” AGAR FIRDAUS BAR ROO-E ZAMEEN AST, HAMEEN AST-O HAMEEN AST-O HAMEEN AST”
is believed to be famous farsi poet Amir Khusru’s exclamatory remarks on the beauty of Kashmir.These lines has become a testimony to the dynamics of time for we are hearing about the ‘boiling Kashmir ‘and ‘Jihadis’ all over the place rather than the beauty of Kashmir.This article will look into the undoubtedly deteriorating social and nationalistic outlook in the Kashmir valley through multiple prisms of politics,security and economy.This is an effort to look into the deep rooted dissents and also suggest sustainable solutions to overcome the same
What caused the recent unrest? Creating a perception and influence of ‘next-door boys’
Of late,there is a deliberate attempt to portray India as an ‘occupying force’. Every attack on the armed forces of India is aimed at creating a perception that by attacking the ‘occupier'(Indian forces),the attackers are siding with the ‘sufferers'(Kashmir’s population).The attack on army camps in Pathankot and Uri are part of this larger picture. The dissents created by decades old separatist movements had made the soil of Kashmir fertile for such narratives.So, half of the problem is ‘home-grown’.Let us accept the reality that populations which live alongside armed forces for decades will have their freedom and liberty curtailed to a large extent. The continuous combing operations,searches and encounters may create some level of dissent in such societies. If we read this along with other states in India such as Manipur where such dissents surfaced often,things will become more clearer.However ,owing to the challenges to India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity posed by insurgents and militants who sometimes enjoy support of state actors(Pakistan in this case) ,armed forces cannot be removed from the valley
The locals including schoolchildren and women coming up to support militants is not difficult to explain as any society can comfortably listen and internalize their ‘next door boys'(the radicalized youths in this case).The radicalization had been strengthened by separatist movements,spread of the idea of puritanical form of religion from Middle-East and opportunities to illegally access television channels aired from countries like Saudi Arabia.The changes of political climate in India where talks such as scrapping of Article 370 and removal of special property rights under Article 35(a) entering debates might have had its share in increasing the insecurity among Kashmiris. The latter is understood(by Kashmiris) to be a move aimed at gradually changing the demography of Kashmir by introducing settlers from other parts of India.Such ideas often backfire as is clear from the Srilankan example where a predominantly Sinhalese population had tried to slowly encroach Tamil dominated areas which ultimately plunged the island into a bloody civil war.
Kashmir in the eyes of rest of the Indians
Irrespective of whether the dissents in Kashmir has ulterior motives or not,the rest of India showed an apathetic attitude towards Kashmiri youth in general.They were often portrayed as ‘jihadis’ in social media platforms to the extent that many kashmiri political leaders have come forward with the complaints of overemphasis to Kashmir in media houses across India.Reports of attack on Kashmiri students have often reported from universities.The report of Concerned Citizens Group ( led by Yashwant Sinha) had also reported the alienation faced by Kashmiri youth and their willingness to talk.
Kashmir:A classic case of misgovernance?
J&K’s State GDP and per capita income are well below the national average and if Indian states are ranked in descending order, J&K will figure at 20th or 21st position.
In a recent report of World Bank, ‘All India Assessment of Business Reforms‘, J&K featured at 29th position in ‘ease of doing business’;a clear reflective of the fact that whoever wants to start business will have to undergo multiples verification and security checks (necessary and unnecessary).
Fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey (2015-16) from Ministry of labor and employment puts J&K at 10th position in terms of unemployment which is well ahead of all major Indian states except Kerala.
In the Swacch Survekshan ranking of 2017 ,the first city from J&K was Leh (100) followed by Anantanag(197) out of a total list of 432 cities.The capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar occupied rather low positions in the ranking.
The state’s lack of participatory governance is clear from its poor rankings in the Devolution indices of Panchayati raj ministry.
This is not an attempt to prove that misgovernance is to be blamed for all of Kashmir’s problems for there are other states where the governance is poorer but instances of ‘stone-pelting’ is absent.When factoring Kashmir’s peculiar problems,misgovernance seems to have played a part along with challenging geographic location,demographic makeup etc..One glaring example of the role of misgovernance is the ‘little credibility’ enjoyed by mainstream Kashmiri politicians who command rather low esteem(among Kashmiri youth) as compared to the separatist leaders.
Healthy nationalism is often seen to thrive in societies where there is a strong presence of ‘aspiring middle class’.Creating such a class whose economic and social interests are very much in alignment with the rest of India is the way forward in diluting the alienation.The special property rights to ‘permanent residents’under Art 35(a)does not fit well in the open market economic model that India follows after 1990s. Nobody would want to go and invest in a place where he/she cannot own a flat.Therefore so called ‘special property rights’ in Kashmir is a clear hindrance to its economic development.Since there is no consensus on Art 35(a) ,what can be done for the time being is to encourage Indian businesses such as software and IT industry to recruit bright Kashmiri students to other parts of India.(say Banglore,Kochin etc.).Indian firms such as Wipro,TCS,Infosys has to play very important role here. Once this takes up at a substantial level ,the communication breakdown between Kashmir and rest of India will come down. Imagine a group of mallus visiting the valley with their Kashmiri colleague.They will take back ‘Zaffron’ and ‘Pashmina Shawl’ from there and hence the products from the valley will get familiarized in other parts of India.Plugging the loopholes in communication will enable rest of India to take up a more considerate position on Kashmir.
For recruiting the professionals from kashmir, emphasis shall be laid on ‘capacity building’ and making them competitive enough to perform in all India stages.Important role is to be played by army and local administration in civilian outreach, measures to improve ‘participatory governance’ etc…Those who live in the border areas are to be encouraged and incentivized to act as ‘eye and ear’ of the army.It is also time for civilian groupings in the valley to adopt a more neutral view of the ground realities other than anti-army and anti-government stance.
Finding a political solution to the Pak Occupied Kashmir (POK) problem is important though no immediate solution is in the vicinity.With China’s CPEC along POK and USA’s new South Asia Policy demanding more action from Pakistan against terror outfits which targets India,infiltration bids from across the borders are expected to come down.If that is the case, there is a chance for both India and Pakistan to convert ‘Line Of Control (LOC) into a ‘soft border’.This will fetch better prospects for traders and businessmen from both sides.Trade and business has successfully avoided many a conflict between nations in the post World war era.Robust and all weather connectivity (road ,rail and air) is to be established between the different regions of J&K and to the rest of India.Better connectivity always ensure unification.
At an ideological level ,it shall be the values of democracy that should be spread.Assertions are to be made to ensure that there is always a place for dissents in democracy.Govt can seek the help of clergymen to check radicalization and spread the message that religion is a personal affair and cannot be a tool for political mobilization in a secular country like India.But for militants who want to spread violence deliberately ,heavy handedness of the state will have to give reply.