This is an extension of my earlier article THE ROAD BEYOND 370
Taliban Khan’s “Jihad” on India has united Pakistan as never before. They have wished away all their other problems. He is their ultimate warrior. Kashmir is the psychological exit for the cornered nation even if it means self-destruction. Expect long-time trouble from Pakistan. It has very little left to lose. However, after the UNGA meet it is evident that are not many takers for the Pakistani narrative. It is two months since the Article 370 has been consigned to history. The international community is now looking at India and how it deals with Kashmir before passing any judgement. It is time to take stock of the situation and see how to tread the rocky path ahead towards greener pastures.
Depending on your looking prism there is relative peace or an uneasy calm in the Valley. Significantly lives are secure. Only a few stray incidents have taken place in summer, which is considered prime time for terrorism. That is an achievement by itself. The expected violence and bloodbath have not occurred. There is a grudging international acceptance of this fact. Mass human rights violations have been alleged by Pakistan. Clarion calls are being given to lift the inhuman lockdown, open internet and mobile telephony. What is inhuman? Open communications full throttle, allow Pakistan to inflame sentiments to lose lives in the resultant violence or restrict communications and internet, let passions cool and save lives. Which is the greater abuse? Needs a longer than myopic view.
There is a lot of talk about restoring “Normalcy”. When was Kashmir ever “Normal”? What is “Normal” for Kashmir? In seven decades, Kashmir has decayed from one state of abnormality to the other. Abnormality was due to Article 370 and the obnoxious “special status” it conferred on a local Muslim majority. They misused it to the exclusion of all others duly aided and abetted by Pakistan. This has changed, and Kashmiris should first consider themselves “Normal” citizens of India and can aspire to “Normalcy” as it exists in rest of India. To that extent they should be conveyed about the vileness of old laws and the opportunity denied to them as against the new laws and the opportunities they now have.
The next step towards “Normalcy” is the acceptance and realization that there is no going back. India, in specific its people, have crossed the Rubicon. Kashmiris must realize that the way forward is to be Indians first and Kashmiris later. This is a universal sentiment of the common man in India wherever I have gone. The “Separatist Pro Pakistan” minority has been holding sway on the silent Majority including a muted nationalist minority. This paradigm needs to change to marginalization of the separatists and mainstreaming of the Majority. Geographical, Political, Psychological and Cultural isolation which is historical to Kashmir must be broken.
There is no quick fix solution to achieve “Normalcy” in a seventy-year-old problem. The State on its part can provide Security, Development, Capacity, Public Services and Democracy. It can put an elected government in place. However, that must be “FOR” and “BY” the people who are governed. The “FOR” bit is the Achilles heel. It means a government with minimal corruption, working law enforcement and a strong judicial system. That has been the bane of Kashmir which must be reversed. On the other hand, it takes two hands to clap. The destiny of Kashmiris lies in their hands, in their responses to this change. However, the Kashmiris are entering uncharted territory and need to be helped in the choices that they make through “Good Governance”. “Jan Bhagidari” should be visible and put in place in all walks of life. Sounds a bit leftist or socialist. But is there an alternative?
Political revival is the base on which “Good Governance” will flourish. The government has side-lined the traditional political leadership in Kashmir. If there is no local leadership, people will be swayed by talk from across the LOC. Hence the government has the choices to reinstate the old leadership duly cleansed or promote a new leader or discover one or create conditions for one to emerge. Vacuum is no answer. There must be a leader in whom the populace can repose trust in to ward off the separatist faction. That leader must have the ability to convince people that the new order is good for them in the long run. That person should be given time, space and support to build trust. Trust is a major deficit in the Valley where all their leaders have let down the people. If the elections announced to the local bodies are a precursor of things to come and if from that cauldron a leader bubbles up that will be great. This process might throw up some fake leaders in a new avatar. They need to be side-lined. What about the established separatists? Banish them. They have no role in J&K anymore. In all cases the Government must now indicate a definitive time plot for the revival of the bigger political process. In fact, in the larger scheme of things, the government should start communicating to the people strategically. Prolonged silence and uncertainty will only be counterproductive – domestically and internationally.
As per various reports, people are getting on with their routine life in the Valley. North Kashmir is the least bitten by the “Azadi” bug. It needs to be opened first; layer by layer in an incremental manner and thence to South Kashmir. If needed, some troublesome districts of South Kashmir can be tackled in a separate manner. The oncoming winter gives good opportunity to do so. Srinagar will need a longer time for opening. Till then, Jammu can function as the capital of the new UT.
A major cleansing process should begin with the religious and educational structures which have radicalized and poisoned the social structure. Radical Islam must be weeded out and the education must be normalized. Sufism as a way of Kashmiri life must be reinvented. This implies control over the clergy and teachers. It is a generational issue. A long-term and a firm view must be taken. There is no harm in getting teachers and clerics from outside the state and injecting them into the system. The Kashmiri must become a “Normal” Indian without freebies. The doles and lopsided grants given to Kashmir plus terror financing have left youth with no incentive to work for a living. In that sense they are “freedom fighters”. The youth needs to be made to work for a living. When youth know the value of work and the need to earn a living, they will be good Indians. To that extent avenues must be created for them to earn a livelihood. The local Tourism, Handicraft and Apple industry must be reopened, rejuvenated and modernized.
The government machinery and personnel must itself be overhauled to eradicate subversion. Subversion means a Government with a minus sign in front. The financial systems in the valley need to be made transparent and accountable. Control over finances will go a long way from terror funding. Dry the separatists from external funding sources. The day a squeeze is put on finances, things will dramatically improve. Rebuilding institutions is a major task and will contribute to “Good Governance”. What is “Good Governance”? That million-dollar question should be put out as a plan by the Government so that people know what to expect. Good governance should not be confused with development. The age-old system of “sunwai” and feedback will pay handsome results. The power of Digital India must be brought to the people. Use of big data and AI will be invaluable.
It is also time we went back into history and studied the Punjab and Assam models. There would be lessons there. Both states were on the brink. However, they were pulled back from a time when MLAs won elections in a scenario where only 10 votes were cast in a constituency. It was the “will” of the people which was given an opportunity that brought back these states. There would be doubting Thomases. However, it was the people of Sharifabad neighborhood who informed us of the presence of Pakistanis in Tosha Maidan in 1971. That kind of “will” lies hidden deep under layers of poor governance. Unearth it and revive it. Remember, it is only due to the people that we have been able to continually flush out terrorists in the Valley. There is “will”. Protect it to revive it. That will be feasible only through “local leadership” and “Good Governance”.
Interaction with the outside world and other states must increase. Communication routes must increase. Developmental and social NGOs and groups can be sent in to develop the social sector. Political leadership of all hues from outside the Valley can be sent in to interact with the locals at grass root level to revive the local politics. Other States can adopt a district of the Valley each. The adoption could involve education, cultural exchanges, home stays, business promotion, and even jobs either in Kashmir or in the adopted state. The fear and apprehension that the outsiders will swamp Kashmir is misplaced. They must be reassured of this issue.
The security forces have had and will have a huge role to maintain calm in the interiors and in keeping Pakistan at bay on the LOC. In the course of their duty if they do commit the odd mistake, we need to view it with forbearance. The police must be empowered to restore bread and butter law and order. However, the important thing is that the security force structures must be the broad platform on which “Good Governance” functions. They should be the conduit which conveys “Good Governance” to people. Hence there must be a subtle but noticeable shift in the overall governance paradigm. The Government should make itself more visible in the forefront with the security forces in the background. A suggested thought process is that we need to shift from the standard “Unity of command” thinking to “Unity of effort and output” thinking. Jointness and cooperation must be the watch words.
The adage is that the terrorist/insurgent / militant is a fish who swims in the sea of people with an external umbilical. All what has been said before is to drain the sea to kill the fish. The external umbilical from Pakistan must be snipped. I have already written extensively about it. However, the short new point is that the Pakistan Army has been end played at present. Despite that, there is a concerted effort by the Pakistan Army through inflammatory tirades of the selected PM to whip up Indo- Pak war frenzy, nuclear holocaust visions and pro-azadi violence. They are engineering a bloodbath through a reaction from the Indian Security Forces so that the tables can turn. That must be denied totally to them. All talk of retaking POK by force from our side must cease forthwith. Don’t talk. Put a plan into motion.(https://palepurshankar.blogspot.com/2019/09/a-plan-to-retake-pak-occupied-kashmir_15.html)There must be a media onslaught to expose Pakistani duplicity and nefarious designs. There has also to be a public discourse on the state of collapse and chaos in Pakistan. Of course, Kashmiri people must know and be made partners in retaking POK.
A parting idea. To keep the Pakistani Army out of the way, estimate the cost of a short war with Pakistan. Invest half this amount in giving “Moral” support to movements in Baluchistan, POK and KP. Pakistan Army will be running around in circles. The soft kill
I have great faith in our democratic system. Vaiko from Tamilnadu files a case seeking the release of Farookh Abdullah. Iltija Javed , the daughter of Mehbooba Mufti is operating out of Chennai. Clearly there is a Kashmir- Tamilnadu connect and it is democratic! Things are not all that bad. They will turn around. Indian Democracy is powerful. Only a fool will underestimate the will of 1.3 billion people. I hope the message is getting across.