The PDP and BJP coalition
When this alliance was formed in 2015, initially there was a lot of hope that it would bring Jammu and Srinagar closer. Instead of moving closer, they have been further pulled apart. There was hope that Prime Minister Modi would follow Vajpayee’s path in Kashmir. Today in Kashmir, they still love Vajpayee. But in actuality, the opposite has happened, and today Jammu is very badly communalised.
At this point in time, the coalition is a total disaster. Let me also stick out my neck and say that when elections are held, the BJP will lose in Jammu and the PDP (People’s Democratic Party) will lose in the Valley. There is extreme dissatisfaction with what the BJP has done in Jammu and what the PDP has done in the Valley.
Hardening of stances due to political apathy
The situation is not only serious but also very sad as nobody seems to bother and there is severe callousness. There is a hardening in the attitude of the separatists also, particularly The Mirwaiz, who has come under a lot of pressure. He is squeezed between Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik – both of whom he does not have any special love for. I was reading one of his (Mirwaiz Umar Farooq) recent interviews in which he has talked of self-determination, which I haven’t heard from The Mirwaiz for a long time. But every now and then something happens which gives him hope. He is craving peace, he is craving normalcy and he is willing to do almost anything that Delhi and Islamabad want.
The recent past
The 2013 Afzal Guru hanging and the 2016 Burhan Wani killing are not connected. But the hanging of Afzal Guru was very unfortunate. There was no need for it. For instance, Omar Abdullah said, even if Guru deserves to be hanged, he is number 11/12 in the list, why are you picking him first – just because he is a Kashmiri? There was a point in this. I spoke on television more than once where I said that if Vajpayee or even Advani had been PM, this man would not have been hanged. It made no sense. I got a call from a Kashmiri who asked me whose agenda the Congress is following, which implied that this is the BJP’s agenda.
Rise in militancy and radicalism
The figures that have been quoted to me, that I have heard, are scary now. Somebody gave me a figure of 500 militants in the Valley. In that there is Jaish, there is Lashkar, the Hizbul Mujahideen has been revived and there are plenty of indigenous do-gooders. You kill one; three are ready to take up the task. And they don’t talk Pakistan, some of them just say, ‘We are fighting for Allah’. That is the other thing that should worry us – radicalism, because of what has happened in the last four years, you see, it’s a counterbalance to what the BJP is doing in Jammu.
The Jamaat has really gone to town in the last four years. The Jamaat used to have just a couple of pockets – Sopore, Pulwama, Shopian, that’s it, now it is everywhere. This is again a matter of worry for our security establishment and how you are going to deal with it.
Elections and democracy
The state government has unfortunately taken a position that the parliamentary by-election in Anantnag cannot be held. By itself, it may not mean very much, but what you are actually acknowledging is that democracy is on a very weak thread in Kashmir. And the bigger worry is because panchayat elections have not been held, how will the assembly elections be held?
There are people who are saying that it will be difficult to hold elections especially in the constituencies in the south. So there is already talk of Governor’s rule by the end of the year and that this coalition will not survive 2018. But what the political parties and the Kashmiris’ hope is that there will be an election in Kashmir, possibly simultaneously with the general elections in May/June 2019.
If we have a prolonged period of Governor’s rule, then we are conceding that we are back to 1990. I don’t think we can afford to go back to this situation. That time also there was Governor’s rule for six years and it was only the genius of PM Narasimha Rao, who got us out of this mess. The 1996 elections was a masterstroke because it was a setback for the militants.
The Pakistan hand
Yes, they do have a contribution to what is happening currently in Jammu and Kashmir. They definitely do. But if we go back a bit, Pakistan was finished in Kashmir in 2001. The 9/11 was the last nail in the Pakistani coffin as far as Kashmir goes. In most track two dialogues which I have attended, the Pakistanis do not want to talk about Kashmir. Even Imran Khan – who may be the next PM –has said, let’s put Kashmir on the back burner. So Pakistan was out of it. We have invited them back after 2016 and now they are enjoying a free ride in Kashmir. The Hurriyat definitely is instructed by them. Now there is a clear Pakistani hand.
Both our army chief and Pakistan’s army chief made a statement almost simultaneously that we need to talk; the gun is not going to solve anything. I think our army chief said that neither we nor the militants are going to win. In the recent track two meeting in New Delhi, the Neemrana Dialogue, I was told that all the generals there spoke for peace. Even the DG of police has gone to the extent of saying that gun is not going to solve anything. India and Pakistan have to talk. It’s a compulsion now. There is no dispute in Kashmir, it is an issue, but the issue is there and we need to address it.
Revive the political process; revive the democratic process and then try and mainstream Kashmir as far as you can go. That was Vajpayee’s endeavour and after all the Hurriyat did come and talk to Advani ji twice. The Kashmiri deep down in his heart knows that this whole thing cannot be resolved by the gun. This realisation is the difference between now and 1990. Some people say we have lost the Valley. I say we will never lose the Valley. The Valley is going nowhere because the Kashmiri has nowhere to go. And there is no love for Pakistan.
A conscious concerted effort has to be made to change the prevailing narrative of violence. Delhi and Srinagar combined have to develop a counter-narrative. When you talk to mainstream politicians, there is a lot of frustration. The state government is the state government: that is a different world. Otherwise, there is a lot of frustration and a lot of anger and a lot of disgust. We need to understand that the azaadi that the Kashmiri talks of today is his honour, his dignity and justice. Azaadi at least means accommodation, but look at what we are doing. What is happening, in fact, is that because of the trauma, psychologically also, young Kashmiris are being affected. There is no other way than dialogue and I have said this over and over again in my book.