When Narendra Modi became India's prime minister two years ago, he had a mandate from the citizens behind him and his party was in power. It was assumed, therefore, that he would be able to adopt policies and programs that would foster peace and development in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been troubled ever since it became part of India in 1947. The scenario in the Kashmir Valley is, however, getting no better.
In a recent discussion on the ongoing crisis in Kashmir, a prominent member of the Indian Parliament said, "This government has miserably failed to restore peace in the Valley. There is an environment of insecurity and fear."
Reports suggest that the right to exist, the most fundamental human right, has increasingly been in peril in the Valley. Since the killing of the dreaded Hizb-ul-Mujahideen "commander", Burhan Wani -- who allegedly had an encounter with Hafiz Saeed the notorious Pakistani terrorist leader and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks -- there have been violent clashes there. Some protesters have been seen showing support for the Islamic State.
The government in New Delhi has done little so far to help. It is still adhering to its predecessors' well-trodden path of first blaming Islamabad for the crisis and then refuting Pakistan's occasional proposals for the issue.
India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh said recently, "Whatever is happening in Kashmir is Pakistan-sponsored. The name is 'Pakistan,' [Land of the Pure] but its acts are na-pak [not pure]."
In response to Islamabad's talk of a plebiscite to determine the legal status of Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said in a debate in the Parliament that the proposition was "outdated."
It makes no sense for the Singh to waste the nation's precious time criticizing Pakistan or blasting its plebiscite proposition. It is well-established that Pakistan has been seeking to foment trouble in the Valley and annex it by force.
Also well-established is that Islamabad has apparently never cared for the 1951 United Nations resolution regarding Jammu and Kashmir. The resolution prescribed a referendum to be conducted in the state after Pakistan withdrew its troops from the part of Kashmir that it captured by force in 1947. Islamabad has so far not honoured this resolution.
Pakistan has, in fact, not seemed interested in solving the Kashmir dispute by any peaceful, bilateral negotiations with India. In 1972, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi created, with her Pakistani counterpart, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Shimla Accord. This pact states that all disputes between New Delhi and Islamabad are to be solved bilaterally and peaceably, including the Kashmir question. But Pakistan has not cared to honour this deal and has instead planned wars, including the war in Kargil, against India.
In 2003, India's Deputy Prime Minister at the time, L.K. Advani, blamed India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for the present crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. "If the first Prime Minister had not taken the Kashmir issue to the UN," he said, "India would have crushed Pakistan. Having been defeated thrice 1948, 1965 and again in 1971, Pakistan launched a proxy war and continues to export terrorism to India."
The current government might bear in mind that the citizens do not employ or elect a new leadership to continue the failed policies of its predecessors. India has paid a heavy price for its past blunders. The country has remained deprived of two-fifths (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) of its own territory in its state of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu and Kashmir, minorities in particular, have suffered most.
In 1989, the Kashmir Valley had a population of over half a million Pandits, the only Hindu natives of Kashmir. Their number today stands reduced to about four thousand. By the year 2000, terrorists had killed more than 34,252 citizens and wounded another 17,484. They set fire to more than 10,000 houses and destroyed huge amounts of private and public property in the state. This has left the minorities in the Kashmir Valley with no choice but to flee their homes. Today more than half a million of them are living in miserable conditions, in camps in different parts of the country.
In his letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in August of 2004, American Congressman Frank Pallone wrote:
"Kashmiri Pandits are on the verge of losing their identity, culture and homeland in Kashmir. ... the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir started as a result of targeted assassinations leading to forced exile of the entire minority community in the early stages of insurgency. ... when Islamic insurgents committed mass massacres of Pandits in villages and hamlets throughout Kashmir."
Ensuring the fundamental rights to life, liberty and property -- of all citizens -- is the first and primary obligation of a democratic state. The government must fulfill this duty and extend help to the people involved in the current crisis. The people in Kashmir are said to be running low on essentials, especially food and medicine. The government needs to reach out to them.
At the same time, the government must not tolerate those who celebrate the killing of security forces in the Valley or portray any militant killed as a martyr. The government also must not tolerate those separatist leaders who work to subvert the values of civilization and democracy and who have been behind the long crisis in the Valley. It is mainly because of their politics of hatred against certain ethnic and religious groups that acts of violence and shutdowns are organized there.
The approach of the separatists during the current crisis follows the same pattern: they spread hatred against the authorities that are trying to control the situation in the region. In a statement, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik branded the current regime as "anti-people."
The separatists do not seem ever to respond positively to peace or dialogue. They incite violence and have little to lose; most of the leading separatists keep their families outside of Kashmir.
The old political trick of inciting hatred among the ignorant majority to win their support has been used to ensure that the public turns a blind eye to the atrocities against the Pandits.
It is heartening to note that Home Minister Singh has recently invoked former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's famous call for Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat and Insaniyat (Kashmiri ethos, democracy and humanity); he has said, "If there is any place for Kashmiriyat in Jamhooriyat, it can be only on the basis of Insaniyat and not Haivaniyat (devilish acts). Those believing in Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat, cannot give space to Haivaniyat."
One hopes that the government will finally take action to improve peace and development in the Valley.
Jagdish N. Singh is a journalist based in New Delhi, India.