IS India heading for a war with Pakistan in Kashmir? Will there be a solution to the Kashmir problem? India has been waiting for long to find a way out of the labyrinthine puzzle that the ‘Kashmir problem’ has posed for nigh seven decades and has only become more complex with every passing one. It’s been a year since Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was gunned down by the Army in its counter-terror operation. The valley responded with anger that hadn’t been seen in recent decades despite the continuing stalemate in solving the problems of Kashmir. The Indian Army and paramilitary forces are fighting a proxy war waged by Pakistan using local Kashmiris as their weapon. No doubt, Kashmir is a multi-faceted issue. India has carried this eczema for the last 70 years; sometime it subsides and at others, it inflames. But now the cracks, crevices and wounds have begun to bleed like never before and a view is gaining ground that the ‘heaven on Earth’ is now nowhere to be found. The Kashmir issue has three obvious players: the Kashmiris, the Indian Government and the non-state actor, Pakistan. Anyone who has ever dealt with the issues that plague Kashmir will assert that dialogue is the only way to resolve the crisis. But then, advocates of more radical measures wonder: dialogue with whom and for what?
This issue of gfiles analyses the complex Kashmir problem. Our writers, Anil Anand, Mohd Sayeed Malik and MK Kaw share their respective insights on the issue, coupled with their personal experiences. There are divergent views among those who are dealing with the issue-declaring LOC as international border; abolition of Article 370 as long advocated by the BJP; withdrawing the armed forces from the valley; revoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir; and, sanctioning autonomy to the valley. These suggestions have a multiplier impact in India. The Mehbooba Mufti government is fighting a war for survival while her arch-rivals and former chief minsters Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, are staring at political irrelevance for now. Hurriyat leaders are constantly changing goalposts and the BJP/RSS combine is analysing their newly acquired power in the State while stakes rise for the Narendra Modi-led central government.
There are around 200 top ranking individuals who head political and government dispensations and reports of money exchanging hands among State and non State actors within the valley have continued to rise. Pakistan’s State actors generously fund not only terror outfits active in Kashmir but also the ‘parallel’ political leadership active in the region. Nobody wishes to give up on this hefty loot. Keeping the Kashmir issue alive is a lucrative employment and may well be a reason for perpetuating the Kashmir issue. But can any conflict sustain without the support of the people of the land? No. Why are the people of Kashmir so agitated and disenchanted with the central, State and local leadership? According to one survey there are 41 lakh unemployed youth in the Valley. The three biggest employment generators in the region-handicraft, horticulture and tourism-are facing their own challenges. The common Kashmiri does not know intricacies of governance; he/she needs employment to keep the embers of the household kitchen burning. Dialogue, coupled with a rock-solid delivery mechanism for promises made by the government, is perhaps the only mantra to calm the burning Chinar.