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What happened to dialogue offer?

The hope for a dialogue on Kashmir, generated after home minister Rajnath Singh’s recent to Kashmiri separatist leadership and Pakistan, appears to have died before it could take off. The din of dialogue that had taken over the usual offensive narrative in media and government circles is now little heard. In fairness of things, the separatist leadership that is now more known as joint resistance leadership (JRL) showed a matured though measured response to the offer. The JRL, instead of rejecting the offer or putting conditions, showed willingness to talk to the central government but sought some clarifications with regard to the offer. The most positive thing in separatist leaders’ response is that Syed Ali Geelani is on board with Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik, the other two leaders in the JRL. Syed Ali Geelani had been staunch critic of any bilateral dialogue with government of India, and he would reject such offer even at the drop of the hat. Not many people had expected separatist leadership reacting so positively on the offer. As it appeared that Geelani too is ready to join the dialogue band-wagon, central government has held back on the offer of dialogue. There is no word since either from the home ministry or from the PMO. That gives one the impression that New Delhi is still dogged with its self-defined dogma of dialogue.

Academically speaking dialogue is the most honourable and the only civilized way to resolve disputes. But a cursory look at New Delhi’s philosophy and politics 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. A Hurriyat leader, who was part of Mirwaiz-led team that held two meetings with Dr Manmohan Singh, said that Singh, though politely, but squarely rejected every demand of Hurriyat leaders made during talks. Hurriyat leaders’ refusal to talk to Sharma could be the outcome of this history of dialogue. One is not sure where it all would stop but the most positive thing about it is that central government has realized the importance of dialogue. It is, indeed, a major departure of the Modi government from its existing “bring-them-on-kneels” policy. Pacifists have, of late, been demanding for a political approach to the Kashmir imbroglio but the Modi-led sarkar showed little interest to oblige them. It rather went up with a whole hog military approach to settle things in Kashmir. But the more pressure did they apply, the more reaction it created. More than 100 persons have died and over 15,000 wounded (all of them common civilians) in government forces’ actions to quell the peoples’ uprising provoked by the killing of HizbulMujhaideen commander BurhanWani in July 2016. The political leadership of separatist hues also got to be hauled under jackboots of police power. They were accused of getting funds from Pakistan to create trouble in Kashmir. Their cases of alleged involvement in money laundering were handed over to National Investigating Agency (NIA). The NIA arrested and questioned many of them. Many second-rung Hurriyat activists and a top businessman besides prominent leader Shabir Ahmad Shah have been lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail on the allegations of money laundering. There had been calls from the votaries of dialogue for blending military approach with the political one, which central government was not willing to accept. Rajnath Singh’s offer in this context was a surprise package. JRL response was even more surprising. It is quite an apt opportunity for turning this ‘surprise’ into ‘hope’. The responsibility lies on New Delhi more. Instead of remaining discreetly silent, central government take advantage of the situation and make dialogue not just to happen but to succeed as well.