Kashmir Today: Striving for Peace

kashmir army

After the massive mandate in 2019 General Elections, Narendra Modi Government is in the firm saddle. Now Mr. Amit Shah, who seems to be the most powerful person after Modi is the Home Minster. It is expected that he will pay special attention to the nagging Kashmir issue. Different social groups, the victims of the turmoil in Kashmir, are also looking up for initiatives which can restore peace and sanity in the area.

There are reports that Mr. Shah is proposing delimitation in Kashmir. We know Kashmir itself is multi ethnic, multi-religious. In Kashmir valley Muslim are the dominant social group while In Jammu it is Hindus. Other components of population are Buddhists and tribes. Now delimitation should serve for better representation of the area, it should involve the exercise of taking popular opinion into consideration also. One just hopes that aspirations of people of Kashmir are taken into account while doing this exercise; it should not just be for political agenda of garnering more seats for a particular party.

Other things which have been on the manifesto of BJP times and over again, are abolition of Articles 370 and 35 A. Article 370, which is part of the Indian Constitution has been there in the background of the clauses of treaty of accession, as per which Kashmir will have autonomy in all matters barring defense, communication, currency and external affairs. While article 35 A relates to buying of property by non Kashmiris in the area. Both these had to be there as Kashmir acceded with India under special circumstances. It was in the wake of aggression by Pakistan supported tribal groups-plainclothes army men that Raja Harisingh, the Sovereign of Kashmir, asked for help from Indian state to quell the aggression. Harisingh earlier had decided to keep Kashmir as an independent state. In the face of this aggression, the negotiations with Indian state led to this treaty after which Indian army could go to quell the attack from Pakistan side.

The final merger of Kashmir with India was to take place with the opinion of people of Kashmir, the referendum, which never took place. Shaikh Abdullah, Lion of Kashmir, had a major role in accession of Kashmir to India. He did become Prime Minster of Kashmir. The rise of communalism in India in the form of murder of Gandhi and demand of instant merger of Kashmir into India, from likes of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee of Hindu Mahasabha, unsettled Sheikh Abdullah. His responses to overtures from Pakistan, US and China led to his being jailed for 17 long years. This is where the process of alienation of people of Kashmir begins. This alienation is the root of the problems of Kashmir.

The militancy in Kashmir was initially on the ground of Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat is a unique synthesis of Vedanta, Buddhism and Sufi traditions, best exemplified in Nooruddin Noorani (Nund Rishi) and Lal Dedh. The festival of Kheer Bhavani, jointly celebrated in Kashmir is one manifestation of the deep bonding, which transcended religious boundaries and incorporated the people of both major religions in Kashmir. The communalization of the militancy due to coming in of Al Qaeda type elements has been a big bane, especially for Kahmiri as a whole and Hindus, Pundits in particular. The selective targeting of Pundits has sent wrong signals to the detriment of inclusive traditions of Kashmir.

The militancy in its extreme forms has led to the exodus of over 3.5 Lakh Pundits and also of large number of Muslims from Kashmir. Not much has been done for the Pundits despite different governments ruling at center. The plight of Pundits, needs a fresh look when today we are talking of articles 370 and 35 A. During Modi I regime (2014) there was talk of rehabilitating pundits in separate enclosure but nothing seems to have come of it.

While BJP talks of abolition of these articles, it had no hesitation in joining hands with Mahbooba Mufti who has been appreciating the separatists. During the PDP-BJP alliance and during the previous Modi regime the process of dialogue has been given a go by. The militancy, separatism went up during last few years. The victims of pellet guns have gone up in number. The process of alienation has not been addressed at all. Why so many of young boys and now girls have come to throw stones despite the knowledge that it will lead to dire consequences. Can we quell the dissidence-alienation by bullets is the question. If we take a bird’s eye view of the situation in Kashmir, it is clear that the muscular nationalist polices have led to bigger damage of the social fabric, to the possibility of winning over the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people.

Today, the Modi II Government is in a unique position with its massive mandate. The issues to be addressed are to undo the alienation of Kashmiri people which is the root of the problem. The people of Kashmir have been the victims of different types of violence. A healing touch is the need of the hour. The democratic processes and concept of Human rights have to be the guiding principles of our policy. These were very well articulated by Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he gave the framework of Kashmiriyat, Jamhooiriyat (Democracy) and Insaniyat (Humanism) to deal with the issue of Kashmir. To take further Mr. Vajpayee’s formulation seems to be the best option for us even today. A jumbo size majority in parliament can give the license to the ruling party to unfold its program, but one hope this program will take into consideration strengthening the process of dialogue and deepening the process of democracy.

The groups, whose hurt is to be assuaged are the ones’ who have suffered violence from different quarters, the half widows, the Pundits and the average person in Kashmir who has borne the brunt of militancy and presence of army in civilian area for long years. The report of Interlocutors (Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari) also needs a relook if we wish to bring peace and amity in the region.

Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD. Response only to [email protected]


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Dr Ram Puniyani

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: [email protected]

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