Indian former Chief interlocutor Dilip Padgoankar Wednesday said Kashmir is a political issue and it is high time for Government of India to address this issue once for all. He said current upheaval in Kashmir after the death of Hizb commander Burhan Wani is yet another grim reminder of the failure of successive governments in New Delhi to address the volatile situation in the Valley in right earnest.Padgoankar while talking to Kashmir based news agency CNS said that New Delhi must swiftly find ways and means to engage the powers that be in Pakistan to reach a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue. “Ever since militancy reared its head in J&K in 1989, their response to curb it has been on predictable lines: deploy the armed might of the Indian state to eliminate it root and branch and focus on development and good governance to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris. Peace and normalcy would follow suit. That hasn’t happened. The nature of militancy itself has changed. The militants who attack security forces are increasingly local youth who are well-educated and who belong to well-to-do families. How many of them have crossed the border to receive training and procure arms is still a matter of conjecture. But growing evidence suggests that these are home-grown elements who no longer rely entirely on Pakistani largesse to wage their ‘violent’ struggle against the Indian state.”He termed the local support to militancy a worrisome development and said that there was a time when New Delhi could justifiably argue that the population of the Valley was by and large indifferent, if not hostile, to the militants on account of their depredations-intimidation, wanton killings, maltreatment of women etc.
“Today the huge crowds that turn up for the funerals of slain militants, the attacks on the security forces by ordinary civilians (including, most tellingly, by women), the strict observance of hartals and shut-downs decreed by separatist leaders and so forth tell another, altogether alarming story,” Padgoankar said.Padgoankar said that a sense of victimhood has existed in Kashmir since the dismissal and incarceration of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953. “The sacking of subsequent chief ministers, the erosion of J&K’s special status, rigged elections, lack of economic and social development, ineffective governance, alleged abuses of human rights and corruption heightened that sense. Now the sense of victimhood is being expressed more vociferously. And it is couched increasingly in communal terms,” he said and added that it is high time Government of India engage both separatists and Pakistan leadership into an effective dialogue to cool down the tempers in Kashmir.Padgoankar said that the Centre does not seem to have learnt lessons from the past, especially from upheavals that followed the stone-pelting agitation in the summer of 2010 and the hanging of Afzal Guru in February 2013. “Now, as then, it has chosen to believe that cracking down on militants and their sympathisers and pouring in more funds for development would be sufficient to beat back secessionist forces.This is tantamount to myopia. Not to read the writing on the wall – that the main problem is a political one – would plunge India’s only Muslim-majority state into more turmoil. The only way to address the problem is to engage with all stakeholders, including the separatists, to determine how the diverse, even divergent, political aspirations of people in J&K can be met without compromising India’s security interests,” he said. (CNS)