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Known knowns and the known unknowns

The tragedy is that everyone knows what ails Kashmir and what the solutions are. But the embers are convenient to many

Published: 30th July 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2016 07:53 AM   |  A+A-

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Given the terrible happenings in Kashmir this month, the conversations I had with different people in Delhi early this week centred, not surprisingly, around the Valley on fire. Interestingly, what I was told in a private meeting over lunch at a hotel in the capital was exactly what J & K chief minister told the nation on Thursday — if only police knew Burhwan Wani was among the terrorists holed up inside the house stormed by them, they would have probably spared him.

Was the chief minister, wittingly or unwittingly, giving away a vital bit of information so far not known to the world? It appears so, going by the information shared with me by this gentleman who served in J & K for many years and still keeps track of the goings-on there. Branded Hizbul Mujahideen “terrorist”, the 22-year-old Wani, who has emerged as the poster boy for separatists in the wake of the July 8 encounter, was said to have been actually working for Indian agencies. Not many are privy to this closely guarded secret and, in any case, the security agencies involved in the Kokernag encounter did not scent Wani’s presence in the house.

What happened in the Valley post the encounter is known and Pakistan was only too happy to stoke the passions. By all accounts, the current PDP-BJP government does not seem to have established connect with the people. The reason for this, according to Kashmir observers, is that Mehbooba has been, from the time she took over, rather apologetic about the alliance with the BJP, perhaps because it is not in line with the “soft separatist” stance her party always pursued.

Deaths in encounters, whether of security forces or terrorists, have become so routine that on most occasions, we hardly take note of them. But the scars of what happened this time, are going to last long, really long. Apart from the fact that over 1,000 have been injured, the agony of the 40 plus persons who have turned blind thanks to the pellets used by CRPF personnel is something that seems to be troubling even those who have no sympathy for the ordinary Kashmiri. Among the victims are five-year-old kids.

“For at least two generations to come, they are going to live to tell the tale. Whenever they walk on the streets of the Valley, the victims are bound to remind people about this incident. One way of winning the hearts of the people of Kashmir is to do everything possible to restore eye sight of those blinded,” one bureaucrat said. The government has already deputed some specialists to treat the victims but whether their eyes can be saved is doubtful.

 

Another Kashmir observer brought to my attention this interesting bit of statistics revealed in a recent government report and reported only by a section of the media: J & K received 10 % of the total central funds released in the last 15 years though it accounts for only one per cent of the population. Also, J & K again got 25 % of the total funds given to 11 special category states during the same period. Yet, people of Kashmir do not seem to see India or its government as having any concern for them. Unfortunate, given the kind of money that flows into Kashmir. Read this along with the  CAG’s report  that its observations on “serious financial irregularities” have never been properly looked into by successive state governments.

One reason that most seem to point out is that we have always been fixated on the “geography” of Kashmir, not its “demography”.  In other words, the concern is to somehow protect the land, not win the hearts of the people. The ideal thing is to do both. As an example, the bureaucrat pointed out how a good idea failed. A few hundred young, educated Kashmir youth were brought to Delhi every now and then and given training in hospitality and similar sectors. While in Delhi, they were taken care of in every way. Once back home, they remained what they were before: educated and jobless. The frustration only grows.

Perhaps fed up with the barrage of questions I was posing on the state of affairs in Kashmir, a veteran shot back: “Do you think anyone really wants a solution to the issue?” The reasoning he gave was this: Keeping the Kashmir pot boiling suits any Indian government as a good “diversionary tactic” and once “national interest” is cited, no questions are asked. The same logic suits our neighbour as well. And also other powers. Perennial trouble in Kashmir, with India and Pakistan accusing each other of stoking trouble, is perfect for the big brothers. It helps them keep the two countries at loggerheads, engage with both of them in different ways depending on what suits them at which point of time.  It suits the international defence industry more than anyone else. Both India and Pakistan can be pursued/bullied into buying modern weapons at humungous cost — monies that could have otherwise been spent on improving the well-being of the people. Even the people of Kashmir seem to have got used to this: every compensation/dole they get is four to five times more than what any other state government offers. Last but not the least, dozens of researchers/experts are engaged in projects meant to find out what ails Kashmir and what the lasting solution could be.

The tragedy is that everyone knows what ails Kashmir and also what the solutions are. It is that the embers are convenient to many.

GS Vasu is Editor of TNIE

Email: vasu@newindianexpress.com



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