Kashmir Problem, Social or Political?

kashmir priti
This flag titled The sang-bazan (stone pelters) of Kashmir is #11 in the seriesJatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future.

As Shakespeare has said, “A rose is a rose by whatever name you call it” Similarly, Kashmir is a serious problem whether you name it Social or Political that is presently irrelevant!

Haseeb Drabu, lost his job by merely stating that Kashmir is a Social Issue and not a Political Issue. Incidentally, he is one of the architects of the Agenda of alliance between BJP and PDP which forms the basis of the coalition government notwithstanding the fact that the implementation of the agenda is nowhere in sight! Speaking at an event in New Delhi themed as “Kashmir, the way forward”, the former J & K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu had said “Kashmir shouldn’t be seen as a conflict state or a political problem, but as a society with social issues”. The most appropriate comment for such a declaration can only be “the height of naivety!” He had been truly naïve! The definition of naïve in dictionary is, “A person who despite overwhelming blatant evidence is oblivious to what’s going on in his/her surroundings”! People are often naive because they are young and/or have not had much experience of life. However, one could not say this about a stalwart like Drabu Sahib. He has been a top economist, journalist and a banker. The best rebuttal to this declaration can be a quote from the interview that the former vice-President Hamid Ansari gave to Karan Thapar last August which was published in the Hindu newspaper. When asked whether Kashmir was a political problem, he said, “The problem is and has always been primarily a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”

One cannot close eyes to the history of last 70 years, the period for which Kashmir has been a lingering political problem internationally recognised by the United Nations Security Council on the agenda of which it continues to figure. The stark and living proof of that is the United Nations Military Observer Group Headquarter in Srinagar. The observers from various European and other countries are not enjoying a holiday in Kashmir but are supposed to be monitoring the Ceasefire Line now called the Line of Actual Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan. It is a different matter that they are not now allowed to conduct their work on the Indian side! Apart from this, one often hears sermons from world leaders and various super powers addressed to Indian and Pakistani leaders for solving Kashmir problem bi-laterally. In fact, in Shimla agreement signed after the 1971 war, both countries declared Kashmir to be a political problem to be solved bi-laterally.

The number of books, articles and various documents written and published about the political problem of Kashmir can fill an entire library! Even in recent times dozens of books have been written on the various aspects of the subject. Unfortunately denial about something which is a stark reality does not make it go away. If one closes all windows and doors of a house and says there is no light outside the house that does not make the light disappear. One is only deceiving one’s own self! On the ground itself, why is Kashmir known all over the world as the most militarised place on Earth? Almost one third of the third largest Army in the world is in Kashmir. There has been continuous shelling and firing going across the Line of Control for quite some time. Are these two forces playing some sort of friendly matches with their heavy fire power? According to government figures over 50,000 people were killed during the uprising of the nineties of the last century. Still over 10, 000 people are missing without any trace.

At the moment over a 1000 persons are detained under the Public Safety Act. Most of the leaders of a popular movement are either detained from time to time or are under continuous house arrest. Almost all the so called mainstream leaders whether presently ruling or out of power have the highest security cover. Every second day Srinagar’s main town, the old city is placed under an undeclared curfew locally given the name of “Restrictions”.  Freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution has ceased to exist in Kashmir. There have been scores of clashes between Army and militants and a large number of local youth who had joined militancy have been killed. Again are these people playing friendly matches or there is a simmering political problem which has given rise to local militancy?

Regarding “Social Issues”, of course there are umpteen social problems but these have all risen because of the basic political problem which the rulers are trying to run away from. The first social problem is that every Kashmiri Muslim is a suspect all over India. He is being labelled as a Pakistani terrorist! The worst social problem within Kashmir which the continuous political uncertainty has given rise to is the total lack of accountability. Nobody seems to be answerable to nobody. Each one is for himself to make hay as long as the Sun of uncertainty shines. The government is virtually on an “Auto-Pilot”! The recent episode of the rape and murder of a Bakerwal girl whose perpetrators are being eulogised by the members of one of the ruling parties speaks volumes regarding the writ of the government. In fact, the fanatic followers of one of the ruling parties consider “Ghar Wapsi” of Kashmiri Muslims as their most important agenda item!

The most unfortunate part of this episode is that the present PDP leaders have totally betrayed the legacy of their founder Mufti Mohammad Sayed who stood for the “Healing Touch” and the “Self-rule”! Healing touch has become the killing touch and the blinding touch while as the self-rule has been reduced to the “Proxy-rule” by Delhi! Thus, if Drabu Sahab’s naivety is not to cost PDP dearly even though he has been fired, they should advise Delhi to accept the basic fact of Kashmir being a political problem and immediately initiate a dialogue with all stakeholders within the country and across the border. Otherwise the religious frenzy being generated against Muslims all over the country and the continuous heavy firing on the border increasing in scale with each passing day may end up in an Armageddon for the whole sub-continent!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir


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