By Santosh Bhartiya
What will happen in Kashmir now? The big question bobs up because the central government gives no indication of initiating talk. The Supreme Court says stone pelting should stop first, and then dialogue may take place. People of Kashmir retort, is the Supreme Court oblivious of the fact that Kashmir was peaceful from October 2016 to April 2017! However, before that there was unrest and complete shutdown in every nook and corner of the valley. All these while, only Hurriyat calendar was followed.
Unperturbed, Indian government has turned a blind eye to these disturbances, suggesting Pakistan-related people to be blamed. At the same time, the television channels have left no stone unturned to demonize Kashmiris and incite hatred and antagonism against them. Kashmiris believe that television channels are showing cooked up stories that the kashmiris themselves do not wish to happen. The channels, in their night-time debates, are giving impression that the people of Kashmir are not just enemies of India, but even bigger enemy than China or Pakistan; such impression is not only being created in India but in Kashmir as well.
I went to Kashmir after a gap of three months, where I met Journalists from many part of the country. They all were of the view that neither the government nor the Delhi-based television channels have even a slightest concerned about the problem. We will talk later about government’s apathy and TV channels’ hard-headedness. However, let me clear at the outset that the time girls have resorted to stone pelting, the condition has taken a strange turn. Upon enquiry as to why the girls have taken to stone pelting, we found many reasons for that. A significant number of people blame TV channels. According to them the TV channels have shown the instances of girls’ pelting stones as an event to the country and to the world, which for students become a glamorous event, apart from expressing their anguish and pain.
What will happen in Kashmir? If we see from the Indian government’s point of view, whether it is Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor or the Ministers belonging to Kashmir, they all are in favor of adopting high-handed attitude and they all are against giving any concession. They feel that they should once again adopt the same stringent approach that they adopted during seven-eight months unrest last year, which made people tired and turned away from the Hurriyat and opened their shops on their own. Stones pelting and its reporting in newspapers make no difference to the government. Perhaps the Indian government is also deliberating on making a list of those who are engaged in separatist activities or who are engaged in terrorist activities or who are engaged in stone pelting. The government wants to nab them; if unable to nab them, even shot them. With regards to Kashmir, a condition is being created to give carte blanche to the army to control the situation. The people in Kashmir, people of civil society and people of political parties have been calling upon the government to initiate some kind of talk. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has also been saying intermittently that talks should be initiated with the people of Kashmir, including the people from the Hurriyat. However, all these entreaties fall on deaf ear of the Government of India. So now it seems that the Indian government will not take the course of talk, like it did for three years. Now in order to control situation in Kashmir, it will take the course of army. It should be clear that controlling Kashmir means controlling the people there, the land is already under the control of the Indian government.
On the other hand, almost all people in Kashmir are speaking the same language. They want to talk to the Indian government. However, they are skeptical about the outcome of the dialogue, because the Indian government is not providing even the basic things that are available to the people of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. That is freedom to assemble, the freedom to recourse, the freedom to stage demonstration. In fact, the government is taking the same course in Kashmir that it took in Punjab 15 years ago. If the people of Kashmir are to be believed the boys aged between 14 and 24 are being watched, and they are bearing the brunt of the police.
The people in Kashmir, in one voice, are expressing their pain. They want people from India to visit Kashmir and see the prevailing condition over there. It is a strange fact that in the last 60 years, people from India though traveled to Kashmir as tourists, but never talked about the problems faced by Kashmiris or the pain they went through or the things that they wanted. At this moment people of Kashmir want the representatives from Indian political parties, including those of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to come to Kashmir, stay there at least for two to three days, and interact with them and try to understand the pain they endure. They also wants at least one representative from the journalists working in Maharashtra, Delhi, Patna, Lucknow, Indore, Kolkata and Hyderabad to visit Srinagar and meet the people of Kashmir, or at least with the people from their own fraternity in the valley and listen to them as to what they have to say about Kashmir. Journalist fraternity in Kashmir consists of editors and correspondents from big and small newspapers as well as TV journalists. Whenever these journalists will visit Kashmir they should also go to those places which are considered to be affected by terror the most. I do not have any idea whether these desires of the people of Kashmir will be fulfilled or not. But their desire is absolutely logical and if they are inviting, people from political parties and journalists, then they must go to Kashmir at least for once. And those TV anchors must visit Kashmir who while doing anchoring on television channels become spokesperson of the Government of India and forget the basics that the duty of a journalist is to show things from both sides. Indeed, a new definition of journalism is being written by our television channels. Many big names, who do not know the ABCD of journalism, they sit in the TV studio and just scream. However, they are not yet aware of the fact that they are not taken kindly in India, but they will be aware of this fact very soon.
People from the Civil Society are expressing their concern in Mumbai and in Delhi and trying to bring their entreaties to the Central Government so as to initiate talk with the people Kashmir. People from civil society are visiting Kashmir. Although it is a fact that their visit did not altered the situation, but it console the people of Kashmir that at least there is a section in India which feels for them and have intent to understand their sufferings. But it is equally true that unless the government responds or gives an indication of talk, it is impossible to move an inch towards resolve the problem of Kashmir.
The situation in Kashmir is changing every month. The situation is changing because of the government. The situation is changing because of stubborn position on not going into talk by the Government of India. The situation is changing because the young people have lost confidence in their leadership. Nonetheless, the reality is that, barring a few, no political leader is able to go to his/her constituency. I met with people from the BJP, the PDP, the Congress and the Hurriyat, and what one spoke was hardly different from the other. The mood, the fact, the pain they narrated was the same. They all say that those who issue their mumbo jumbo on TV channels vis-à-vis Kashmir have either never visited Kashmir or doing it to fulfill their own agenda. They are misinforming people as if the people of Kashmir are enemy of India and if need arise they should be bombed as an enemy is bombed.
The people of India need to understand the problem of Kashmir, the pain of Kashmir, the tears of Kashmir, and the complaint of Kashmir. In our ignorance or in our “administrative dexterity”, we are torturing those people whom we call as our integral part. There were many people in Kashmir who asked me if India says that Kashmir is its integral part, then why it is not initiating talk with that integral part or assuaged its pain and resolve the problem? It is upsetting that on one side we consider the people of Kashmir as an integral part of India and on the other side we are averse to talk to them.
Regardless of the right or wrong, good intention or band intention talk should progress, but government is so weak that it feel any such engagement will dent its prestige or credibility. Government is a big thing. The government is for the whole country and it should not shy away from engaging in talks with its own people. At the same time the people of Kashmir believe that it is futile to talk with anybody who is not a close confidante of the Prime Minister. Finally, some compassionate people gave an opinion that the government should immediately interact with the youth of Kashmir. When I asked what would be the mechanism of talk, they said the there are a lot of people in the Central Government who could go to schools and colleges and interact with students. These young people are leaderless. Their leader is their own self and their despondency. Therefore, the government should interact with the students and allay their disappointment and give assurance of their bright future. I met with young people who said that amongst the stones pelters there are those who are good athlete, who are good musicians, who are good debaters, who are good at study, and for these people there is no hope in Kashmir. Is it beyond government’s reach to launch some scheme, so that the youth of Kashmir could see their bright future in? I strongly believe that this can happen, provided that the Prime Minister will pay attention towards this. The people of Kashmir have no faith in any other minister. They think that the way in which the Prime Minister influences the whole of India or the policy decisions of the country, in the same way he should intervene in the situation in Kashmir and should hold Man Ki Baat with the people of Kashmir.
By Santosh Bhartiya