The killings of renowned journalist Shujaat Bukhari and brave soldier Aurangazeb provided the Government of India a golden opportunity to isolate the secessionist and radical forces within the Kashmiri society. But like many previous occasions in the past, this time too, the Centre has blown away the chance by refusing to extend the ceasefire beyond a month. The decision was followed by ruling Bharatiya Janata Patty’s (BJP) withdrawal of support from the Mehabooba Mufti Government in the State. Such acts have clearly blocked the way for the peace to return in this trouble-torn valley. So now instead of peace, it seems more troubled days for Kashmir are in the offing.
The problem with India’s policy regarding Kashmir is that our policy makers have always framed it keeping an eye on domestic politics. Gains or losses in domestic circuit were always calculated before taking a step in Kashmir without realising that the vexed Kashmir problem is not similar with the problems that our mainland states are facing. Foreign hands are very much active in the State. A part of the State is being forcefully occupied by Pakistan. It has a direct effect on the State’s economy and livelihoods of the people. Moreover, the forcible occupation of Pakistan has barred the people from meeting their own living on the other side of the Line of Actual Control (LOC). History proves that Kashmir problem is the creation of Pakistan. But because of wrong handling, India is now at the receiving end, while our neighbour is going all over the world claiming that India is not allowing the Kashmiris to decide their own fate.
Where did India go wrong? New Delhi was never successful in establishing the fact that the real aggressor was Pakistan and actually India was the saviour of Kashmiri people. A look at the pages of history will establish that it was Pakistan which attacked Kashmir first in 1948. India intervened only after the then King of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh merged the State with India by signing Instrument of Accession. It was the brave Indian soldiers who defeated the Pakistani Army and prevented that country to become another Baluchistan. The proposed plebiscite in Kashmir could not take place as per the United Nations directive as Pakistan refused to withdraw its army from Pak-occupied Kashmir (POK). Besides, over the years India made many promises in regards of Kashmir. But majority of these promises are yet to be fulfilled. Failure to keep the promises provided the secessionist forces to level all sorts of allegations against New Delhi including that of colonial rule.
So to bring back peace in Kashmir the first job is to win over the Kashmiris. Month-long ceasefire was seen by many as the first step towards this direction. Everyone knew that those who want to keep Kashmir burning would go to any extent to derail the peace process. Killings of innocent citizens, throwing stones at the security forces were part of their design. A firm resolve was needed not to succumb to these dirty tricks. But the Narendra Modi Government could not show that resolve. Rather it forced Kashmir to another spell of political uncertainty fearing a slide in Hindutwa votes in 2019 general elections. Whether Mr. Modi will make a return to power next year or not is uncertain. But one thing is for sure that peace will continue to elude Kashmir for many more years to come.