THE all party delegation to Kashmir last week proved one point that was not on the agenda. It convinced the average Indian that for both the separatists and the politicians, Kashmir means only the few square kilometers of the Kashmir valley. The mountains of Ladakh, the plains of Jammu and the people living in other parts of Kashmir are not in the reckoning. The delegates went and met all those who are creating trouble in the valley and totally ignored those who want peace. There was not even a murmur about the Kashmiri Pandits who had been driven out of their homes. The question of talking about destructed temples was way out of their minds. And yet, they had gone there to discuss peace and reconstruction!
And all secular talk ended with a prayer in the mosque. Even the communists, the boasting atheists, who would rather drop dead than be seen in the temple were at the mosque, praying. How does secularism justify the visit to the mosque? And why should Kashmir be identified with a mosque?
The members of the delegation, led by the smooth-talking Home Minister P Chidambaram acted as listening posts, while the media was lapping up all the sound bites. The media complained that the delegates visited only three injured people in the hospitals. Nobody asked how many jawans were admitted in the hospitals.
Any talk on Kashmir has become a one-way chat-show now. The vociferous groups well-fed and indoctrinated by the forces inimical to India corner all the attention and make it appear as though all the responsibility for the ills of the valley lies with ‘Indians.’ In a way it does. We are being too naive.
Kashmir has been enjoying special status for over 60 years now. For protecting ‘Kashmiriyat’ they say. Now the special status is being abused by the Islamic fundamentalists, backed morally, financially and logistically by Pakistan and beyond. The infrastructure and economy of the Kashmir part of the state has been totally ruined by the terrorists, who recruit children into their network to use them as stones in the catapult. A recent newspaper report had alleged that there was rampant drug abuse in the valley among the youth.
The UPA government is sending confusing signals on the repeal of the AFSPA. The final word is not out on it yet. But, the Indian army that is normally reluctant to make public its stand on security issues, was forced to come out with a statement against repealing or diluting the Act. It is to be noted that the casualties from stone pelting and firing did not involve the Army at all. The Army is being made a high profile scapegoat in the political one-upmanship. The J & K Police and the CRPF were the forces involved in these street duals. In fact, according to a report in Sunday Guardian, the maximum number of deaths happened from the bullets of the state police, while the CRPF allowed itself to be blamed for ‘excesses’ in order to avoid a breach in the defence forces.
The Congress’s greatest strategy is ‘fishing in troubled waters’ for a good political harvest. It is doing the same now in Kashmir. It is in alliance with the National Conference and is very much part of the governance in the state. But its reaction to the NC is that of an adversary. And while political discussion was going on, the mother-son Gandhi duo was playing the fiddle from both sides. While the son gave an all-clear chit to Omar Abdullah, the mother advised the government not to be swayed by her son’s comment. She and the Prime Minister in the meanwhile were talking to Mehbooba and her father Mufti, whose sympathy, the world knows, lies with the separatists.
The solutions for Kashmir are clear. Treat it like any other state of India, which is what it is. Removal of Article 370 should be the first step. Kashmir situation is essentially a law and order problem, made messy by enemy infiltration. Delhi should stop sending all-party delegations and special packages whenever the cynical madness erupts. The terrorists would have to be dealt with, with an iron hand, irrespective of age and gender. This would bring Kashmir into the mainstream of Indian politics and economy. From there on, it would be progress, prosperity and peace for the people of the state.
It is a good time to recall what former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said about the Sikh terrorists. He told them to look for a ‘homeland’ in another landmass, outside India. Well, the Geelanis and Maliks can have their own very homeland, across our western borders, in Pakistan.