Complex challenge in Kashmir

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:23 pm IST

Published - December 08, 2014 01:21 am IST

The sense of satisfaction over the unprecedented voter turnout in Jammu and Kashmir, of more than 71 per cent in the first two phases of elections on November 25 and December 2, has been set back by a series of terror strikes in the Valley. The five-phase elections in the State is in a crucial stage now, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to address his first election rally in the Valley on Monday. Even those who are opposed to the elections understand the popular mood in favour of them and had avoided targeting voters so far. The attacks at four different places that claimed the lives of 11 security personnel and two civilians, were therefore intended to target India and question its narrative of normalcy in the Valley. The attackers came across the border from Pakistan, which has always maintained that Kashmir is the core issue to be resolved between the two countries. Immediate and concrete issues such as roads, electricity, drinking water and employment are important to the people of J&K, as anywhere else, and the people hope that participating in a democratic process would help. To consolidate this positive turn, New Delhi must appreciate other dimensions of Kashmir politics, and acknowledge that there are multiple stakeholders involved. Peaceful elections and wider people’s participation are signs of a positive churn, but this is also the time for India to be sensitive to, and engage with, the multilayered and complex questions of Kashmiri aspirations, rather than wish them away.

The Indian response to the violence must not amount to falling into a trap laid by those for whom the goals are instability and strife. Frequent ceasefire violations along the border, cross-border terrorism, and frozen bilateral talks have led to a deterioration of India-Pakistan relations in recent months. India called off talks objecting to Pakistan engaging with Kashmiri separatists. Both countries must take note of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s offer, made during an interview to this newspaper, to wait before immediately resuming talks and being involved in negotiations. Preconditions and ultimatums will help neither India nor Pakistan. New Delhi must find a partner in the new government that will come to power in J&K, with whom it must talk about the State’s material and political aspirations. New Delhi must also engage those who are not participating in elections; after all, India has made peace with a long list of insurgent groups. History is presenting an opportunity in the Valley and it should be seized, not squandered the way the people’s mandate in 2008 was. Six terrorists from across the border must not decide the course of a democratic country.

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