Behind the turmoil of street protests in Jammu and Kashmir is the tragic tale of political lapses — of judgment and action. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is painfully aware that things were not handled well enough and that they had got out of hand. But admission of failure is not the best thing in a critical moment. The Central government does not seem to have been too helpful.
Home Minister P. Chidam-baram’s statement that the trouble was to be traced to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a simplification of the issue and ignoring the local discontents, which could be more dangerous than the external elements and which could easily be supported by foreign sources. The latest statement of Omar Abdullah that there is need for political dialogue is both dangerously and infuriatingly vague. If the Chief Minister feels that there is a need to engage the separatist Hurriyat leaders, then he should say it in as many words. If the Central government, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram are of the view that there is need for behind-the-doors engagement with the Hurriyat, then they should plunge into it with a sense of purpose and not see it as a mere pretext to counter the American pressure to address the Kashmir issue and to keep Pakistan at bay. The terms of dialogue will have to be made very clear so that the separatists, the Americans and Pakistanis have nowhere to hide.
The main opposition party, led by Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has adopted the ambivalent and ambiguous politics — laid down by her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed — of taking a sympathetic position towards the separatists as a way of maintaining the tricky balance of not being seen as a pro-New Delhi party, and though it makes a lot of political sense in the short term, it doesn’t address the real issues.
The PDP as well as the NC also harp on the point that Pakistan is an element in the solution to the Kashmir problem, each in its own way. Linking peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan is both gratuitous and dangerous.
The National Conference-Congress coalition is proving to be disastrous as it once did in 1980s because that seems to send out the message that the NC is playing second fiddle to New Delhi. But the solution to it does not lie in confrontational politics with the Central government. These false positions and dichotomies have to be abandoned if the situation in J&K is to be assessed and handled right.
Courtesy: DNA India