Modi’s Kashmir dilemma : The Tribune India

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Modi’s Kashmir dilemma

BEYOND the Kashmir tempest and the unfortunate deaths of the young lies a stark truth.

Modi’s Kashmir dilemma

Time to heal: The State must reach out to the common Kashmiri. It’s about time.



S Nihal Singh

BEYOND the Kashmir tempest and the unfortunate deaths of the young lies a stark truth. The BJP’s idea of spreading Hindutva as the philosophy for running the country has met with its first cruel test. The compulsions of the uneasy alliance of the BJP and the PDP are clear enough but what Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, could handle with some finesse she has failed to accomplish.

It took Ms Mehbooba more than four days to react publicly to what amounted to an internal emergency following the death of a militant- turned-hero in the public imagination, the media savvy Burhan Wani, despite the goading of her political rival, Omar Abdullah, to take the lead. She could not displease her basic constituency ranged on the other side of the fence as stone throwers and violent protesters while having to take care not to upend New Delhi.

 It must be said in mitigation of Ms Mehbooba that her father had not faced the full force of the BJP’s Hindutva drive in a Muslim majority state already suffering from an impossible burden of strife and the legacy of Partition. The Congress had a valid point in criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s refusal to cut short another of his foreign trips to attend to the fire in Kashmir. While Home Minister Rajnath Singh made the right noises and moves, Mr Modi preferred to beat drums in Tanzania rather than return home. The most inane comment was of Mr Venkaiah Naidu that Kashmir was an old problem.

The Prime Minister has been meeting with his senior Cabinet colleagues and security advisers on Kashmir but he has thought fit not to include the state’s chief minister in the discussions. What is new to an old problem of Mr Venkaiah’s description is a new wave of militancy among youth and their impatience at the glacial pace of finding a solution in the face of a stalemate in Indo-Pakistani relations.

It is true that Mr Modi made a dramatic Christmas Day dash to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s home in Lahore to inject new momentum to the troubled relations between estranged neighbours. That gain was frittered away in the standard name-calling exercise we are familiar with. Mr Sharif’s compulsions in making the kind of statement he did on Kashmir are understandable but do not offer an opening.

India’s approach to Kashmir has become burdensome because the state is the testing ground of the new idea of India the BJP is projecting. Kashmir has its own ethos built on the foundation of the Islamic faith of a unique strand of tolerance. It would be a great tragedy if this unique inheritance were to be submerged in the intolerant variety we see in what has become the Islamic State in the face of the BJP’s resolve to propagate its idea of India.

The choice facing the Modi government is stark: save Kashmir by giving it the leeway to develop its own cultural and religious mix or continue to force its Hindutva philosophy on an unwilling people. Kashmiris cannot remain indifferent to the war cries of the Hindutva brigade in the rest of the country. If the PM should choose the saner option, he must make a fresh attempt at resuming dialogue with Pakistan because events in Kashmir mirror to an extent the state of Indo-Pakistani relations.

In a sense, the Kashmir crisis has presented a crucial point in tackling the problem in the larger sense of bringing about reconciliation. Ms Mehbooba needs to be helped in buttressing her position among the young who were until recently her supporters. On her part, she needs to be more active in relieving the difficulties and privations caused by days and weeks of mayhem.

Perhaps Mr Modi needs to sit down with the RSS chief, Mr Mohan Bhagwat, to deliberate on his mentor’s aims in Kashmir. It was the RSS functionary, Mr Ram Madhav, who has been the mediator between New Delhi and the PDP in the prolonged process of government formation. After clarifying what the RSS will permit, perhaps Mr Modi himself must take on the responsibility of talking to Kashmiri leaders, including the state chief minister.

Time is of the essence because the inclination to let matters slide until the next crisis will lead to the kind of conflagration we have seen. Indeed, the nature of Kashmiri revolt inasmuch as a young militant leader’s killing by security forces turning into a statewide event attracting hundreds of thousands of people must give pause for thought. At the very least, Kahmiris are expressing unhappiness with the prevailing state of affairs.

This is a time for statesmanship, not petty point scoring over political opponents. Mr Modi can show his mettle by tackling a problem that has been with us since Independence, if not earlier. If he can do a dramatic dash to Lahore, he can muster the courage to go down in history as a true statesman by beginning to untie the Gordian knot. The parameters of the problem are known to everyone to the point of boredom. The necessity is to act in defiance of conventional logic.

It is possible that a beginning to the resolution of the Kashmir problem will impact on the rest of the country’s politics. Hindutva as the building block for political governance is untested. If the Kashmir experience demonstrates that it is unworkable in as diverse a country as India, it would open new doors to the nation’s future development.

The days of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s definition of Kashmiriyat are gone and cannot be recalled. He was in power for too short a time and the succeeding Congress governments fell into the usual grooves of Indo-Pakistani name-calling. The situation on the ground in the state went on festering, with the youth taking to militancy inspired by the rise of militant Islam in the Middle East spreading its tentacles around the world. The result is the crisis India is facing.

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