The problem of Jammu and Kashmir is like the proverbial thorn in the flesh and refuses to leave the ailing bodypoltik. It was handed down on a platter from 1948 when Jawaharlal Nehru made the fatal error of telling the army to withdraw and letting the mercenaries occupy that stretch of the land which is now known as Pak Occupied Kashmir. Some military pundits argue even now that had the mercenaries been chased back into where they came from there would not be a PoK now. In the epileptic scenario which was prevailing post-partition the UN intervened and gave the tag “disputed territory” and also plebiscite with a rider that Pakistan must vacate the PoK for it. The rest is history.
When Hari Singh, the Maharajah of Kashmir, signed the act of accession there was a condition that but for foreign affairs, defence and Communications the province would have autonomy with its own flag and Constitution. Sardar Patel was not keen on Kashmir in the Union for the simple reason that being a Muslim dominated province it would automatically go to Pakistan. Nor was he inclined to go to war for it. Nehru, being a Kashmiri Brahmin, obviously had a soft spot for his home of birth and the Act of Accession willy nilly substantiated his feeling that the region is an integral part of the Indian Union.
With Article 370 J& K got special autonomy by which no parliamentary legislation other than one dealing with foreign affairs, communications and defence will apply but with it also began the imbroglio from which till now there seems to be no escape. Ambedkar was opposed to it but was marginalized in a largely Nehru inspired legislation which was ratified by Parliament. As a result J&K has remained a poisoned fruit, attractive from outside entailing a bitter conflict.
J & K is an unseemly ensemble where a Buddhist dominated Ladakh, Pandit ridden Jammu and minority dominated valley are prickly spikes. Since the nineties Pak inspired violence has so unsettled the rhythm of life there that Pandits were forced to flee their homes, settle elsewhere and fight for their right to live in the valley. The spirit of exclusivity, a by product of Partition, has fanned the sparks of alienation so much that the estrangement is complete now. This was a far cry from a essentially a Sufi dominated Kashmir culture that embraced synthesis as its breathing principle.
For years Pandits lived in harmony with Muslims in the valley but it has almost become a forgotten lore. Now the Pandits appear to be as unrelenting in their position as the radicalized Islamic youth fringe in the valley. The latter, with unstinted Pak funds and support, are bent only on conflict, not restoration of peace and the hopeless secular lobby is trying to promote a dialogue with them.
PDP’s long known position of dialogue with Pakistan will be a nonstarter for the simple reason that Pakistan is not going to buck up because their game plan is to keep the valley a boiling cauldron. Mehbooba Mufti almost conceded that only 5 p.c. indulged in violence but the majority wanted peace, a process where Pakistan obviously will not fit in as a stakeholder. Hurriyat, essentially a Pak proxy, has no popular legitimacy in the valley and forfeits its credentials of being a stakeholder in a solution.
It narrows down the spectrum of stakeholders to those who concede that J& K is an integral part of Indian Union. Any further negotiations on devolution of greater power, financial and political, to the state will begin from the point of constitutional framework and obligations. Unless and until the stakeholders are clear about the parameters before them the merry go around will continue.
Essentially the problem of estrangement, be it marginal or wide, has to be met by bridging the gap with the people of kashmir. In this context what has come out as a stellar example is of Nabeel Ahmed Wani , who has joined BSF as an asst. commandant after topping in the exams, reinforcing the fundamental idea that what Kashmir needs is jobs, not stones.