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Futility of Engaging with Spent Force Like Separatists in J&K

Sidelining the separatists and engaging with masses may come in handy for leaders in Delhi, writes Ayushman Jamwal.

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Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and others during a day-long seminar against proposed Sainik and Pandit colonies  in Srinagar, on  12 June 2016. (Photo: IANS)

The unrest in Jammu and Kashmir continues to persist with sporadic clashes in the Valley as the death toll continues to rise. Soldiers face the fury of agitators yet, defend their right to protest from terrorists across the border - becoming villains of their own righteous duty to safeguard the nation. Kashmir has once again divided political parties, where in the midst of the squabble, separatists in the valley have repeated their pitch to be consulted as stakeholders.

Unwilling to Sideline Separatists

The all-party delegation to Srinagar has not proposed anything significant to resolve the crisis yet, the BJP has emerged as the only party unequivocally committed to sideline the separatists in the Kashmir discussion. Other parties including the Congress, National Conference and Left have called for unconditional talks with the Hurriyat.

The Left and National Conference have also gone to the extent of calling for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from civilian areas in Kashmir, despite regular border incursions and terror attacks. The narrative from the Opposition parties also gives political cover to vandals.

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MPs Sitaram Yechury and D Raja wait outside the house of chairman of the hardline Hurriyat faction Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar on 4 September 2016. (Photo: PTI)
MPs Sitaram Yechury and D Raja wait outside the house of chairman of the hardline Hurriyat faction Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar on 4 September 2016. (Photo: PTI)
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Soldiers Versus Protesters

A rhetorical protection under the rising death toll, which poses the armed forces as nothing more than aggressors. News of fallen and injured soldiers, the difficulties faced by their families, the dangerous working conditions when defending the Valley, or the threats faced by local police forces seem to have no place in the evening bulletins. The screens become full of philosophical rants about the sentiments of the common Kashmiri.

After weeks of death and destruction, one thing is absolutely clear – soldiers have not murdered protesters in cold blood, but they have been murdered by those they sacrifice their lives to protect. Soldiers are expected to be held responsible for their actions, and so are citizens. There can be no impunity when one wages war against the state.

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So-Called Widespread Phenomenon

Political parties may be united on the issue of India’s right over Kashmir, but the stand is weakened by divisions over engagement with separatists. The Hurriyat spits on the integrity of the Constitution and openly pledges allegiance to Pakistan. Their aim is to raise tensions and draw protests from the Valley’s poor, even as they can’t win a street-corner election and the people repeatedly reject their calls to boycott polls.

Their writ marginally operates in only 5 of the 22 districts of Jammu and Kashmir, including Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kulgam and Pulwama. The rest of the state yearns to live in peace within the Indian union, yet the impression of the situation in the Valley is dominated by the treacherous actions of the Hurriyat and their supporters.

The media seems to be the separatists’ only source of power, primarily because it continues to grapple with who are the true stakeholders in the state. The all-party panel met traders, public sector workers, teachers and civil society groups in its outreach exercise, faces of the Jammu and Kashmir citizenry we never see in the evening news. Separatists are given a prime platform, with the sentiments of the 5 percent projected as a ‘widespread’ phenomenon.

The Kashmir discussion is more a media template than a dynamic narrative, where one’s ignorance is as good as another’s knowledge. This needs a radical overhaul for a clear demarcation of who is the enemy and the who is the patriot.

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Hurriyat No Longer a Legitimate Political Force?

A common criticism by the Opposition against the Modi government is that it does not follow Vajpayee’s doctrine of ‘Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat aur Jamhooriyat’. Vajpayee’s move may have been significant, but only foolish diplomatic strategies are written in stone.

The Indian government has engaged with separatists when enjoying cordial ties with Pakistan. Both nations sustained amiable ties under Vajpayee and former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf when the Centre invited the Hurriyat for talks.

However, in the post 26/11 era of repeated terror attacks, India’s sovereignty dictates that the Centre cannot treat the Hurriyat as a legitimate political force. Why should they? What can talks achieve with a group whose mission is to separate Kashmir from India? Even as political parties sympathetic to their cause tried to initiate talks in Srinagar, the gesture was rejected.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh rightly turned the Vajpayee doctrine against the separatists saying it was clear they didn’t believe in ‘Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat aur Jamhooriyat’. The Centre is also mulling cutting funds to Hurriyat leaders, highlighting a strong resolve to oust them from the Kashmir narrative altogether.

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Solution Under the Ambit of India’s Constitution

Hurriyat leaders lack the same conviction which they try to instill in youngsters they put on the frontlines. They’re a rogue seed planted by Pakistan as an extension of its traditional foreign policy to “fight for a 1000 years to free Kashmir”. The Hurriyat are continuing a theocratic battle, seeking a victory that the history has not allowed and the future will continue to deny. They know that and yet they persist.

All political parties of India must show the same resolve, leave no doubt that the future of the region will be decided under the ambit of the Indian Constitution and not otherwise. Democracy persists in the valley after years of unrest and India should be proud of that. The Hurriyat has decided not to respect it so let our neglect erase their role in the Kashmir narrative. If not the territorial war, we can surely win the perception battle.

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(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. He can be reached at @Jamwalthefirst. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also read:
Bowing Before a Soldier’s Sense of Duty who Never Turns His Back
We Mustn’t Tamper With Article 370 or Negotiate With Separatists

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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