Demilitarise. Repeal black laws. Talk to Pakistan. Have a referendum. Remember that Kashmiris are not Indians



KASHMIR IS a political problem and you cannot resolve a political problem by taking administrative decisions. The intensity of protests can vary, but we don’t always need deaths in Kashmir to make people in India understand you have a problem on your hands. The Indian government is complacent to the situation in Kashmir. New Delhi comes running to you the moment there is trouble in Kashmir. They speak of dialogue and there is a flurry of official exchanges. But the moment normalcy returns to Kashmir, by the standards of the Indian government, they forget about the problem.

The government of India always makes its people see Kashmir from a Pakistani prism. Pakistan cannot be sending stones; maybe guns but they won’t be exporting stones to Kashmir. The stone-pelters are disgruntled youth who are dismayed at their own leadership and that of India. The people of India have to know the bitter fact that the people of Kashmir are not Indians. They don’t see themselves as Indians or as part of the mainstream. The gap between India and Kashmir has widened day by day and the wrong approach of the government of India is responsible for this. I have suffered by working for a dialogue in the past. Now, they ask me to contest elections before a settlement. How can I justify contesting elections under the Indian Constitution and under the Indian Election Commission when I am challenging the very concept of Kashmir’s accession with India?

The unaccepted Two CRPF soldiers watch over the Dal
The unaccepted Two CRPF soldiers watch over the Dal

HE BEST way to go about Kashmir is to put the issue to the people. Some weeks ago, the independence of Kosovo was accepted. If you can have a nation like that, then why can’t we have a nation of Kashmir? Kashmir is an entity. It is not a piece of land. It is not a territorial issue that India and Pakistan can discuss between themselves and have bilateral agreements. But you still have to talk to Pakistan. You have to talk to the people of Kashmir, who represent the anger. We have to do this though the mandate for dialogue has shrunk.

Status quo is, however, not acceptable. We have to move beyond status quo. We understand that it is a gradual process. You cannot solve the problem in a single go. There are complexities. There are issues. So start on a gradual level. Start with demilitarisation. Start with repeal of black laws. Start with the removal of bunkers. For instance, stone-pelting is happening mostly in areas where there are bunkers. You have four army, BSF and CRPF camps in the midst of the city. Those are a source of irritation. We have been telling them for years to move the camps somewhere else. Remove the bunkers and the watch towers. Give some respite.

The trouble is that India expects everybody else to act. They have not moved an inch from where they were while Pakistan has at least shifted from its earlier position. Musharraf talked about demilitarisation, self-governance, open borders, and people to people contact. This may not have been a solution, but it was a step towards a solution. Now, let there be a referendum. If people choose to be with either India or Pakistan, it is acceptable to us.

India has muddled its approach to the problem. First, it tries to dictate the dialogue. Second, it tries to buy loyalty in Kashmir through economic packages. This will not work. You have to remember that the Kashmiri is very smart. He will take the money and still pelt stones.

The writer is Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), and was in conversation with Vijay Simha

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

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