A Pandora’s Box

Interlocutors’ road map is lost in its own twists!

Three summers in sequence since 2008, Kashmir is facing unabated violence for months together. Summer of 2010 was more violent and bloodier, annihilating many young people and wounding hundreds; business and other economic activities worth millions got washed with hostility on each side and endless shutdowns. After restoring some semblance of normalcy and peace both by force and assurances, many initiatives were announced by the government to diffuse the tension. Appointment of interlocutors under the leadership of Dilip Padgaonkar was part of the Government scheme for peace and normalcy in Kashmir. Dileep Padgaonkar and his team visited all the three regions of the state and interacted with almost all, but during their various visits interlocutors were unable to make a dent into the inflexible attitude and approach of separatist leadership. At one point recently Padgaonkar in utter desperation said “We have always favoured for engagement of separatists and we have, in fact, written a formal letter to them that we are willing to meet them anytime, anyplace they are choosing and under such circumstances, until they make up their mind to talk to us we have asked them to send their published document which gives an account of their stand on a political settlement,” These words of Padgaonkar are self explanatory, conveying their failure to break the ice of rigidity within the leadership of separatists and other significant stakeholders particularly in Kashmir.

The recent statement of chief interlocutor on Kashmir Dileep Padgaonkar, announcing the time-frame for submission of roadmap for political settlement of Kashmir issue, is interesting and deviously well timed. As the summer is approaching after a favourable winter and hopefully a pleasant spring, authorities and Kashmir strategists, both at state and central level are monitoring and scrutinizing the developments on Kashmir front with their fingers crossed. Past experience clearly describes the fluid situation in Kashmir and dynamics of unpredictability within the psyche of its people. However, every precaution is being taken by the establishment, so as not to allow any smallest issue to blow out of proportion and lead to any kind of disturbance and violence as experienced during last summer. In order to further strengthen their hold on the situation many other measures are contemplated and implemented. The timing of announcing submission of preliminary document by interlocutors regarding political settlement of Kashmir issue seems one such contemplative step towards reaching out to people with an ‘olive branch’ and psychological fortification against the unseen anger brewing within the people of Kashmir, particularly the younger generation. So, Padgaonkar facilitates the ‘damage control’ mode by saying “We are going to present the initial document on contours of a political settlement in the next two weeks.” It is interesting and astonishing as well, to observe that they are ready with their document even without taking many prominent stake holders on board, thus creating a appalling situation of dragging the Kashmir issue for as much longer period as political masters wish for their political complacency.

Even after deciding about the timing of submission of report (two weeks from now), interestingly, interlocutors are yet in a state of confrontation with the challenge of tracing a viable political settlement for Kashmir issue, agreeable to everyone inside the state of Jammu and Kashmir; acceptable to all within India and genuinely presentable on international level. In their own words ,“The core challenge for us is to trace the contours of a political settlement that takes into account diversity of political aspirations without disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of Jammu and Kashmir and without denting the special status of the state,” This statement of chief interlocutor clearly shows the desperation and failure of this supposedly ‘dovish’ trio to generate even a manifestation of consensus on any front on the subject of complex Kashmir issue. It appears they are nowhere near the compromise and thus apprehensions are visible in their statements, smacking of a Pandora’s Box full of complicacies about to explode in next two weeks with far reaching consequences. Their veiled statements convey the apprehensions and prior information of caution regarding the failure and ultimately the unacceptability of their recommendations and suggestions by the larger section of people of Kashmir and other regions of the state.

In fact, from day one interlocutors were unable to inspire the people of Kashmir and influence the authorities within the state to create a congenial atmosphere for a dispassionate interaction and change the profile and dimension of discourse on Kashmir. Their mandate from the time ‘go’ was laden with conspicuous ambiguity; their agenda mystifying, statements discouraging and confusing, inviting annoyance, not only from the separatists but at occasions from mainstream political parties as well. Their earlier recommendations regarding reduction of bunkers and presence of security forces got very little response from the authorities, deflating their credibility. After many visits and several months of persuasion Padgaonkar and his team failed to prevail upon the system. To save face and restore his much tarnished image he says “We have made some recommendations in this regard. For instance, the recommendations we made include sharp reduction of bunkers. We have made a constant review redeployment of forces and both these things are underway. The kind of recommendations, we have made, are already implemented or are in pipeline to be implemented.” All, but interlocutors know what has been the fate of their recommendations! Buck of security forces and bunker reduction has passed on from state government to union home ministry several times, each one tossing it back without any significant change on ground. Interlocutor’s recommendation for releasing and reforming arrested youth has not gone well with the authorities. Displeasure, vis-à-vis disregard shown to their many recommendations was noticeable in the statement of interlocutors issue on their third visit to Kashmir, “Governance in the state has to be transparent and accountable. Due process of law must be observed to resolve human rights related problems,” —— “A visible difference on the ground would create a congenial atmosphere to explore various options for a political settlement acceptable to all the regions of the state and to all communities within every region,” .

This ‘interlocution’ an exercise in futility at the cost of taxpayer’s hard-earned money and the just and genuine aspirations of people of Kashmir will lead the critical Kashmir issue, nowhere. It is only the sincere efforts and good intentions of Indian authorities, people of Kashmir and other stakeholders of Kashmir issue that will guarantee an everlasting peace and prosperity in the sub-continent.

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