Kashmir has, for a few decades now, proved to be a challenge for the rest of India. A reasonable solution has proved elusive. Successive PMs have tried various methods of getting the Valley back on track, with astuteness, coercion, promises, statesmanship, poetry, development packages and heavy security presence. More Article 370, less Article 370, let’s remove Article 370.
In keeping with tradition, PM Narendra Modi too has covered every corner while trying to seek the outlines of a resolution—from his initial friendly gestures to Pakistan, to the surgical strikes, to his admission that Kashmiris can only be won over through embrace, to an almost angry retort to P Chidambaram’s suggestion of more autonomy as an interpretation for azadi. In between, he has appointed a non-political interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma.
But if there’s a collateral damage that the rather sharp and untimely exchange between the PM and Chidambaram has had, it’s the talks Sharma is expected to initiate with all stakeholders of J&K, including the separatists. To be fair to Modi, he’s stuck to his party line.
The BJP has not wavered on its stand on autonomy—in fact, it’s in favour of abrogating Article 370, though no serious move has been taken in three years. Even Vajpayee, whom Kashmir likes to remember, had rejected the J&K Assembly’s resolution seeking reinstatement of the original autonomy doctrine. Modi may not have been as stinging as he was had Gujarat not been in the midst of polls. The Congress and Chidambaram, however, seem to be evolving … or rather, revolving.
The Congress has been against the removal of Article 370, but on other issues it has flip-flopped over the years. The three-member interlocutor group set up by the UPA, in its report, had indeed suggested ‘more autonomy’ as a step towards resolution. But the UPA put their report in cold storage. Now to turn around and ask decisiveness from its successor, which has a clearly different policy leaning, is a bit disingenuous.