NEW DELHI: A group of eminent citizens, disturbed by the worsening situation in Kashmir, have issued the following statement:
The news of recurrence of violence, student protests and the video war on social media in Kashmir ought to disturb every right thinking Indian. Both the government and the Kashmiri protestors need to recognize that in democracies the world over, peace in disturbed areas has never been achieved through more violence or by retributive measures.
Whether it is the death of 8 protestors on April 9 during the Srinagar by-poll, the 200 including troops injured in the accompanying violence and now the student protests the situation in Kashmir is only deteriorating by the day. Already we have witnessed far too many deaths, maiming and blindings in the Kashmir Valley last summer.
Nobody in his right mind should want a repetition of the events of 2016 – not the government and certainly not the Kashmiri civilians.
The worst ever voter turn-out of a meager 7 per cent in Srinagar bye-poll is a warning of the extent of disillusionment prevailing in the Kashmiri voter’s mind. An erosion of faith in democratic processes may eventually threaten the legitimacy of the State itself. This process needs to be stemmed and corrective measures taken.
Dialogue with those who hold differing views is the only civilized way that democratic societies know of reconciling differences. India’s heart is large enough and its Constitution flexible enough to accommodate the aspirations of all its citizens, the people of Jammu and Kashmir included.
Conditions conducive to a dialogue that can restore reason, calm and sanity must be enabled. For this, the government of J&K and the Central Government need to show exemplary restraint in either deploying force or adopting ‘innovative’ measures which can backfire in dealing with protesters. The protesters must also understand that the path they have chosen is counter-productive. Stone-pelting or intervening in anti-militancy operations of the security forces will make them easy targets of violence. Even one civilian death is too many in the present sensitive situation in Kashmir.
The government of India needs to carefully fashion a strategy of outreach to the people of Kashmir. Such an outreach should include not only leaders of Kashmiri civil society, opinion makers, public intellectuals and other stakeholders in the state but also the separatist leadership as promised in the agenda of alliance between the BJP and the PDP.
We urge the central government, to urgently initiate a political dialogue to prevent the recurrence of violence in Kashmir and restore the faith of the Kashmiri people in democratic processes to resolve their grievances. A continued reliance on military measures alone to sort out a problem which is entirely political is short-sighted, to say the least and a great disservice to the nation.