Kashmiris suffer for others' sins - by Ajoy Bagchi Back   Home  
Jammu & Kashmir came into India's focus in 1947 with Maharaja Hari Singh deciding to legally accede to India in the teeth of the Pakistan Army-backed tribal marauders practically swarming into Srinagar city. Despite the violence and trauma of the past decade or so, Kashmir has been blinking on and off the world community's radar screen. However, after the restructuring of Afghanistan with the setting up of a de-Talibanised Interim Government, the international focus has once again turned on Kashmir.

Wilson John in his article 'K-reative solution: Withdraw the Army' (February 6) has rightly said that in the cacophony of confrontation between two neighbours, the voice of Kashmir's common man is totally lost.

While the Kashmir Valley has been a beleaguered land for more than a decade, is the fate of Ladakh or Jammu any better? We may ignore China-occupied Aksai Chin because Nehru said "not a blade of grass grows there" but are those in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir any better off ? Wilson John advocates an apology from the Central and the State Governments to the Kashmiri people for being apathetic to their welfare for more than five decades. Should a similar apology not be in order for the other parts of J&K which have equally suffered from similar apathy? Will mere apology provide solace to the Kashmiri from the combined trauma of apathy and violence? The answer is obvious.

He also suggests a social-economic package that will permit the Kashmiri to pick up the pieces of their lives broken by apathy, corruption and bloodshed. More than bloodshed, it is the venal politicians and bureaucrats who have broken more lives. A recent report reveals that the officials and politicians colluded to pocket a major share of the Rs 400 crore central grant for rejuvenating Dal Lake. In the last five decades, the state has received considerable central plan funds for similar social-economic packages but has very little to show for it on the ground. This malaise is not endemic to Kashmir. It is the same across the country. While it is politically correct to say "create a social-economic package", who will take it to the people and see that the benefits really percolate to them? The situation is more complicated today. The challenge of the state's socio-economic development has become more forbidding with the arrival of the trans-border terror machine. If earlier the ruling mafia saw to it that the people were not empowered, today it is in this diabolic terror machine's interest to prevent the social-economic package reaching the people. The efforts at development and empowerment by a honest men are held hostage by this overwhelming combination of venality and terror.

Wilson John suggests withdrawing the Army from counterinsurgency missions in J&K. The Rashtriya Rifles (RR) was created to relieve the Army of this responsibility. The Army's continued involvement in fighting insurgents indicated that the RR has yet to become effective in its task. Today's crying need is a professional force dedicated solely to counter-insurgency tasks. Till it is in place in adequate number, withdrawing the Army because of "skewed popular perception" will mean abandoning Kashmir. The Kashmiri's nightmare will lift only when the ongoing violence stops through the cessation of the armed elements infiltrating from across the border. India has clearly not succeeded in ensuring this. Pakistan will not do it unless it is under extreme pressure. Afghanistan proves that the US can change the ground reality. Will it subject Pakistan to similar treatment? For a variety of very complex geopolitical considerations, it is not likely to move to de-Talibanise Pakistan and install a more humane dispensation there. Till then, the voice of the common man in Kashmir will reverberate unheard in the Valley.
Published in Dailypioneer