We need to do a few things to bring normalcy in Kashmir that go beyond tourism statistics. We need to go beyond the tokenism of nomenclature. We need to keep Pakistan out of the equation. We need to genuinely empower the elected government and its representatives and allow the state to be governed from Srinagar and not from Delhi. This means we need to ignore this group called the Hurriyat that represents at best themselves but usually Pakistani interests or periodic threats that political space grows from the barrel of a gun. We must not treat this is a Hindu-Muslim affair but bring back the Kashmiriyat, which also means the Kashmiri Pandits must feel safe enough to return.
True, there have been horrendous mistakes in the way we have handled Jammu and Kashmir and true these grievances need to be redressed. One of the best ways of doing this is to ensure that we do not repeat these mistakes. Statesmanship in Jammu and Kashmir does not mean coddling separatists with higher subsidies or promising the moon. Instead, statesmanship demands that we make realistic attainable promises. We also make it clear that there is no question of independence to ten districts in the Kashmir Valley on any basis and specially on the basis of religion. So Azadi is out.
Meanwhile, New Delhi should tell those with grievances in the Valley that they would be treated just as any other Indian would be treated in Bihar, Tamil Nadu or Assam. A truly fair treatment is also about equality with the rest of the country. The rest of the country wants to know why one state should continue to get preferential treatment. What is the good boy benefit for states like Mizoram for instance? Kashmiri youth also need to get out of their beautiful Valley and see the rest of their country, just as we find a Bihari in Mumbai or a Malayalee in Sikkim or a Sikh in Kolkata. There are opportunities waiting for them, or any one who has the talent and the determination to succeed.
Statecraft does not mean periodically setting up commissions and study groups who recommend action for the future but then nothing happens. It does not also mean that when Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, who holds an Indian Passport, turns to Pakistan we ignore this arguing that this is irrelevant and yet give the impression that Kashmir cannot be solved without the Hurriyat. To most Indians this is secessionist talk and there are some laws about this. The Hurriyat and Pakistan are not part of the solution. They and their surrogates are the problem. Eventually, AFSPA will go as soon as we can make a determination that Pakistan has wound down its terrorist infrastructure.
Our leaders in New Delhi and those unelected leaders in Srinagar, must realise the basic truth that problems in Jammu and Kashmir will not be solved through Pakistan. It is in Pakistan military’s vital interests to keep the Kashmiri pot boiling to preserve its primacy under the age old dream that the partition is incomplete without Kashmir. Pakistan is not interested in the Muslims of the Valley but in the water from the rivers that flow and irrigate the plains of the Punjab. A country that treats its own Muslims in the manner it does, is hardly likely to treat the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir any better.
Statecraft would also have to ensure that the Kashmiri Pandits who left their state are allowed to return. In Kashmir Muslims do not eat beef and Hindus do not eat pork in deference to each others sentiments; both the Pandits and Muslims struggled together against the Maharaja in the 1930s. That was when Sheikh Abdullah renamed his Muslim Conference as National Conference. The Amarnath Yatra has traditionally been led by a Muslim shepherd carrying the Chhadi Mubarak. The Shankaracharya Temple overlooks the Dal Lake. The Ziarat at Charar e Sharif, a place of pilgrimage for all faiths, was destroyed by that Muslim terrorist Mast Gul not by any central Police force. There is Vaishno Devi in Jammu and the Zanskar Monastery in Ladakh. Kashmir and Kashmiriyat cannot be complete without its Pandits. Nor can we continue to dwell in the past that only encourages victimhood. If there has to be a ‘moving on’ it has to be all inclusive.
The writer is a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)