Focus

Untying Kashmir knot

As we go to press on 25 August, most of Kashmir Valley continues under curfew for the 48th day, breaking all previous records. Seven consecutive Friday prayers have not been offered in Srinagar’s historical Jama Masjid, 66 persons, including two cops, have been killed and hundreds have lost their eyesights due to use of pellet guns and thousands have been arrested. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has paid his second visit to Kashmir within a month while PM Narendra Modi held discussions with J&K opposition leaders. Both sides are adamant: the government is showing no signs of any relaxation or offering even most common humanitarian gestures, separatist groups continue with their strikes and shutdowns encouraging youth to pelt soldiers as well as common people with stones if they venture outside. While it was indicated during PM Modi’s meeting that the government will not talk to Hurriyat groups, Rajnath Singh during his second visit kept the option open. But who will come without a formal invitation?

In the meantime, a meeting of some “eminent Indian Muslims” was held with the Home Minister on 21 August in which I too was invited. Friends in the Valley and beyond have objected to my participation while the current government has no agenda to solve the Kashmir problem. My answer to all was that if my participation can in any way help the resolution of this intricate problem, I am ready to meet anyone and sacrifice anything. A delegation of some Muslim personalities to go to the Valley is being planned. I will not be part of it for two reasons: there are no indications that the government is serious about tackling the issue, and I cannot accept government largesse and facilities to do such a work. Here is the message I sent to the coordinator of this group, Dr MJ Khan, which sums up the discussions and my perspective and readiness to sacrifice for a lasting peace in the Subcontinent, which cannot be achieved without untying the Kashmir knot:
“It was clear during our interaction with the HM that he is not ready for any confidence-building measures as of now: no readiness to bring the injured youth right away from the Valley, no readiness to immediately stop pellet guns, no readiness to announce compensations right away. No talk of lifting AFPSA from unaffected areas like north Kashmir and moving the army away from inhabited areas. Instead, more troops are being airlifted to the Valley. No readiness to talk to Hurriyat or Pakistan for a final solution of this festering wound. Hence, personally I do not see any usefulness of visiting Kashmir. In any case, it should be an independent initiative, not one sponsored and paid for by the home ministry. By accepting such help, we lose credibility. Personally, I have over night lost my credibility in the Valley which was built over three decades. Despite this, I am ready to lead an independent initiative if there are people ready to listen and work for a final solution on lines of or close to the failed Agra agreement. A Nobel prize is waiting for Modi if he can rise to the occasion. If not, such eruptions will keep happening every few years sapping our energies and defaming us in the eyes of the world.”

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 September 2016 on page no. 1

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