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Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward

Whatever solution South Asia analysts and policy makers may have in mind post the Pulwama terror attack, they shall have to test it with this yardstick—whether it will ensure Indo-Pak peace and harmony, and whether it can give peace to the 12 million people of Jammu and Kashmir.

In the current situation, the local community in Jammu and Kashmir is unable to exercise any clout and is unable to think constructively about structural change. Politics is an abstract notion for the young people in the state, and not a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on.

The translation of a political vision into reality requires diligence and hard work at the grass-roots level, rebuilding of ideological structures and mass movements, which would produce dynamic indigenous politics.

You cannot achieve peace if your objective is not to make political accommodations, unmindful of the fact that the attitude of inflexibility and intransigence contributes conflict in the subcontinent. You do not then give first priority to peace but to hold on to what you have got in your possession by any means. It is because of this that it is incumbent on South Asia analysts and policy makers to clearly fix their objective before you they deliberate upon the problem before them.

If we are all agreed upon the objective, then I have no doubt in my mind that there will be no difficulty in finding a way out. But, if we are doubtful in our objective, then our deliberations will not yield any results.

We can deliberate on this delicate problem objectively only if we keep our minds free from prejudice and hatred, no matter what injustices we may have suffered. Jammu and Kashmir is a part of the subcontinent and we cannot run away from this geographical reality. Our future is closely linked with the future of India and Pakistan. We must realize that we are a limb of the same body, and our peace, prosperity, and freedom are largely dependent on the peace, prosperity, and freedom of these two countries.

I see a lot of people playing to the gallery at this time. Not one of them has the courage to point out that the politics of reducing our younger generation to cannon fodder is reprehensible, because our current breed of political leaders has become a victim of its own image.

Every current politician in Jammu and Kashmir is quick to pass the buck and blame either Pakistan or India for the mess in the state. What about their responsibility? Have we been reduced to pawns in the great game of subcontinental chess? Not one “leader” has the courage of conviction to channelize the anger on the streets, and anarchy works well in the interests of nation-states.

Let’s place ourselves in the shoes of those who have suffered irreparable losses—families of murdered civilians and families of soldiers who lost their lives in the line of fire—and will never know any closure. Time will not heal the wounds of such people.

In politics, the only viable way is forward, not a constant looking back. And policies and methods must be revisited, revised, and readjusted by politicians and policy makers in order to meet today’s needs.

With every breath I pray that the younger generation in Jammu and Kashmir channelizes their anger, sense of alienation, and takes the political process forward without playing into anyone’s hands.

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Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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