You Cannot Get It Right In Kashmir If Jammu And Ladakh Are Left Out Of The Plan

You Cannot Get It Right In Kashmir If Jammu And Ladakh Are Left Out Of The Plan

by Niharika Tagotra - Friday, July 14, 2017 02:48 PM IST
You Cannot Get It Right In Kashmir If Jammu And Ladakh Are Left Out Of The PlanTibetan prayer flags fly over the city of Leh at 12,000ft above sea level in Ladakh, India. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
  • For a peaceful resolution to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the politics of power, greed and corruption will have to be dismantled, and Jammu and Ladakh will have to be given primacy in carrying forward the dialogue.

The “secular” and “syncretic” fabric of Jammu and Kashmir, they say. What they don’t say, or know, is that everything secular and syncretic about the state emanates from Jammu, not Kashmir. ‘Kashmiriyat’ died in 1989, but we have taken notice of the corpse only today.

The polarisation in Kashmir is not a ‘recent’ phenomenon. The Kashmiri movement for azadi was always communal and religiously inspired. Because we chose to ignore the grander religious overtones of ‘azadi-nama’, 18 years later here we are, blaming Wahhabi Islam for the Kashmir mayhem.

The attack on the Amaranth yatris has not sprung out of nothing. In the last 27 years, ever since militancy took roots in the Kashmir Valley, the Amarnath yatra has come under attack five times and the casualties number a staggering 70-odd lives lost in the bloodbath.

Besides militant attacks, the Amaranth yatra has also been at the centre of the political storm which has engulfed the state and served to widen the divide between the regions, the communities and the peoples. In 2008, the state witnessed a major agitation, wherein the two regions of the state went up in arms against each other over the issue of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) land transfer. That year served to widen the cracks that had already developed due to the majoritarianism that had overtaken governance and rule of law in the state. In 2014 again, the Amaranth base camp was violently attacked by local Kashmiris who burnt down around 100 tents and langars, and left 50 people injured.

Anything even remotely related to the belief system of the Hindus in the state has been attacked. Separatist calls for protests against the Kausar Nag yatra, the destruction of about 200 temples in the valley in the last 20 years, protests against townships for Kashmiri Pandits and demands for shutdowns over the issue of grant of citizenship to West Pakistan refugees are but a few instances which puncture the narrative of a supposed ‘Kashmiriyat’ in the valley.

Must we, then, pander to the long-dead phenomenon of Kashmiriyat when it’s evident that it masks a well thought-out and carefully executed plan of waging a war against regional and religious minorities in the state? Isn’t it self-defeating to even hope for a revival of Kashmiriyat when gun-wielding, Islamic State-loving youth of the valley are threatening old-school political ideologues with violence, lynching policemen while raising jihadi slogans, killing and mutilating their own lads who dared to choose peace over violence, and attacking innocent, unarmed pilgrims? Haven’t the common Kashmiris lost this battle over narratives already, simple because they let the likes of Burhan Wani and his comrades hijack the issue?

When the Kashmiri intelligentsia offered support to the violent azadi movement after Burhan Wani’s encounter, it rationalised jihadist violence and justified the use of terror as a means to an end. There were copious warnings of this kind of support leading to the start of a civil war-like situation in the valley – concerns that were blatantly ignored and brushed under the carpet, for they did not go well with the set narratives of ‘azadi’. What we see unfolding in Kashmir now, then, is a descent into an era that will bring consequences for the entire state that will be worse than the ones experienced during the 1990s.

It’s not like the Kashmiris are to blame for everything. The political vacuum in the state, which has led to this civil and social chaos, has been caused and exacerbated by the leadership in Delhi. When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the centre in 2014, and in the state in 2015, its alliance with the valley-based Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) offered a significant opportunity for the state to bridge its divide and work on the issues affecting the common people from all three regions of the state. Instead, the manner in which the two parties have functioned has not only worked to widen the trust deficit between the two regions but also between the civilians and the government.

For peace to have any chance in the state, it is important for the other two regions, Jammu and Ladakh, to have a greater say in the policy-making process of the state. Because the other two regions, after all these years of living in the shadow of the gun, have still worked to uphold the state’s ethos. Greater participation of theirs in Jammu and Kashmir’s political dynamics is an imperative for peace to find ground.

With 25 seats from Jammu, and a sizeable support from Ladakh, the BJP had every opportunity to undo the history of discriminatory politics that was practiced by the state’s ruling elite. With the PDP’s support in the valley, the alliance could have easily worked together to assuage the concerns of the people. Instead, its decision to isolate the moderate voices in the valley, reject outright the goals of the agenda of alliance, pursue greed to remain in power by sacrificing the interests of the people of Jammu and Ladakh and excessive use of military force as a replacement to political process has created a situation in the state where the BJP has lost trust of the people from the two regions. While the PDP has lost all credibility in the valley. The creation of a political vacuum in the state owing to the short-sightedness of the Modi government’s Jammu-and-Kashmir policy has supplied fertile ground to the pro-azadi, gun-wielding factions who have created a leaderless movement in the valley and are slowly but steadily pushing the state into its darkest phase.

What is the solution, you ask? The solution is the same as it was 27 years ago. For peace to find a real chance, the actual secular and syncretic regions of the state will need to spearhead the political process. The governments at the centre and the state will need to encourage the moderate factions from the three regions to discuss their grievances. Development of a genuine dialogue process based on a common thread running through the three regions will work to create a people-to-people partnership and provide a bottom-up rebuilding of the peace process in the state.

The trust deficit between the commoners needs to be bridged, and the initiatives will need to come from Jammu. This will only happen if Jammu is given its due share of representation in the governance and administration of the state. Developing empathy towards each other’s concerns through shared experiences of death, persecution, terror and destruction is the only way in which the state can kick-start a meaningful dialogue between the stakeholders of the three regions.

For a peaceful resolution to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the politics of power, greed and corruption will have to be dismantled, and Jammu and Ladakh will have to be given primacy in carrying forward the dialogue. The government cannot get New Delhi and Kashmir to talk if it is unable to get Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to talk to each other – for the road to the north originates in the south.

Niharika Tagotra is currently pursuing a PhD in International Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and works as a political analyst for the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

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