Why is Kashmir upset over choice of new interlocutors?

October 18, 2010

Shadows of policemen are seen on a road as they signal an approaching car to stop at a security barricade during curfew in Srinagar October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files

Last week, New Delhi appointed three new mediators to find a solution to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent months.

The appointment of the three-member non-political team of interlocutors – journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and government official M. M. Ansari – is also aimed at defusing simmering anger in the disputed region.

More than 110 people were killed, most of them by police bullets, in months of deadly protests.

But New Delhi’s most important initiative on Kashmir, which India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in parts, has provoked widespread disappointment and dismay.

“…the eight-point plan of action unveiled last month had generated tremendous hope and enthusiasm. And yet the actual announcement of a three-member non-political team has provoked widespread anger and hostility and even invited ridicule,” says Amitabh Mattoo, Professor of International Studies at Delhi’s  Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior separatist leader spearheading the ongoing protest strikes, has described the appointment of interlocutors as a “futile exercise.”

Moderate separatists led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq say an Indian parliamentary panel would have been an appropriate forum to reach out to the strife-weary people.

Geelani has laid down five conditions to start a dialogue with New Delhi or end street protests and strikes — the worst outbreak of anti-government violence since a separatist revolt broke out in 1989.

The conditions include that India must accept Kashmir as an international dispute and revoke all oppressive laws including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives Indian troops powers to shoot, arrest and search while battling the separatist insurgency.

After several failed rounds of peace talks between moderate separatists and New Delhi in the past decade, many locals say India is only buying time and is not serious about resolution of the dispute.

“At least 150 rounds of talks between New Delhi and Kashmir in the past six decades, has changed nothing. They (Indians) have always used dialogue as a tool to corrupt Kashmiri leadership or buy time to continue with its occupation,” Geelani said recently.

Mattoo says the three interlocutors chosen are undoubtedly professionals who have excelled in their respective fields.

But the impression has been created that the panel has been finalised without due diligence or a serious application of mind by those who are quite oblivious to the complexities of the problems in the state and are insensitive to the sentiment of the people living there.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, symbolism is almost as important as substance.”

Chief of Kashmir’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti, said nomination of the new Kashmir interlocutors has dampened hope and is more or less a useless exercise.

Why has New Delhi’s most important initiative on Kashmir almost collapsed before it has started?

A four-month-long separatist strike, curfew and security lockdown has kept Muslim-majority Kashmir valley on the boil, shutting down much of the scenic region.

Separatists want Kashmir’s complete freedom from India while New Delhi sees the mountainous region as an integral part of the country.

New Delhi and Kashmir doubt each other’s sincerity and the gulf is widening between their positions with each passing day.

The two sides need more flexibility to start fresh peace talks or much troubles lie ahead for Kashmir, the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan.

12 comments

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For once, Geelani is right. Any exercise to engage him and his band is futile exercise. You can negotiate with those who want solution and peace not with the hardened criminals who come with the specific agenda to destroy a country and a people. There can be no dialogue or negotiation with the so called separatists, terrorists, militants and others who believe in waging war against India. Leadership in New Delhi is living in a fool’s paradise if it thinks that they can make peace with the people who feed and grow upon lack of it. In that sense, the people who really want a solution to Kashmir problem may be able to learn from the solutions in Sri Lanka, Helmand or Kandahar. You have to win the war before you talk peace.

Posted by Windturner | Report as abusive

By releasing Geelani and allowing him control the youngsters who were burning down all state symbols is an acknowledgement by New Delhi of him being the real actor who has a greater say among all other separatists. The greatest CBM offered to India by Pak was its non-interference in 2008 polls and silence in unrests triggered by controversial land row in 2008 and shopian incident. The recent CBM came from Geelani himslef who moved back from his traditional approach and didn’t talk about involving Pakistan in the talks process that was offered by New Delhi.
Despite, these two huge successes made available to New Delhi, announcing three interlocutors who would talk with different shades of opinions and submit their report by the end of 2011 is not only a lengthy process but seen by people as an attempt by New Delhi to buy more time and frustrate separatists.
with more than 110 killings, four-months of strikes and curfews and mass downsizing in private sector, people don’t seem to think of accepting gradual peace-bringing measures but an immediate flexibility and deadline offer by New Delhi over when the Kashmir dispute will be resolved.
To quote moderate separatist, Mirvaiz Umar, ‘Kashmiris will not accept to buy peace of graveyard which Delhi wants, but an immediate and permanent solution of the dispute.’

Posted by KashmirViews | Report as abusive

People of Kashmir should give a serious thought about being saperatist. Assuming India declares Kashmir as free state either China or Pakistan will certainly capture them completely, still they will lose on thier independence. Besides India is growing, why not join hand in hand and enjoy the benefits of growth and success. What will they achieve by being independent we have 25+ states in India are they not happy being part of the country?

Posted by Parthi | Report as abusive

@parthi
U are absolutely right and believe me this is the inner feeling of every kashmiri, but India is forcing us to take other side, everything was normal four months back, three youths were picked up by indian solidiers and killed in fake encounter, and sudsequently 111 teen agers were killed after the peaceful protests,you first let us live, then we can think of other benefits of growth and success.

Posted by ajaz123 | Report as abusive

@ajaz123

I can understand your feelings but lawlessness among law enforcers is a problem throughout India and not only in Kashmir. But other states do not want out. Instead of being separatist, people in other states become IAS/IPS and join the system to reform it. Why can’t Kashmiris try to be officers in Indian Forces and try to bring about change? Every system has problems but separating is not the solution.

And tell us how can India withdraw forces when Pakistani agents like Gilani are enough to instigate Kashmiris to resort to violence and Pak Army is always ready to invade India (not just Kashmir but even upto New Delhi) by making Kashmir an excuse? Yes there are problems but burning buildings and pelting stones will not help anyone. One thing that I never understand is that why the hell Kashmiris don’t realise that it was only BJP that brought calm to valley. Look at Congress party’s rule for last 60 years. Congress NEVER wants peace in valley so that they could fulfil their selfish gains out of violence by exploiting the muslim sentiment. Then why the hell do Kashmiris vote for Congress??? Beats me!!

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

@ajaz123
Read this: http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia- 52355720101021

and now tell us how can India pull back forces from Kashmir when militants can be holed up anywhere in Kashmir? And can you tell me how and where these militants get local hidings in Kashmir? Still you believe is Gilani is doing any good to Kashmiris?

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

@ajaz123
“Besides India is growing, why not join hand in hand and enjoy the benefits of growth and success. What will they achieve by being independent we have 25+ states in India are they not happy being part of the country?”
***Absolutely agree with you. 111 is not a small number to be killed in short time. All said and done, Indian govt is pathetically idealess on how to control it.

Having said that, one thing that should have happened and has not happened is that the state govt in J&K should be of people’s likeness. Looks like it is not. Motivating youth to violence is easier for Kashmiri leaders than taking charge and have ballet on their side. Electronic voting has removed doubts that someone can rig the election. Until Kashmiri leaders, which majority of Kashmiris like, rule the state and talk to Indian govt directly it will be mere hoping India and Pakistan do something. Self-determination is a later step because that involves third party Pakistan. First put a leader which you like as CM.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@777xxx777
As far as Indian army is concerned we dont want them to withdraw from kashmir completelty we understant the Strategic importance for India, the onlything is that they should be made acountable and should not be honoured for killing inocent people, you might have noticed there is never a shutdown or strike whenever a militant is being killed by army,
As far as BJP or Congress is concerned i cant say any thing, but one thing sure that CM for kashmir is being elected in Delhi even before the election are held.

Posted by ajaz123 | Report as abusive

@ajaz123
Its good to know the views of a Kashmiri person. I am glad u understand the strategic importance of Kashmir for India. And I agree with you that people who violate law should be held accountable and should be brought to appropriate justice. But AFSPA is the need of the hour to prevent any further militancy like that in 80s and 90s. But yes of late it has been heavily misused with central government being hand-in-glove with culprits. But what I do not understand is that why does Kashmiri youth not appear for NDA exams in large numbers? To change the system become a part of it. Why is this idea of being part of India and contributing to its improvement does not find acceptance with Kashmiri people? How can people like Gilani speak so much anti-India and still be alive inside India? But yes I agree with you on that elections in Kashmir are totally rigged.
And if you permit me then can I quote/link this above opinion of yours to our pakistani friends who want to get you some bogey independence? Or may be you could answer my question to Kashmiris in another article on reuters: “http://blogs.reuters.com/pakistan/2010/ 10/19/pakistan-a-list-too-long/”. Somehow all discussions on India and Pakistan boil down to Kashmir.

@rehmat
As a computer engineer I can tell you that it is far more easier to rig electronic machines IF IF IF government itself is corrupt and polluted. Today all the election commission is in pockets of Congress heads and Congress can rig and twist the elections in whatever way it wants. How do you think the Congress’ vote percentage in last Loksabha elections increased even after it failed to prevent Mumbai attacks and failed on all other security fronts as well, how do you think Congress won Delhi state elections for THIRD straight term despite of the blunder called CWG? Think!!

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

@777

Help me getting it right.

“how do you think Congress won Delhi state elections for THIRD straight term despite of the blunder called CWG? Think!!”
***3rd term win for Congress in Delhi was in 2008 and CWG corruption saga started much after. So How can CWG be an issue?

“How do you think the Congress’ vote percentage in last Loksabha elections increased even after it failed to prevent Mumbai attacks and failed on all other security fronts as well”
***This reflects more on the pathetic state of the opposition than Congress controlling EVM or that Mumbai 26/11 did not become an election issue.
It is not the first time BJP has been shocked to defeat. BJP was ruling when they stumbled to loss in the 2004 elections. They were the ruling govt not Congress at that time.

“As a computer engineer I can tell you that it is far more easier to rig electronic machines IF IF IF government itself is corrupt and polluted.”
***Fair enough. Man made machines can be tampered by man but is that really happening, and even if how much? You may be right and you may be wrong as well. Even BJP has not complained that much about EVM, they are fighting among themselves and blaming the internal reasons.

If you do not trust it, it sure tells there is not absolute public confidence in this process and additional mechanisms are needed to allay any fears.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@rehmat
“***3rd term win for Congress in Delhi was in 2008 and CWG corruption saga started much after. So How can CWG be an issue?”

I said BLUNDER (preparedness for games) not corruption. Had congress eaten away double this amount and games been in news for India’s great potential then no one would have talked of corruption. Corruption came to light because on ground it was a complete mess. On ground people saw the state of stadiums and then it was asked how much is spent and then corruption came to light. Had the stadiums been in good shape and delivered on time no one would have ever known about corruption at all. Both of us know that Indians make hue and cry ONLY when something is right on head. CWG hue and cry was made just months before Oct-2010 but state of affairs of CWG was not hidden from delhites even in 2008. Believe me I live in a city 70Kms from Delhi and frequently visit Delhi and was even living in NCR region in 2008. Every single soul in Delhi knew about the CWG mess at that time. Everyone single mindedly blamed Congress for it even in 2008. But wonders of wonders Shiela won again. How????

“This reflects more on the pathetic state of the opposition than Congress controlling EVM or that Mumbai 26/11 did not become an election issue.
It is not the first time BJP has been shocked to defeat. BJP was ruling when they stumbled to loss in the 2004 elections. They were the ruling govt not Congress at that time.”

I agree with you that BJP did not try to make an issue of Mumbai 26/11 and very sad it was that our fool politicians didn’t think security is an issue at all. And BJP house’s mess is very evident in Karnatka today. But did you notice I did not mention Mahrashtra being won by Congress because of bad EVM? Because Mahrashtra was won politically by Congress by creating a Raj Thakre. But that was not so at time of Loksabha elections. At the time of loksabha elections it was not the BJP that had to win but it were the people of India who would have defeated Congress. Remember elections just after emergency was lifted by Indira. Sangh did not win at that time but Congress lost due to “public anger”.

“Even BJP has not complained that much about EVM, they are fighting among themselves and blaming the internal reasons”

Yes obviously because they have seen how to rig elections. Why oppose something that could be useful to themselves also if they come in power, IF.

“additional mechanisms are needed to allay any fears”

And that additional mechanism is HONEST BUREAUCRACY and honest officers. In Bihar Lalu famously said that he did not lose to Nitish but to Election Commission.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

I have a rhetorical question to the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s and Syed Geelani’s, why have you not advised Pakistan of their obligations to the 1948 UN resolutions regarding Kashmir?

Which Kashmiri leader, if any of them has asked for full true azadi from Pakistan?

Or nobody has asked, because all Kashmiri separatists are Pakistani stooges? Somebody prove my comment wrong. I am trying to make a point here.

The Geelani’s and Umar Farooq’s of this world don’t even want to mention the suppression of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Please feel free to discuss Kashmir in its whole entirety, regarding Pakistan’s role in all this, if you don’t India will not listen either.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive