Across the aisle: Kashmir is sliding into disaster

The writing on the wall is clear. The alienation of the people of the Kashmir Valley is nearly complete. We are on the brink of losing Kashmir.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: April 16, 2017 5:28 am
Kashmir, Kashmir man army jeep, man tied to jeep, Kashmir violence, Kashmir clashes, stone pelting, Kashmir nationalism, nationalism, Valley violence, Express column, Indian Express The people of the Kashmir Valley have alternated between hope and despair. J&K has seen good times and bad times, but the present time seems to be the worst of times. (Representational)

I have written many times on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir with particular reference to the situation in the Kashmir Valley. There were six columns on this page between April and September 2016. The thrust of my argument was, thanks to the policies adopted by the PDP-BJP government in J&K and the Central government, we were losing Kashmir. Few, outside the Kashmir Valley, supported me; many criticised me; and a minister of the Central government came close to calling me anti-national!

I have not changed my views. Rather, recent events have strengthened my views and I intend to articulate them more forcefully. My argument can be summarised thus:

Article 370 is a compact

Jammu & Kashmir, then ruled by a king, acceded to India in 1947 under a ‘grand bargain’. Article 370 of the Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, embodied that grand bargain. Over the years, that Article has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance. The three regions of J&K have responded in different ways. The centre of the conflict is the Kashmir Valley that is home to seven million people. The people of the Valley, especially the youth, have reacted aggressively to the denial of the autonomy that was promised when J&K acceded to India. Among the people, a very small number wants the Valley to become part of Pakistan. A number of persons have turned militants and taken to violence but, at the worst of times, that number did not exceed a few hundred. The overwhelming majority, though, demands azadi.

India, rather the Indian establishment, has reacted predictably. Every government in J&K and every government at the Centre has responded to the challenge with more warnings, more troops and more laws. I have concluded that Kashmir is one subject on which the Prime Minister’s writ does not run. I believe Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee genuinely looked for a resolution, spoke of insaaniyat,but Operation Parakram was the legacy of his government. Dr Manmohan Singh had an acute sense of history, he accommodated new ideas like the Round Table conferences, amending the AFSPA and deploying interlocutors, but ultimately deferred to the ‘establishment’ view. Mr Narendra Modi surprised all by inviting Mr Nawaz Sharif to the swearing-in of the new government but soon enough he embraced the ‘establishment’ view.

The worst of times

The people of the Kashmir Valley have alternated between hope and despair. J&K has seen good times and bad times, but the present time seems to be the worst of times.

The slide to chaos began in July 2016 with the killing of Burhan Wani. That was only the immediate trigger, the seeds had been sown earlier. In 2014, after the election to the J&K legislative Assembly, two unlikely partners, the PDP and the BJP, formed a coalition government. That was, and remains, a grave provocation. The PDP is seen as a betrayer and the BJP is seen as the usurper. Pulled in opposite directions, the state government has remained passive and helpless while the armed forces have implemented a muscular policy to quell dissent and disturbance.

Since July 2016 and up to January 20, 2017, the violence in J&K claimed 75 lives. Besides, 12,000 people were injured, 1,000 lost vision in one eye due to pellet injuries and five were blinded (as per a report in this newspaper).

As I write this, the situation in J&K has worsened. There were two by-elections — in Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies. Srinagar constituency, spread over three districts, went to the polls on April 9. The voter turnout was 7.14 per cent, the lowest in 28 years. There was widespread stone-pelting. Eight people were killed in police firing. Re-polling in 38 booths took place on April 13, no voter turned up in 20 of those 38 booths, and the voting percentage in the re-poll was 2.02 per cent. Meanwhile, polling in Anantnag constituency was postponed to May 25. The non-vote is actually a vote of no confidence against the state government and the Central government.

The writing on the wall is clear. The alienation of the people of the Kashmir Valley is nearly complete. We are on the brink of losing Kashmir. We cannot retrieve the situation through a ‘muscular’ policy — tough talk by ministers, dire warnings from the Army Chief, deploying more troops or killing more protesters.

A last opportunity

At the risk of being labelled anti-national, let me list the first few steps that must be taken:

1. Ask the PDP-BJP government to resign and promulgate Governor’s Rule. Mr N N Vohra has done a great job as governor, but it is time for a new governor.

2. Announce that the Central government will begin a dialogue with all the stakeholders. Talks can begin with civil society groups and student leaders. Eventually, talks must be held with the separatists.

3. Appoint interlocutors to pave the way for talks.

4. Reduce the presence of the Army and paramilitary forces and hand over the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the Kashmir Valley to the J&K police.

5. Defend the border with Pakistan by all means, take deterrent action against infiltrators on the border, but put on hold ‘counter-terrorist operations’ in the Valley.

If the current medicine of tough talk and tougher action has not worked in J&K, why is it not opportune to try an alternative cure?

Website: @Pchidambaram_IN

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  1. K
    Kamalneet Singh
    May 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm
    Very wisely put. Things seem to have gone from bad to worse. There does not seem to be any effort at winning hearts. Or at insaniyat.
    1. A
      Anil Bharali
      Apr 22, 2017 at 5:54 am
      These are all stupid ideas of cunning Mr P Chidambaram. Who had prevented them from implementing all those bright ideas?? Of course , his mind was engaged in making g design to loot Indian budget by his son Kirthi to make personal wealth. Now he getting time to say some hypocrite version..
      1. S
        shameem ahmed
        Apr 17, 2017 at 10:17 pm
        Good article. Balanced views.👍
        1. G
          George Cruz
          Apr 17, 2017 at 9:01 pm
          The reality is that the these Kashmir Muslim separatists Jihadists have to realize that the democracy and freedom comes at a cost. If these Muslim Jihadists continue their anti-national activities like pelting stones, shouting Pak flags, and shouting anti-India slogans in the Kashmir valley they may end with the Indian military moving in to curb the anti-national activities, end up with real bullets and their death wish may become reality. The reality is that the normal police stations will be replaced by the tough barracks and these Muslim terrorists will be treated as hostile force. The Indian government is obliged to keep the integrity/security of the J&K..
          1. R
            R L Bhatt
            Apr 17, 2017 at 7:51 pm
            Hi Chris Why not consider the following alternatives. 1) Declare Stone pelting as a terrorist act and shoot at sight. Look how China dealt with Islamists there. 2) All the Congress MPs and Sold out journalists should stop criticizing the government actions for two months. 3) Remove special status to Kashmir and treat the state as other states of India.
            1. R
              Apr 17, 2017 at 7:32 pm
              Get lost u Harward ki budda. You have not done anything during last ten years as Finance minister or Home Minister to sort out Kashmir problem . Kashmir problem has been created by your Mr.Nehruji, who didn't have back borne to take proper decision at correct time has taken this matter to UNO and this has given higher hand and chance to stan to internationalise this matter. Now Modiji is trying to solve this matter but your scamgre ies is worsening this matter by giving support to some anti-social elements who are only interested in creating problems in Kashmir along with fools like Omar and Farooq Abdulla
              1. T
                Apr 17, 2017 at 7:00 pm
                Feku56 always claims he is different from who occupied the office earlier it could be true when Kashmir secedes under Feku56, already Srinagar bypoll showed what locals in Kashmir thing about State and Central. now let us see what happens during Anantnag by election
                1. A
                  Apr 17, 2017 at 10:52 am
                  Mr Chidambaram Your party was in power for 10 years. You even spent some time as the Home Minister of this country. The news that used to come during your party's rule were not different from as they are coming now. The only difference is that this government is trying to solve the problem and seems to be more decisive. The problem of Kashmir is the result of Congress's poor policies right from 1947. Please let this government give full five years and then p any judgement.
                  1. P
                    Prashant Ashar
                    Apr 17, 2017 at 10:24 am
                    Neither army nor center is intrested to use force but they are complled as some people (very few ) r using religion to spread unrest in valley & spread hatred Against Army to make political benefits & gain votes it is a hang in glove situation in kashmir by Abdullah & sepratist to keep pot boiling for prsonal gain If the stop fuelling unrest & peace prevails state will see development & employment for youth Solution lies in people of kashmir to be in peace so forces don't need to use agresion to contain violence One thing is clear Kashmir was is & will be part of India rest all concern & grivence of people of Kashmi will be taken care of
                    1. V
                      Apr 17, 2017 at 9:17 am
                      How come Chidambaram woke up to this just now? What was the Congress doing for 65 years when they had so many opportunities to clean up the mess? Surely what is happening today is the ulative effect of decades of a poor Kashmir Policy They f d up Kashmir also MG with the rest of the country for 6 decades and the sour grapes story will not stick anymore
                      1. T
                        Thrinethran T
                        Apr 17, 2017 at 9:57 am
                        PC knows that apart from the first proposal, his recommendations are not practicable, or are being continuosly frustrated.
                      2. Q
                        Apr 17, 2017 at 9:01 am
                        Aabaey oyee lungi Piyyakaad dakadaam bahen kaeyy laudaeyy tumharii congress govt naeyy kyaa kiyyaa kashmiriyon kaeyy liyee 2004-2014 terii party kii hii govt thii Centre maeyy. Army should be given full power, maaroo saallo suwaroo ko, azaadi hii tohh chahiyee inhaeyy, wahii daeyy raheey azadi paedo mo-ham-head kaeyy p jaaney kii...
                        1. S
                          S S Yadav
                          Apr 17, 2017 at 8:55 am
                          I do not agree with views expressed by the writer. I strongly feel ,it's a stani underhand method of instigating Kashmiris to this level . The Pandits of Kashmir are also part of J&K.. Then we have been feeding J&K under Article 371.Article 371 is taxpayers money . The J& K is an integral part of India my opinion the situation is not out of hand .The insurgency will die down in Kashmiris.
                          1. R
                            Apr 17, 2017 at 8:54 am
                            The writing on the wall is very clear. We have lost hope in Kashmir. But, whether the people in Kashmir are willing to talk to present dispensation in Delhi is not clear. This is an important parameter. History will not forgive those who are playing with the emotions of people of Kashmir. I don't fear stan on the other side of fence, but I do fear stan sitting inside us.
                            1. R
                              Raja Muzaffar
                              Apr 17, 2017 at 7:43 am
                              This is a lovely piece by Mr Chidambaram...But when he himself could have done something as HM he did not....May be situation was not like this. But the situation can be more worst in the days to come . Hope his suggestions are taken into consideration by Govt of India
                              1. F
                                Apr 17, 2017 at 6:49 am
                                You are missed one aspect. The current government is actually pleased at the chaos. This way they can use 'Army - Kashmiri' conflict to seek vote from all those who 'support army'. People will vote emotionally without realising that they are voting for government's incompetence. Don't talk about Kashmir issue. Try to solve it when you come back to power. Focus of Congress should be to corner this government on job generation. This is an issue that affects all Indians - and the current government has performed badly.
                                1. C
                                  Apr 17, 2017 at 4:46 am
                                  India's biggest mistake was by giving Kashmir special status within its cons ution and treating them like foreigners. I can't help but admire the audacity of P. Chidambaram to shift the blame when the world knows that it was the Congress that had soft-soaped the Separatists and encouraged them somewhat in order to delve into thew Valley's vote bank. No doubt, the behavior of the BJP/RSS towards the minority Muslims in the UP after the appointment of Adityanath, a known Muslim hater, had lost the confidence and hope if there was any, of the Muslims in the Valley to be part of the nation. I can only see the trouble escalating as long as the BJP remains in power. If the situation in the Valley cannot be contained, the UN will eventually intervene and Kashmir will go the Kosovo way. And I can tell you India does not have many friends in the world body, especially in Asia. The government should first start by withdrawing from the PDP and impose President Rule.
                                  1. N
                                    Apr 18, 2017 at 2:30 am
                                    You are a real nonsense.
                                  2. K
                                    Khursheed ahmad
                                    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:18 am
                                    May I know why always somebody has to write an article to let the people of India including those sitting in parliament to understand that Kashmir has a special status and until that is not given to them the resolution won't happen are they kind of blind so they can't see the pain of a human being why can't don't they remember their own freedom struggle and lives lost in par ion why can't they remember the pain of being under someone's rule killed raped tortured and humiliated why can't they understand that Kashmiris have same pain which you have gone through just before the independence, I request every Indian citizen please understand this pain and let us live peacefully with you and everyone else just give us our freedom so that we can be thankful to you, so that no more children's die no more women are raped and no more men are tortured and lastly no more human blood spreads of the roads.
                                    1. I
                                      Indian Abroadf
                                      Apr 17, 2017 at 2:17 am
                                      Compare Congress impotent weakeling policy in Kashmir for 65 years and Chinese muscular policy against Islamic separatists. Which policy has succeeded so far in controling separatism? Of cousre Chinese muscular policy. Laaton ke bhoot kabhio baaton se nahi maante.
                                      1. L
                                        Lakhinder Singh
                                        Apr 17, 2017 at 12:50 am
                                        This seems to be the only way kashmir can be saved. A very clear sighted analysis of the situation.
                                        1. D
                                          dnd das
                                          Apr 17, 2017 at 12:31 am
                                          You ommitted the most important step! Kick Modi and his cohorts out before it is too late! Modi is incapable of handling kashmir! Neither he can deal nor will he allow any one else! That is not how he operates! No one BJP has guts to stand up tell him to stop campaigning and start providing leadership. Teen/juvenile options of killing,driving all seperatists is unworkable when alienation in 100 . Indians to act before its too late and realise how BJP handled for future reference!
                                          1. A
                                            Apr 17, 2017 at 8:00 am
                                            I pity you. You have a pipe dream and will never live in peace as it will never be realised. Apply some Burnoll!
                                          2. S
                                            Apr 16, 2017 at 11:29 pm
                                            How does governor rule instead of democratic government give more autonomy? Governor rule is proxy Central rule, is that more satisfactory than a government that came through election? Actually things turned worse because the disrupters see that disturbance as their only chance. India needs to show resilience in the face of it because it can not last long. If India caves in at the first sight of adversity by reducing its commitment to elections and democracy, that would be exactly playing into the disrupters hands.
                                            1. S
                                              Apr 16, 2017 at 11:30 pm
                                              Remember first elected CM Beant Singh in Punjab after militancy was killed. If India caved in and called off democracy, where would Punjab be now?
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