“The government must be willing to wage a war of ideas in Kashmir, a war that must win over the minds of the common people of Kashmir, the students and housewives, a war to fight against the feeling of victimhood and against separatism. And in this task, India must show determination.”
Saying this, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley — who returned on Wednesday from a three-day visit to Kashmir as part of the all-party delegation — added: “When routinely slogans of ‘azadi' are chanted, the ordinary people do not even know what they mean by it.”
Could an ‘azad' Kashmir exist as a separate state and function independently? he said. Was that what they meant?
The “real” battle, Mr. Jaitley said, was between allowing the people to be alienated from India, their own land, and isolating the separatists.
“The Kashmiris are Indians living in India and this land is theirs. We have to have multiple strategies, multiple visions to ensure the people are not alienated from their own country,” he said.
Speaking to ordinary people, Mr. Jaitley said the sense that he and other members of the delegation got was that the people did not want to be harassed.
“They want to be free to live their daily lives in an atmosphere devoid of fear. Their biggest source of anxiety springs from being told on a daily basis that they are acting at the behest of Pakistan,” he said, adding that the people told the delegation: “We have nothing to do with Pakistan.”
“A teargas shell thrown by the security forces at a protesting group of people accidentally killed a boy, setting off a spiral of violence, anger, frustration, and more violence and anger. The government must be willing to recognise and admit the mistakes made and then rectify them,” Mr. Jaitley said.
His views were expressed at an interaction on the ‘Roots of Separatism' at the Constitution Club here.
Mr. Jaitley said the government had been talking about issues related to the Line of Control (making that irrelevant) or demilitarisation and other issues that do not directly touch the lives of ordinary people in the State. He felt a different approach, together with a massive effort to reach out to the people through ideas, was needed.
“Their mindset must be changed, their sense of victimhood must go,” he said.