Many in the Kashmir Valley believe it is just an “exercise to buy time”

The report given by the Jammu and Kashmir Interlocutors to the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has failed to enthuse the people of the Kashmir Valley, who point to the fate of the Union government's previous initiatives.

The report, compiled by Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari, is the outcome of their interaction with more than 700 delegations they met in the past one year in all 22 districts. The Centre appointed the interlocutors after unprecedented political unrest raged in the summer of 2010, claiming 120 lives.

However, in the Kashmir Valley, there is not much hope, as many people believe that the report is just an “exercise to buy time.” With the separatists keeping their distance from the exercise, the mainstream camp, too, is not so happy.

Looking back at the initiatives of K.C. Pant and N.N. Vohra, who is now the Governor, who were appointed by the previous governments to break the ice on the political front and the non-implementation of the recommendations of the five working groups set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the cynicism is not out of place.

“How can I believe that the report will satisfy my political aspirations going by the experience we have with New Delhi,” said Mudasir Ahmad of Kashmir University. He said New Delhi's trust and confidence in Kashmir was shaken to the extent that “we are not ready to accept anything on the face value.” Despite Mr. Padgaonkar's appeal to all sections to wait for the report to be placed in public domain and not jump to conclusions, people are not inspired enough to hope for an amicable political solution. In fact, the statements that came from the interlocutors from time to time had cast a shadow over their findings. Projecting the “competitive victimhood” of the regions was seen as an attempt to divert attention from the real political problem of the State.

Gull Mohammad Wani a political scientist of Kashmir University, is also sceptical about the effectiveness of the exercise. He raises three important concerns. Putting the onus of resolving the issue on the all-party meeting may not practicable. “All the national parties in India have never ever had a consensus on how to resolve the Kashmir problem.” Assuming that the recommendations of the interlocutors are acceptable, “is the Indian political setup ready at this time to evolve a national consensus,” he asks. “The third is that while on one hand they say the separatists have missed the bus and on other hand they assert that their known public stand has been taken into consideration,” points out Dr. Wani. The interlocutors have left it to the local stakeholders to determine the level of autonomy. In that case, “what were they doing for the whole year,” he asks.

But there are people who look to employment opportunities, since the lack of jobs has created a major problem in the State. But again, the questions rise about the report of the Rangarajan Committee, which was set up to explore employment opportunities. “If there is something for employment, we should welcome it. But employment alone cannot solve the political problem,” says Jamsheed Ahmad, an IT graduate.

The separatists have rejected the interlocutors' report. “We did not meet them, so their report is irrelevant to us,” said Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik.

The chairman of the Hurriyat Conference (moderate faction), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, alleged that “they [the interlocutors] were appointed to divert the attention of the world community and the Kashmiri people from the Kashmir issue.”

National Conference leader and MP G.N. Ratanpuri has said the report has vindicated the stand of the separatists that the appointment of the interlocutors was merely an exercise to “buy time.” “The interlocutors have only acted like the employees of the Central government. New Delhi's non-serious approach to the issue has given rise to militancy in the state.”