Talking about talks

Kashmir Times. Dated: 6/26/2019 10:29:23 AM

Any discourse on K-dialogue must have clarity and be consistent with ground realities

Dialogue is an important step towards restoring some normalcy in Kashmir but the nature of the process of talks and negotiations are equally important and ideally they should be result-oriented. This is why the fresh discourse on dialogue is more mis-leading and aimed at creating confusion in the existing chaos of the Valley. The talk about dialogue is at odds with the existing ground realities and lacks clarity. The media hype over dialogue with Hurriyat appears to have started when Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik welcomed the Hurriyat's open-ness for talks seemingly after Mirwaiz Farooq spoke about the need for tripartite talks. Though Malik sought to give the remarks of the Hurriyat leader a spin by comparing the present willingness for dialogue with the Hurriyat shutting the doors on Ram Vilas Paswan in 2016, there is no novelty in the issue raised by the Mirwaiz. Almost all Hurriyat leaders, cutting across ideological differences, have from time to time been reiterating the need for tripartite dialogue with space for Kashmiris at the India-Pakistan level of talks. Though, it is a good sign that the governor has seen hope in the oft repeated stance of the Hurriyat and a political will could pave way for a building the process of dialogue, there appear to be many a slip between the cup and the lip. The governor's optimism is queered by the aggressiveness of the BJP leaders who have immediately responded with the patent appendage of "talks within the framework of constitution" and some going beyond that to seek an acknowledgement from Hurriyat about Kashmir being an integral part of India. It is of little concern to such BJP leaders when their own colleague, Gautam Gambhir, chalks out a separate domain for Kashmir by making the xenophobic distinction between "our people" and "Kashmiris" while batting for the latter's harassment to ensure the safety of the former. Obviously, the governor and atleast a section of BJP are not on the same page. Besides, setting pre-conditions to dialogue mars the very essence and spirit of it as dialogues are a requirement of contested positions and not of a situation where two parties agree.
Secondly, for a dialogue to happen, some spade work to create space for it should be in order. At the moment, the trust deficit between Kashmir and New Delhi is at its highest ever. The perpetuation and continuation of a strong-armed muscular policy in Kashmir without punctuating it with relief mechanisms has pushed the youth of the Valley to the extreme and made the widening gulf almost unbridgeable. The governor's optimism is also inconsistent with another ground reality. Barring a few, much of the Hurriyat leadership has been jailed or kept under house arrest. The BJP during the last five years has laboured to not just malign and vilify the Hurriyat but also the mainstream parties - a situation that further destroys the scope of a dialogue. The onus of initiating talks does not lie as much on the shoulders of the Hurriyat, much of its leaders imprisoned, but on the more powerful entity - the state - which has the power to lay the foundations of trust building and of bringing some clarity to the idea of a peace process. The confusion that has emanated from the present discourse, however, is counter-productive and puts the lives of many political players including the Hurriyat in greater jeopardy.



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