January 2017 News

'Open Dialogue With Kashmiri Youth'

31 January 2017
The Hindu
Shreya Ramachandran

New Delhi: The former External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, said here on Tuesday 'the youth of Kashmir are completely alienated, they do not believe in the idea of India anymore.' He was speaking at a talk organised by the Observer Research Foundation to discuss a recent report by the Concerned Citizens' Group on their observations in Kashmir. The Citizens' Group, led by Mr. Sinha, included Kapil Kak, retired Air Vice Marshal; Wajahat Habibullah, former Chief Information Commissioner and former Chairman of the National Minorities Commission; Sushobha Bharve of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation; and Bharat Bhushan, senior journalist. The members visited Kashmir in October last year and spoke to a cross-section of the Valley's residents to understand their sentiments. Mr. Sinha said, 'Their bitterness hits you like a missile.' The young people in Kashmir have lost their fear of the Indian state and do not mind being killed or jailed, as long as they achieve azaadi. This disillusionment was worrying, Mr. Sinha said and demanded intervention and dialogue. 'Force, not will' The increased use of force by the Indian state against Kashmiris in the agitations and protests seen in 2016 indicates a failure of the state, said Mr. Sinha. 'When the youth of Kashmir, who for the first time agitated with no defined leader or leadership, asked for self-determination, India's response was to use force. First, the Kashmir Police, then the Central Paramilitary Forces, then the Army.' Mr. Sinha referred to a quote by political philosopher T.H. Green that he remembered from his days as a political science student in college: 'Will, not force, is the basis of the state.' In Kashmir, he said, it is the other way round: force is being used, instead of will. The panelists spoke of the use of pellet guns against agitators in Kashmir. Many have been blinded, including young children. Ms. Barve spoke of the pioneering work by Mumbai's Dr. Sundaram Natarajan in treating pellet gun victims. 'In my time working for the government, I have known pellet guns to be used only in Kashmir,' said Mr. Sinha, 'in which even innocent people can be injured and blinded.' Other instances of unrest in the country, such as in Chennai at the Marina Beach and in Haryana in the jat agitation, have not been met with such action - no judicial enquiry has been held against police excesses in Kashmir, unlike Tamil Nadu, said Mr. Sinha. 'Kashmir is as much a part of our country as any other. We cannot turn our backs on it. If my son listens to my neighbour instead of me, is it not my fault?' asked Mr. Sinha. 'We have to take responsibility, instead of dismissing it as an issue, and we have to attempt to resolve it and listen to Kashmiris' suffering.' The path forward Mr. Sinha said the path forward to help Kashmir is to initiate person-to-person contact and for doors to open toward listening to Kashmiris' grievances. The full text of the report, available online, details the findings of the Kashmiris' grievances, especially of the youth, and this needs to be paid attention to, said the panel. 'We are not talking or communicating now, and we need to,' said Mr. Sinha. He referred to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement of dealing with Kashmir with 'insaniyat' - this, he suggested, is the path forward, as well as initiating dialogue with the people of Kashmir. 'Each Indian,' said Ms. Bhave, 'also needs to ask and reflect on how we look at Kashmir. Why do we donate people to help situations of floods, for example, but not to help pellet-gun victims?' 'Solutions,' said Mr. Kapil Kak, 'are too long a horizon. Let's look at the process toward the solution. Emotionally and psychologically, Kashmiris and Kashmiri youths have seceded from India. Let us take this moment to ask why Kashmiri youths are willing to give up their lives, and what we can do to stop it. Activist groups, civil societies and think tanks need to pressurize the government. The initial step must be to address the anger and grievances of the Kashmiri people. In strategic security and peace-building terms, we have to take the step forward.'