Dear politicians, one hopes you will read this before you huddle to discuss the deadly situation in the Kashmir Valley.
Yours won’t be the first all-party meet the central government has convened on Kashmir. There have been many. Rajiv Gandhi led an all-party delegation to Kashmir in 1991 when the valley and other parts of the state were burning.
How that visit ended is well recorded. A detailed account of the meeting Gandhi and others held is in Jagmohan’s “My Frozen Turbulence In Kashmir”. The meeting was famously titled by the Kashmir media as “nishastam, khurdam, barkhwastam” (They gathered, ate and fled.)
The fire in Kashmir kept blazing and is still blazing blisteringly hot. Tens of thousands have died in three decades of a conflict that has its roots in 1947. Rights groups say more than 80,000 have been killed. The government puts the number at around 50,000. Unfortunately, human sacrifices turn into mere statistics after a certain number.
Kashmiris were again on the streets in 2008 against the transfer of forest land to the Amarnath temple management. An all-party meeting was convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It ended with an appeal for calm after weeks of deadly tension in which nearly 60 people died. A resolution was passed calling for a “dialogue” to resolve the issue. The summer of discontent gave way to a winter of calm.
Kashmir erupted again in 2010 over the killing of three civilians in a staged shootout. The civilians were passed off as foreign terrorists. Manmohan Singh again called for an all-party meeting, which announced measures to douse the fire.
Kashmir is again on fire today. All previous all-party meetings and financial packages have failed to end the turmoil. You know why? Because these meetings have been held — as Kashmiris see it — on false pretensions that Kashmiris are demanding jobs and development.
In the last 70 years, the issue has evaded a resolution. The main reason behind the repeated failure is the lies we all speak about Kashmir. When you sit down, please start by speaking the truth about Kashmir: that Kashmiris are on the streets demanding “Azadi”.