August , 2019
Crafting peace for restoring the Valley’s lost glory
12:01 pm

Debasish Bhattacharyya

Home Minister Amit Shah’s speech in both the houses was not striking in itself, but his pitch on the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) served to prevent the opposition from taking a steadfast stand against it, leading to passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019.

Whether the scrapping of the much-talked-about Article 370 has been just and proper only time will tell. Also, whether revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status will really impact people’s lives and even if it does - to what extent - only time will tell. .

The BBC News article ‘Why Modi’s Kashmir move is widely supported in India?’ read, “Slowly, sedulously the hardened sentiment on Kashmir had acquired a pan-Indian footprint. An obvious upshot was and is a frustration with the status quo in Kashmir and a fatigue with what is seen as the familiar cycle of victimhood and violence, blackmail and bluster. Politically the ground was fertile for a break from the past and for a new initiative, however audacious it may be.”

However, according to Professor Amitabh Mattoo of Jawaharlal Nehru University and former Vice-Chancellor, University of Jammu, “The battle for doing away with 370 was the easy battle. The battle for the hearts and minds is the larger war which has to be won. The war for peace. And that can only be done by demonstrating to the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh that they are better off without 370. Simply put that economically, there will be better opportunities, there will be investment, they will get employment opportunities.”

It’s true that ongoing uncertainty and confusion in J&K has affected the peak tourist season and its impact will be felt in the coming months. Though imposition of internet blackouts, reportedly for the 51st time this year, is not something new in J&K but cutting off all forms of communication certainly enrages people and disturbs economic activities.

Kashmir has been a vexed issue having multiple dimensions internally and externally. Internally, it’s a trouble-prone state, with resentment, alienation, hostility, alleged human rights abuses that need addressing in all earnestness. Externally, Kashmir is a disputed territory divided between India and Pakistan. Several foreign policy experts commented that the NDA government’s chronic lack of understanding would doom the country’s foreign policy. May or may not be so. Recently, a meeting to discuss ‘Kashmir’ at United Nations Security Council for the first time in 48 years ended without any outcome or statement from the council, much to India’s apparent relief. However, there is no denying that the Kashmir policy greatly revolves around domestic politics, charting a political discourse aimed towards vote banks.

Learning from crisis in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous country and one of its fastest-growing economies. Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed after taking office just over a year ago embarked on unique reforms. He released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses. However, his government is battling ethnic bloodshed once held in check by the state’s iron grip.

Referring to Ethiopia, ‘The Economist’ in its recent article ‘The global gag on free speech is tightening’ writes that free speech is hard won and easily lost. Only a year ago it flowered in Ethiopia, under a supposedly liberal new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. All the journalists in jail were released, and hundreds of websites, blogs and satellite TV channels were unblocked. But now the regime is having second thoughts. Without a dictatorship to suppress it, ethnic violence has flared. Bigots have incited ethnic cleansing on the newly free social media. Nearly three million Ethiopians have been driven from their homes. Ethiopia faces a genuine emergency, and many Ethiopians think it reasonable for the government to silence those who advocate violence. But in reality it did far more than that—in effect it silenced everyone. And, it’s here the Ethiopian government committed a gross mistake. Is the Modi government too committing the same mistake? It’s too soon to give a definite answer because a yes-or-no answer contains within itself some assumptions and conditions.

In the developing scenario, the NDA government has to tread very cautiously. Showing sheer political will at the highest level is of little help unless it works at the ground level. The government must take Kashmiri people, particularly the youth, into confidence to instil buoyancy into every faith-filled Kashmiri’s heart. The government machinery must consider the youth as agents of change; young people’s inclusion in the peace agenda is a key to building and sustaining peace. Besides, the administration must assist and make room for the needs of those who wish to navigate their path to a better life.

The dilemma lies elsewhere, though. If the government deals sternly with militants and those who display their anti-India stance, it should also deal firmly with those BJP functionaries known for their whiff of arrogance and ideological obstinacy in their statements. Agreeing to disagree is central to democratic principles but disagreeing about disagreement smack of overt and hidden dimensions of political planning. Since the Union Territory (UT) of J&K will now be under the Centre’s direct rule, there should be an atmosphere of trust and accountability toward a common goal. To replace the over two-decade-old insurgency with a new paradigm of waging peace, all the stakeholders must be committed, compassionate and passionate to seize the opportunity to demonstrate real intention and show sincerity and sensitivity.

Finally, given the bounty of nature, scope and talent in J&K, the UT can be transformed from the land of stagnation to the land of prosperity, from the land of suboptimal utilisation of resources to the land of optimal utilisation of resources. And, to make that happen, crafting peace is fundamental.

— The views reflect that of the author.

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