It’s quite ironic to see the first page of a national daily, where two news items are stacked side by side – the first one about a late night attack by heavily armed terrorists from Jaish-e-Mohammad at an army camp in Jammu, and the other a picture of PM Modi in a conversation with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine. Our Prime Minister said to President Abbas, “We hope for peace and stability in Palestine. We believe a permanent solution is possible with dialogue.”
After decades of strategic silence and promotion of biased narratives about Kashmir, its quite reasonable and rightful of the Kashmiri population, who have lived and lost so many lives amidst a war-like situation to ask – what about us? What about a dialogue that was promised to us and yet remains? Despite deliberations, bureaucratic visits and the promise of stability by the BJP, we have not yet arrived at a ‘permanent solution’ for Kashmir.
Sharing undertones with respect to the nature of the conflict in Kashmir, Palestine has been in conflict with Israel for nearly 50 years now. Palestine has been fighting the occupation over Gaza by Israel since the Jewish communities settled in, the then Ottoman empire. Since the land is of religious importance to both their cultures, it has become a bone of contention ever since.
Just a week ago, Prime Minister Modi went to Palestine and met President Mahmoud Abbas to lend a hand of solidarity and strengthen diplomatic ties with the country.
He said: “Only farsightedness can set the country free from violence and baggage of the past. We know it is not easy but we need to keep trying as a lot is at stake”.
After receiving a lot of flak from liberals and left-wing groups for embracing Israel, and expressing a keen interest in buying arms from them, this visit to Palestine should be seen as a balancing act. Even though PM Modi’s political history suggests otherwise, this action of offering solidarity to Palestine should be appreciated. Since independence, Palestine has occupied an important place in India’s foreign relations.
But when it comes to a state of our own country, where protests are fashioned like those in Palestine and uprisings are termed as ‘intifada‘, our mainstream political parties have seldom done much to arrive at a “permanent solution”. Both the Congress and the BJP till now, have been unable to nurture a conducive political atmosphere in the valley. Instead, they have used the state for their own political manoeuvrings.
Though, the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as the Centre’s interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, and Modi’s speech on Independence Day can be seen as attempts to start ‘talks’ but talks at gunpoint, as Anirban Bhattacharya puts it, is quite impossible.
Just in the last year, we saw more than a thousand young people being hit by pellets in one of the most brutal phases of repression of civilian protesters. Over hundred thousand Kashmiri lives have been lost till now, and we are still counting. Rather than fostering an environment for talks – the dominant nationalistic narrative of treating Kashmir as the crown of the nation has gained strength in these times. Every talk about solidarity with Kashmir either diverges towards the valour of the army fighting for us or the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits.
The idea must be to create a democratic space for people, where political views of every kind are welcome.
And while Kashmir is still burning, how can our Prime Minister promise ponds of water to Palestine? The question remains.