The most disappointing thing the Prime Minister said when he spoke for the first time about our current Kashmir crisis, was that his policy would be the same as the policy Congress prime ministers followed. The second most disappointing thing he said was that for him the path he will take will be the one marked out by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he was prime minister. If he goes ahead and does either of these two things, we can be sure that 50 years from now there will still be no solution to our oldest political problem.
What we need in Kashmir more than anything is some plain speaking and some politically incorrect acknowledgment that the nature of the violence has changed completely. It is hard to understand why those in charge of national security are not paying attention to what leaders of the jihad in Kashmir say almost daily. Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin have been unusually vocal since the death of Burhan Wani and both these jihadi terrorists have made it absolutely clear that they will stop at nothing to free the Kashmir Valley from Indian control. Salahuddin last week said he hoped that Pakistan would start a nuclear war with India if other methods failed. “Pakistan is duty bound, morally bound and constitutionally bound to provide concrete, substantial support to the ongoing freedom struggle on the territory of Kashmir. And, if Pakistan provides this support, there is a great chance of a nuclear war….”
So to pretend that India can continue with policies that failed in the past is an admission that we have no new ideas about what to do. There has to be a new policy. And a new policy that states unambiguously that the violence we have seen in the Valley since Burhan Wani was killed will not be tolerated. When the Kashmir situation was discussed in the Rajya Sabha there was a lot of bleeding hearted nonsense about how we have to remember that these are our children and how it is important to remember that they are just children.
The Prime Minister in his speech said he was sad that instead of laptops and books in their hands these children had stones and grenades. What he did not say is that they are very bad children who have become addicted to violence of an ugly Islamist nature. So addicted are they to violence that they are ready to ruin their own future by plunging the Valley into chaos in a summer season so incredible that it was hard to find an empty room in Srinagar till Wani was killed. These ‘children’ need punishment for extremely bad behaviour and not sympathy.
Having said this, it is important to also say that it was on account of some serious mistakes made by Congress prime ministers that a problem that had almost died by 1983, was revived. Instead of blaming Pakistan every two minutes, the Home Minister would do well to ask his officials to investigate these mistakes so that they are not repeated in future. Vajpayee talked of the importance of democracy and humanity when he was prime minister because he knew that he did not need to carry the baggage of past mistakes into his policy.
Narendra Modi should have by now realised this and given us a Kashmir policy that drew clear red lines, but at the same time brought new solutions. His biggest mistake so far is not providing flood relief for more than a year to people who lost everything in the floods that ravaged the Valley within months of his taking over as prime minister. It was a real chance to show ‘maximum governance’ and it is a shame that the Modi government lost it.
So what should a new policy in Kashmir look like? It should begin with the premise that there will never, never, never be another redrawing of India’s borders. So the children who want to die in this fight for ‘azadi’ will realise that they are fighting a war that is already lost. Perhaps then they can be persuaded to spend their time doing more useful things than stoning armed security personnel.
Once it is clear that there is going to be no ‘azadi’, the violence will abate on its own. This is my humble view. After the violence abates, we can begin to talk about healing and wounds, not just for those who inhabit the Kashmir Valley but for those Hindus who were ethnically cleansed from it. And for the Buddhists and Hindus who live in Ladakh and Jammu and who have had their lives ruined by the insurgency in Kashmir. Until then, if we continue to indulge the fantasies of Kashmir’s violent children, we will prove that yet again nobody in Delhi has understood what is going on in Srinagar.