A section of the media doubtless fed by official sources is at pains to determine the mastermind in the Kashmir Valley who is currently instigating the youth to risk lives in order to pelt stones. Discovering the instigators is a job for the police. It is their problem. To imagine that unearthing the mastermind will solve India’s Kashmir problem is delusion. The problem is not that Pakistan and its conduits are fomenting violence in the Valley. That is to be expected. The problem is not that they deploy money to get results. That is to be expected.
The problem is that the youth are responding. The problem is that youth are willing to take on the police and pelt stones by risking their lives.
Anyone having the faintest acquaintance with political organization would know that in today’s world nothing, repeat nothing, can ever be accomplished on the ground without expending resources. Mammoth rallies cannot be organized without spending money. Revolts cannot be organized without spending money. But the crucial truth is that money alone can never deliver results.
The Chinese government alleged that the Tiananmen Square revolt was instigated by certain elements. The Kremlin asserted that the revolts in Hungary and Czechoslovakia were instigated by pro-West elements. Both allegations may have been true. But the bottom line was that whatever the instigation unarmed people stood before Soviet tanks in East Europe and unarmed students faced firing squads in Tiananmen Square. Well, today unarmed youth are facing armed policemen in the Kashmir Valley. Is it not time that we drew the right lessons?
For more than a month the current agitation in the Valley has continued. As this is being written 24 people have been killed. It is no use blaming Omar Abdullah. However inept his government might be it is not a law and order problem in Kashmir. The problem is political. It has remained with us for six decades. It is now acquiring a dangerous dimension. Unarmed youth and women pelting stones at security forces armed with weapons to shoot them is much more ominous than any number of jihadi terrorists crossing over from Pakistan, or a Maoist insurgency recruiting soldiers from exploited tribals to create an army to fight India’s security forces. Unarmed citizens taking to the streets to combat the police betray a desperation that can lead to revolution. It is a wake up call for the government. The government must come up with a solution.
The government does not have to satisfy Pakistan. The government does not have to satisfy the world. The government must satisfy the people of Kashmir. Has the government formulated any policy to accomplish that? Does the government know what it wants? Do those who agitate know what they want? They all state what they do not want. They cannot specifically articulate what they do want. For starters the government must know what the people of the Valley, of Jammu and of Ladakh want. The government must be clear about not only what it won’t concede but also what it might concede. Forget the plebiscite. What stops the government from conducting an internal opinion poll to determine what the people of Ladakh, Jammu and the Valley – both Muslims and Kashmir Pandits – want? The people, not the spurious racketeers who pass of as political and separatist leaders, must determine the fate of Kashmir. Only after understanding the true aspirations of the people will the government succeed in formulating effective policies.
If the Valley wants independence it should be considered provided it enters into a longstanding treaty with India that delivers a common market, joint defence and no visas. I do not believe that the people want sovereignty. They want democracy. Because genuine democracy is denied to them they take to separatism. In a large multilingual, multi-religious country like India genuine democracy must of necessity be federal. Federalism implies that all people at all levels from the local community to the national centre must have the right to self rule insofar as dealing with problems that exclusively affect them. To avoid secession Sheikh Abdullah sought maximum autonomy. I believe that equal autonomy as might be granted to the Valley should be given to all states of the Union. I believe that in the light of history and culture if Ladakh and Jammu seek statehood or Union Territory status it should be granted to them. I believe that demands for smaller states across the nations should be evaluated. I believe that in order to ensure national unity and cohesion despite decentralizing power right up to the village panchayat Parliament should have fixed terms and either the President or the Prime Minister should be elected directly by the country’s voters. I believe that to accomplish this Constitution requires reappraisal and reinterpretation. This is what I believe.
What does the Government believe? Does it believe in anything at all?