Yashwant Sinha led delegation that visited Kashmir Valley last month and met different stakeholders including separatist leaders in their basic finding have stated that the Kashmiris they met spoke to virtually the same script about the history of the Kashmir issue. They may have varied in the exposition of a particular issue but basically all of them argued for a political solution to what they perceived as a political issue. They made the point that this is the fifth generation of Kashmiris which was protesting but to no avail.The delegation has made various recommendations and has hoped that both State and Central Government would implement them.The visiting group consisted of Yashwant Sinha (Former External Affairs Minister) Wajahat Habibullah (Former Chief Information Commissioner and former Chairman of National Minorities Commission), Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Kapil Kak, Bharat Bhushan (Editor, Catchnews) and Sushobha Barve(Executive Program Director of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation - CDR)
The delegation has cited many reasons for immediate anger including the excessive use of force by security forces, use of pellet guns, night-time raids by security forces, misuse of Public Safety Act (PSA), destruction of electric transformers and crops in rural areas, attacks on Kashmiris outside J&K, refusal to recognize Kashmir as a politically contentious issue, refusal to recognize the emotional and sentimental aspects of the Kashmir issue, designating all Kashmiris as Pakistani puppets, no dialogue with Pakistan, Vajpayee line on Kashmir jettisoned, Indian public is indifferent to the plight of Kashmiris, Kashmir being pushed towards anarchy, Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley, Regression from autonomy to uniformity; togetherness to communalism In their recommendations the group has said that the sense of despair and desperation in Kashmir is increasing by the day. There was unanimity among the civil society and mainstream political leaders that dialogue must begin with the inclusion of the separatist political leaders. The question then is how to ease the existence of ordinary Kashmiris while leaving aside the complexities of resolving the Kashmir issue permanently.
Steps that the J&K state government can take including start the process of reopening schools and as a precursor to this, release forthwith all first time offender school children and minors arrested under PSA, consider postponing school examinations to a later date instead of insisting on holding them from November 15. Children who have been in jail have not probably had access to textbooks and other teaching material. They should be given sufficient time to prepare for exams. Repeat offenders amongst minors must be shifted out of adult jails and put up in temporarily designated juvenile detention centres and given psychological counseling. Compensation must be announced for the next of kin of the civilians killed and for those wounded in police or action by the other security forces. This money may be transferred as DBT to designated accounts to prevent extortion and rent-seeking from the suffering families by the state bureaucracy.
Rehabilitation packages must be announced to ensure the life-time income needs of those permanently blinded by pellet guns. Compensation and free treatment (both in India and abroad, if necessary) at state government expense for those who have been partially blinded by pallet guns. Set up a blind school in Srinagar for children blinded by pellet guns. The state does not have a blind school and this may be a means of rehabilitation by the state to provide education for children with blindness or partially blindness. Order a judicial commission into excesses by the police, especially the wanton use of pellet guns. While it is widely accepted that such commissions rarely lead to any conclusions, they serve a therapeutic purpose of allowing people to emotionally express themselves and it also helps project the state government as an accountable institution.As per the delegation, steps that the Union government can take including ban the pellet gun with immediate effect as a crowd control weapon. This will have a salutary impact on the Kashmiris. This is not something that should be left to committees or to the security forces. Work with the media not to escalate the situation in Kashmir. Educate media owners about the sensitive nature of the Kashmir issue and not add fuel to the fire in search of viewers and revenue. Dispel the perception that Kashmir and Kashmiris are mere tools to be used for electoral purposes.
In its interactions with Kashmiris the centre might reiterate the approach enunciated by the Hon’ble PM that Kashmiris are Indians. GOI move quickly to give facilities of migrants to Pandits continuing to reside in Kashmir Division of J&K.“Although separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq talked of being prepared for a dialogue (Geelani talked of “unconditional” talks), it was not within the competence of this group of concerned citizens to suggest when or if such a dialogue process should be started.” However, what we would like to emphasise is that we noted an overwhelming sentiment amongst the Kashmiris we interacted with for setting up a permanent process of dialogue with New Delhi. One of the reasons why so many doors were opened for us by the separatists and ordinary Kashmiris alike was because they saw our visit as a beginning of engagement with ordinary Indians.“The agenda of alliance of the BJP-PDP Coalition Government also commits to a dialogue with all the stakeholders. We recommend that such a dialogue is initiated at the earliest.” (CNS)