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Still groping

Statesman News Service |

Are we back to square one on Kashmir? For though the outcome of Wednesday&’s all-party meeting was a comparatively innocuous, non-specific resolution, it is not easy to discount the government&’s having used the “sources” route to inform the media (conveniently denied later) that a hard line was being contemplated against the separatist elements in the Valley. So were the generally unsuccessful efforts of a political delegation that sought to broker peace in the Valley a mere interlude, a face-saver for Modi-sarkar that has made only token efforts at diffusing the near-revolt that has scripted itself in blood? The “threats” to withdraw certain privileges extended to some Hurriyat leaders by the Vajpayee-edition of the NDA administration suggests that Raisina Hill has little faith and less hope in negotiation — though for the record there was an iteration of the offer to talk to “all stakeholders” but no spelling out who precisely that included. The five-point confidence-building programme suggested by Opposition leaders was not endorsed, there was no assurance on a blanket ban on the use of pellet-guns, rehabilitation of the injured, withdrawal of AFSPA from civilian areas. The government&’s indifference to what the Opposition sought was in some contrast to its using the “rebuff” to some of the MPs as a trigger for more “tough talk”. That “toughness” has, over the past several years, done little to solve the basic problems of Kashmir, only ensured that the cycle of violence and discord remained unbroken. Even defence officials have gone on record to aver that there can be no “military solution”, but the BJP appears to have little else in mind — and has no qualms over selling its incompetent alliance partner “up the Jhelum”.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that there was limited commitment to following the Vajpayee line: else non-opening of the front door to Yechury & Co, would never have been blown out of all proportions. Would anyone be welcome in Jhandewalan without a prior appointment having been fixed? Have the “snubbed” Opposition leaders complained a great deal? Since when did the BJP elevate leaders of the Left and JD(U) to such an exalted position that their not being welcomed by SA Geelani is deemed a national affront? Mehbooba Mufti has more reason to feel slighted, but she is alive to ground realities and knows the importance of, eventually, mending fences with at least some sections of the Hurriyat. Raisina Hill is clearly at odds with itself trying to formulate a Kashmir policy: does it address the people of the Valley, or its vote-bank in the “heartland”? All that the Modi government has done is re-confirm the old theory that “it is easier to wage war than it is to fight for peace”.