’s freedom. However, what is happening in Kashmir is slander, not a freedom struggle.
So what should India do about Kashmir?
NOT have talks would be a good beginning. A country has talks with another country. For communicating with parts of its own country, there are other mechanisms that don’t require “representatives of India”.
India must decide where it stands on its own claim on Kashmir and act from there. If Kashmir belongs to India, but we accept the LoC as the current boundary, then there needs to be no further discussion with anyone regarding the matter. Nothing new is going to come up with this lock in place.
India must deliver on governance and justice. It is one thing to have the Army in Kashmir and quite another to have no oversight. The legitimacy of the presence of the Army and consequently the entire country comes into question when moral corruption rules. Said this earlier, saying it again. One fast track court will be better than one unconditional dialogue. There should be several of these with judges who don’t fear upholding the law against anyone – Army, government, or separatists. This is particularly important with regard to AFSPA. The AFSPA by itself can’t do much harm if the powers it bestows are also open to questioning and protected against misuse. If the Army is too corrupt to be able to enforce this, then AFSPA must go. If it comes to weighing the risk for forces and civilians, let’s not forget forces are paid to risk their lives. Civilians are not.
India must ensure that its presence is ethical and that the state answers to those voting it into power.
Kashmir on the other hand must do a few things too:
Begin from the present. The past is convoluted and has several versions depending on camps. It is not as important as the present and future. It must be set aside till the present and future are secure in terms of progress. You cannot answer to every initiative with quotes from history and taunts and expect to be taken seriously. Not can every wrong be avenged if one hopes to move on.
Begin caring for your land. Rather than just protest and complain and whine, take charge of the well being. Whether a state in India or an independent country, to be functional it is required that the Kashmiris will need to manage it. And, it will need to be Kashmiris. It will need to be in place before independence is even an option. The state government is Kashmiri. If Kashmir becomes free, that fact is not going to change. Overthrowing through rebellion will only put militants in power, and there goes your freedom, because militants are directly linked with the ISI. Leaders will need to emerge before India even considers you as a neighbour that they cannot police as needed. But then, if those leaders emerge, most of the problems will be solved without freedom too… but that is another thing.
Honesty. The Kashmir freedom struggle is a saga in dishonesty on the part of the freedom seekers. From leaders being assassinated and blamed on the Army to local dissent against the freedom struggle being killed. From militants being found in local households to deaths of innocents being publicized selectively. There is no honesty. What is claimed is one thing, what happens is another. Anyone supporting freedom is automatically tainted and discredited through association. If killing is condemned, then killings by militants shouldn’t need the nod of some local hotshot before they are condemned. If civilians are to be presumed innocent, then support for militants among civilians must stop. Publicity may damage India’s reputation, but it can’t win freedom unless anyone wants to associate with you. So far, the one ally there is, is more a damage to the cause than credit. If you wish for atrocities against civilians to be punished, it will be a far bigger statement to assist in the arrest of militants killing innocents too.
The blind obsession with evil India isn’t helping your cause. As a part of India, it is generating a lot of resentment and opposition to your wishes, effectively increasing the voices against faster than those in support. As an independent country, you can look across the border to see the future of a country born in hate rather than purpose. There needs to be less blame and more ownership. Less attacking and more of rebuilding.
For the Army, police and other forces.
Begin using video recorders. Your word is suspect and with good reason. On the other hand, your version of events often differs from civilians and it isn’t as though their word can be called the voice of truth either. Use video recorders to record ambushes. That will be half the battle won.
Stop torture. The PSA is understandable, but torture is not. The arrested people are already out of circulation. Torture doesn’t make the country safer. In any case, laws must be followed.
The AFSPA needs to be ammended. While it is understandable that hot pursuit of militants can’t wait for warrants, it must be made an exception rather than the rule, and every exception must be meticulously documented and reviewed post the happening. A blanket permission is something the soldiers haven’t shown themselves as capable of deserving. Nor should it be so, if we expect normalcy to return to Kashmir. It simply is not normal to have strangers have authority to enter your home at will and search at will in your own country. This is a powerful tool to assist in supporting security. It must not be abused.
Rewards for encounters must go. Why should people be rewarded for doing their jobs? We already have recognitions for outstanding bravery and such like. It seems inhuman to reward killings of anyone, militants included – in Kashmir, NE or the maoists – when they are sons of the same country. That should bring down motivations to fake it drastically. It will decrease local resistance. Even if bona fide militants are killed, if their killers are rewarded, it automatically creates enemies and provides recruitment propaganda from those who support them.