In order to restore normalcy in the strife-torn Kashmir valley, the Centre should recognise the right of the Kashmiris to take pride in their identity, Mathew Joseph C, faculty at the Academy of Third World Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, said here.

“To have a permanent solution to the political problem, we should enter into dialogue with China and Pakistan, and with the people of Kashmir to secure their trust,” he suggested.

Further, if the people of J&K should be wooed back and integrated into the national mainstream, draconian acts such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should be repealed and Article 370 should be reinstated in its true spirit, said Mr. Joseph while delivering a talk on ‘Kashmir: Past and Present’ organised by the history department of Maharaja’s College here on Friday.

“The reasons for the troubled present of J&K lie in its turbulent past,” said Mr. Joseph before highlighting historical events—from the Treaty of Amritsar between Maharaja Gulab Singh and the British in1846 to the latest bout of unrest in the valley— which have shaped the fortunes of the State. Talking of the instrument of accession in 1948, he spoke on the considerable autonomy enjoyed by the State by way of Article 306 and later, Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

“However, the Centre’s irreverence for Article 370 sowed the seeds of unrest among Kashmiris in the early 1960s,” he said. Speaking of ‘Kashmiriyat’ and the unique Sufi culture that existed in the valley, Mr. Joseph observed that the Centre’s intervention was overkill at every stage—the 1974 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord alienated those who fostered feelings of sub-nationalism; the palace coup masterminded by Indira Gandhi against Farooq Abdullah; the badly rigged 1987 elections; the governor being bestowed with overarching powers in the early 1990s and the like—only helped worsen the unrest.

Talking of the dawn of the millennium, Mr. Joseph said that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was significant as it brought to the fore the viewpoints held by divergent dissident groups. “However, with Gulam Nabi Azad becoming Chief Minister, J&K was returned to being remote-controlled by Delhi. The present crisis was born out of the shoddy handling of a sensitive situation by the Omar Abdullah government and not the handiwork of Pakistan. It saw young, educated Kashmiri youth make use of social networking to formulate opinion and resort to stone pelting to register their protest. The upsurge could have been avoided,” said Mr. Joseph.

The Centre’s gesture of sending an all-party delegation to the valley and the eight-point economic package that followed, he said, were positive steps towards engaging all sections of people. “However, what we require is a political solution,” he stressed.

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