The Narendra Modi government seems ready for dialogue in Jammu & Kashmir but from a position of strength. Governor Satya Pal Malik said that publicly on June 22, in the presence of two Union Ministers. The Centre and the authorities in the troubled state have to ensure that they don’t fall for the shenanigans of not just the separatist leaders but also the sophistry of the Pakistani leadership.
“Things are much better than when I came here. Look at the Hurriyat, Ram Vilas Paswan stood at their door and they didn’t open the door. Now they are ready for talks,” Malik said at a Doordarshan event in Srinagar. He also made it clear that there won’t be any lowering of the guard: “We do not feel good at all about young men dying. We are interested in bringing them back and Centre is thinking about this. However, when a bullet is fired, one cannot respond to that with bouquets. A bullet will be responded to with a bullet by General Sahib.”
The next day, Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq responded positively: “I can tell you that if meaningful talks are initiated, there will be a positive response. Dialogue is the only way and that is our consistent stand.”
So far, so good. The powers that be, however, should not harbor any illusions either about the magnitude and complexity of the problem or about the intentions of Hurriyat: the magnitude and complexity are enormous, and the intentions are scarcely honorable, notwithstanding the rhetoric on “peaceful resolution of the issue.”
The story is over seven decades old. As Jagmohan, former J&K governor (January, 19, 1990-May 26, 1990; April 1984-July 1989), wrote in My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir (Allied Publishers, 1991): “The first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, of India, had committed several mistakes in the resolution of Kashmir issue.”
The first mistake, which can be called the original sin, was taking the issue to the United Nations: “On January 1, 1948, India took the case to the United Nations under the leadership of Pandit Nehru. He took the case in the UN to get the solution of dispute state as per International law. But the question is, Was J&K considered as dispute state? The simple answer was NO. Because Maharaja Hari Singh had accepted J&K as part of India and signed the instrument of accession on October 26, 1947.”
The second mistake was Article 370, whereas the third was the release of Sheikh Abdullah from jail, which “was not mistaken but blunder.”
Decades of Islamization of Kashmir brought things to such a pass that at the fag-end of the 1980s, it was on the verge of secession, with the Hindus as sitting ducks for jihadists. Herculean efforts on his part led to the rescue of lakhs of Kashmiri Pundits, though many of them suffered at the hands of terrorists. “It is Mr. Jagmohan …. who saved the Valley for India. He slowly re-established the authority of the State. He put the terrorists on the run,” journalist-scholar and former Union minister Arun Shourie wrote.
Priyanka Bakaya and Sumeet Bhatti of Stanford University studied the subject in a paper ‘Kashmir Conflict: A Study of What Led to the Insurgency in Kashmir Valley & Proposed Future Solutions.’ They wrote, “In 1980, the Islamization of Kashmir began with full force. The [Sheikh] Abdullah Government changed the names of about 2,500 villages from their original names to new Islamic names. For example, the major city of Anantnag was to be known as Islamabad (same name as the Pakistani Capital).”
Then came Saudi influence, petrodollars, and more radicalization. According to Bakaya and Bhatti, “The exact role of Saudi Arabia cannot be known due to lack of evidence currently, but there are clear indications showing their influence. Many Saudi religious personalities and scholars held an Islamic Conference in Srinagar in 1979 and visited often thereafter. Further, they set up the Jhelum Valley (JV) Medical College in 1980, through which they were able to funnel large sums of foreign exchange money into Kashmir… Anecdotal evidence suggests it was the doctors in this hospital that began spreading the message of radical Islam and communalism.”
The media didn’t remain unaffected. In Radio Kashmir: In Times of Peace & War (Stellar, 2018), Rajesh Bhat wrote: “Before the onset of militancy in 1989-90, Kashmir was publishing 17 dailies and 16 weeklies. The content of these dailies was normally pro-people, pro-India, and was contributing in building and cementing national interest to quite an extent. These newspapers, through their editorials, were in equal measure promoting communal harmony and giving adequate coverage to national and local political parties, who placed faith in democratic principles. However, after the outbreak of militancy, there was a sudden rise in the printing of newspapers from Kashmir and a swing in the mood, as some of them thrived on hailing militancy.” Further, certain private electronic channels also “promoted and glorified the militant acts…”
It is in this milieu that the Central and state governments have to find a way out. The path would be full of roadblocks, traps, and ambush points. The authorities should beware of the possible pitfalls.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.