The aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir point to the way towards a workable democratic pluralism in the state.
I state very clearly, at the outset, that I am greatly interested in the revival of Kashmiri society, in the constructive rebuilding of that society, and in the growth and burgeoning of our younger generation.
I do not want the people of Kashmir to wallow in grief for eternity, and I will not build my castle on the agonies of those who have suffered tremendous losses in the past twenty-six years.
We cannot restore our state or our national identity on unquenchable hate for either India or Pakistan and certainly not on cashing in on the pain and grief of our Kashmiri people. We require a viable solution, and we require it now.
I emphasise that a political movement that pays insufficient attention to the welfare of the populace, good governance, and rebuilding democratic institutions ends up leaving irreparable destruction in its wake.
The translation of a political vision into reality requires an efficacious administrative set-up and vibrant educational institutions, which produce dynamic citizens.
The insurgency or militant nationalist movement in Kashmir clearly lacked such a vision and, so, it was bound to falter. It is imperative, without further delay and further ado, for state as well as non-state actors to forge connections between their agendas and strategies for conflict resolution and reconstruction of society with the strategies and agendas of other sections of the populace impacted by the conflict.
The internal dialogue process, which I am suggesting, would entail making political compromises in order to accommodate different points of view for the growth of J&K.
The Kashmir movement is a dynamic one, which requires internal critique to evolve and grow. The critique of violence, not just of the oppressor but of the oppressed as well came from within the resistance movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s with Abdul Gani Lone’s denunciation of the role played by “foreign militants” in Kashmir.
A few years ago at a seminar on the role of the intellectual in the resistance, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and the Mirwaiz reinforced that internal critique by challenging the hegemonic order within the resistance movement.
They also pointed out that Abdul Gani Lone had to pay a high price for his dissidence, which, they condemned. They were also critical of the inability of the resistance movement to capitalise on the protests of 2010 to make political headway.
The Kashmiri struggle for identity and autonomy for some, self-determination for others, has, historically, been a political one. There has been a critique, from within the resistance movement, of attempts to reconstruct historical and cultural discourses in order to inspire the kind of cultural nationalism that fundamentalist politics require.
Some leaders of the resistance movements are reaching out to the Kashmiri Pandit community, because the movement seeks to be inclusive and seeks to define itself within a political framework. Contrary to what some separatist organizations believe, Kashmiri culture is not homogeneous and nor is Kashmiri identity.
The objectives of peace and of merging a popular politics of mass mobilisation with institutional politics of governance promoting demilitarisation and democracy must be pursued by all stake holders.
The belated effort underway in the Republic of Mali, a landlocked country in Western Africa, could serve as an object lesson in neglecting the inquiry to how to empower people to resist violent radicalisation and restore pluralism.
I would also like to underscore that I am not opposed to electoral politics, because I do not see electoral process and establishment of a government as not ultimate goals or ends in themselves but I do see them as means to nation-building and societal reconstruction.
The political asphyxiation of a viable trajectory for Kashmir has further vitiated the political space, mainstream and separatist, of Kashmir. For more than sixty years, the Kashmir conflict has remained like a long pending case in a court of law between the two nuclear giants in the Indian subcontinent, India and Pakistan: “Kashmir has been an enduring and intractable problem. For decades the greatest barrier to eliminating nuclear tension in South Asia was India’s unwillingness to give up its nuclear option because of its more ambitious self-perceptions. . . . A new dimension—-the possibility of a nuclear outbreak between the two countries—-has been added to an already conflict-filled situation” (Chenoy and Vanaik 2001: 127)
How can we increase the purchasing capacity of our people and ensure that they enjoy basic amenities and necessities if we continue to insist on the politics of “hartals”? Political autonomy devoid of economic autonomy remains lop-sided.
There must be redress for previous violations of human rights for all groups within the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, everyone needs to be open to diplomacy and peaceful negotiations to further the India-Pakistan peace process.
The aims of that process should be withdrawal of forces from both sides of the Line of Control dividing Kashmir as well as the decommissioning of militants, the rehabilitation of detained prisoners, and repair of the frayed ethnic fabric in all parts of civil society. We have the resilience and the wherewithal to forge ahead.