J&K after Afzal Guru: Immediate Excuse and Inherent Problems
13 Feb, 2013 · 3813
D Suba Chandran discusses the actual reasons behind the recent protests in the Kashmir valley
D Suba ChandranDirector
Over the last few days, following the hanging of Afzal Guru, the Kashmir valley has been witnessing curfews and protests. While the Kashmir valley, especially Srinagar, is not new to protest politics and curfew governance, what is striking is its recurrence despite the drastic decline in militant violence during the last few years.
What does the protest signify? Do the protesters identify themselves with Afzal Guru and the reasons that he was hung for, or are they using his execution as an excuse to express their dissatisfaction over what happened (to be more precise, what has not happened) during the last few years?
What is the Problem? Afzal Guru's Execution or the Absence of Political Dialogue?
Such a strategy has worked for the governments both in New Delhi and in J&K in the past. It may very well work again this time as well. But will this address the problem, or will it only increase the distance between the government and its subjects in Kashmir? Certainly, Afzal Guru is not the issue here. His hanging is a trigger for a larger problem. What is it?
Fire Fighting as a Long Term Policy
While it may be interesting and even frightening to find out the reasons for such a policy, what needs to be clearly understood is: this policy is not working and is not in the interest of the State. While the people suffer every day because the government considers inaction as the best form of action; the policy may tire the people out in the short term, but may not help the State in the long term.
Round Tables and Interlocutions as a Ploy
What have been the results of those Round Table Conferences led by none other than the Prime Minister of India? Did he consider and seriously pursue the recommendations of those five groups initiated by him?
Despite frustrations and negative sentiments from previous failures, different shades in J&K responded positively to the interlocutors led by Dr Radha Kumar and Mr Dileep Patgaonkar. The team took its job seriously, for it was tasked by the government to submit a report. After numerous visits and rounds of discussion, the team submitted its report. What has been the response thus far?
If only the government had taken the above two initiatives seriously and addressed the basic political issue, there would have been no protests today in the Kashmir valley. But was that ever an objective of the government? In retrospect, it appears a ploy to be seen as doing something, for the ultimate objective has always been to do nothing.
Governing Through Curfews and Measuring Peace Through Tourist Inflows
It is really surprising that the government measures peace in terms of the absence of violence. The math is simple: if there are no terrorist attacks, the State is peaceful. Worse, another yardstick to measure peace is – the number of tourists. If there are more tourists, then obviously, the region must be peaceful. To crown this calculation further, if Bollywood visits the valley, the reasoning is elevated to a gospel – that peace has certainly returned to the valley.
Since when did we start measuring peace by increasing tourist inflows and Bollywood visits?
Abdicating the Responsibility to the Security Forces
Ideally, the political leadership should have taken the process further by ensuring governance through established democratic institutions. The failure of the panchayat system in J&K alone, will show where the problem is. Will this approach help political institutions retain their credibility in the long run? Should they not realise that this is not in their interest?
To conclude, the problem is not the hanging of Afzal Guru. It is the absence of a sustained political process, and a collective failure of institutions both at the State and national levels. The irony is, the State remains aware of this and yet, does nothing about it.
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