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A chief minister’s prayer

editorial 3

Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti said, the other day, ‘give me peace, I will pursue dialogue’. Seeking cooperation from the public, she said the process of dialogue and reconciliation could be carried forward if peace was maintained in the state. Chief Minister might be sincere in her claim but it is not the correct reading of the situation. Peace in Kashmir is not hostage to ‘no-dialogue’ between India and Pakistan. It is rather the lack of will and intention to resolve the issue of Kashmir that disturbs the peace. Academically speaking dialogue is the most honourable and the only civilized way to resolve disputes. But a cursory look at New Delhi’s philosophy of dialogue would reveal that institution of dialogue in India is the most corrupt and discredited creation. India has never used dialogue as a means to resolve issues. It rather used it as a means to corrupt people, buy time and loyalties and make those who refuse to fall in line irrelevant. It is this fear that makes dialogue a mockery when orchestrated in Kashmir context. It is for this fact that the appointment of Dinesh Sharma as new point man in Kashmir did not evoke any interest. There must be no doubt in mind about New Delhi’s understanding of Kashmir issue. It does not see Kashmir beyond an administrative issue. It is a historical reality that India has never conceded Kashmir as an issue. It rather acknowledges—issues in Kashmir. When Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah was championing the cause of plebiscite, for New Delhi Abdullah, not Kashmir, was a problem. India did all what it could take it to neutralize Abdullah. He was jailed for several years, pushed into isolation by courting his close associates and colleagues and raising a new political culture with new theme and characters. Abdullah finally broke and New Delhi settled with reinstating him in power in 1974. With Abdullah’s return to mainstream politics, India thought that everything was in place now. Below the surface the general anger, however, was piling up. It burst like a volcano after the infamously rigged Assembly elections of 1987 when younger generation of Kashmir walked out of confinements of politics and took to arms to vent to their anger. They crossed line of control to get arms training. Indian calculations again narrowed on “gun as a problem in Kashmir”, and did all what it needed to weed out gun from Kashmir. In the latest upsurge New Delhi deems stone-pelting as a problem. Stones are answered by bullets and pellets leaving many people dead and wounded. In this context it is unfathomable as how dialogue to be pursued by the chief minister would settle things. India and Pakistan have been talking over the past 67 years. “No-dialogue” is only a recent aberration. There are more than 100 pacts, agreements and joint statements between the two countries promised at resolving the issue peacefully but with each promise the issue of Kashmir became more intricate and complicated. At internal front too, the process of dialogue proved a façade. Since 2001, New Delhi appointed as many as five teams of interlocutors to address the internal dimension but without any movement forward. In 2001 A B Vajpayee-led NDA government appointed K C Pant as its pointman on Kashmir. The only success K C Pant could claim to his credit was his meeting with Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) chief Shabir Ahmad Shah, who was then operating oustide Hurriyat Conference. Other separatist leaders however refused to meet him. After Pant’s crash, New Delhi set up another committee headed by renouned lawyer Ram Jethmalani. Ram and his team visited Kashmir on August 16, 2002 in their attempt to establish contact with separatists. Among others Dileep Padgaonkar was also member of the Committee but the Committee ended up with a meeting with Shabir Shah only. The Committee eventuality vanished in air and New Delhi, in 2003, appointed N N Vohra (present governor) as new pointman. Vohra, despite having wide contacts within and outside separatist groups too ended up as failure. The present government appointed Dinesh Sharma with much more media attention but he too is seen nowhere on the horizon. Yes, there is no alternative to dialogue. But dialogue would succeed only when there is sincerity, resolve and will which is quite absent from the scene.