Rohit Kumar's Views

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India’s Occupation of Kashmir to end soon

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By: Rohit Kumar

Despite its insensitivity and total ignorance to facts on the ground, Indian security apparatus is less than three months away from a disgraceful retreat from the occupied valley.

The Union Government of India sent a heavily constituted all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the on-ground situation, meet with all strands of society in Kashmir, and to devise ways and means to overcome the current crisis faced by the Valley. It failed to do all three.

The delegation failed to assess the situation on the ground as it was heavily protected by military, police and Indian J&K government functionaries. It was totally protected from the rioters, the youth of Kashmir which was out on the streets demanding its rights – respect, autonomy, self-determination and the chance for a peaceful life without indiscriminate violence. The delegation, comprising 39 members and led by Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, met with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a spiritual and political leader of the Valley’s majority Muslim population, while the latter was in forced house arrest. Why? Because the Mirwaiz refused to meet with the delegation. So he was forced to stay inside his home, while the delegation paid him a visit there. And everyone is aware of divisions within this delegation over its meeting with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who proposes the independence of Kashmir. The BJP claimed that it did not want to meet Gilani, while CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said that the decision was a delegation-based one and approved by the delegation’s head, Mr. Chidambaram, who himself could not meet Geelani as it would violate procotol. Of course. How could the Union Home Minister acknowledge a separatist as a political leader of Kashmir? Finally, the delegation was unable to devise ways and means to rescue Kashmir from the current chaos, even though Mr. Chidambaram claimed that the future of Kashmir is secure as part of India. What wishful thinking, even as his own delegation crumbled and scrambled for any semblance of a unified position on the Kashmir issue.

The fact remains that Kashmir can never be an integral part of India unless and until atrocities committed by Indian forces (military, paramilitary and civil police) are atoned for and unless and until the murderers in uniform are held accountable. The repeal or withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA) has now become a thing of the future, and the past is yet to be reconciled with. The CPI-M’s Gurudas Dasgupta perhaps has the most sound understanding of the Kashmir situation: he stated that the Centre needed to take “calculated risks” to defuse it, and that the anger of the people of the Valley was not “unsubstantiated”. He also held that “the special position of the State has been gradually diluted”, adding that the use of weapons for crowd control was unjustified, whether it was guns, teargas shells, lathis or water cannons. In response to Army Chief Gen. V. K. Singh’s referral of AFSPA as an “enabling provision”, Dasgupta said that “the Army should not be allowed to make political statements. Democracy does not allow it”.

Dasgupta, a leftist MP, in an ominous tone, said “I have no hesitation in saying that the rest of India does not know what is happening in Kashmir and the people of the Valley feel that Indians do not show concern. There is a critical degree of alienation and if we still do not realise that we all need to do something, Kashmir may be lost to India”. An astute observation, but one that will fall on deaf ears.

The Union Government, who was in alliance with leftist parties till its proximity to the US became all too apparent with the nuclear deal, should pay attention to the same leftists who urged Mr. Chidambaram to allow the delegation to meet separatist leaders, including Geelani. While the delegation has fallen woefully short of its expectations, and has left unrequited hope and greater fears in its midst, it has at least interacted with all leaders of the Kashmiri people – including the jailed Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party. Yet, it remains aloof to the demands of autonomy, of freedom, of ‘azadi’; it has shut its ears to the slogans of ‘Go India, Go back’ and is willing to spill the blood of its own soldiers and troopers as far as the territory of Kashmir remains within the confines of the Indian confederation – whether any Kashmiri is left to claim Kashmir or not is a “non-issue”, and whether Kashmir becomes a ghost state or not is irrelevant.

The Indian Government must cease this blood-letting immediately. However, instead of taking a rational approach, the Indian government is preparing to counter Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the UN General Assembly despite multilateral calls (including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the OIC) for concern over the situation in Kashmir, and urges directed towards the Indian establishment to exercise restraint against Kashmiri civilians – which PM Manmohan Singh has called “Indian citizens”. Yet I do not see Indian citizens being shot at anywhere else. I do not see Indian women raped by army officers, soldiers and paramilitary jawans. And I do not see Indian citizens throwing stones at Indian authorities.

Maybe I need new glasses, or maybe the Union Government has actually blinded itself with fake visions of being a superpower that can not and will not “fall prey” to subnationalist motivations.

While more than 400 million Indians suffer in debilitating poverty, a report by the CIA claims that India is (or will be) the third most powerful country in the world. Let me survey a Kashmiri or a Maoist rebel to ask them if they agree with this CIA report. Let me ask a Dalit, or a Muslim in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

India must wake up before it breaks up.

A well-read Indian daily has the most precise, most succinct statement to make regarding the Kashmir situation. It says that Kashmir has become the proverbial hen and egg story: Peace cannot be restored here unless talks are held, and the talks cannot be held unless peace is restored. In this cyclical debate, violence will only beget violence, ignorance will only inflame tempers, and guns can only silence some voices while ten cries are raised for every fallen one.

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