When will political speeches translate into actions?
Even as the words and terms like ‘fast-track’ (development) are recent entrants into the official vocabulary, they too have become sort of clichés now. Cynicism aside, the unfortunate reality remains that whatever is being said in political speeches is not visible as much on the ground. This is indeed the great worry. Politics alone doesn’t suffice the need, certainly not in Kashmir which has been torn apart by decades of conflict – a civil war like situation. The government, as some important studies conducted into the conflict situations world-over indicate, here is confronted with two major challenges. First, Kashmir continues to face very high risk of further conflict, and so a key objective of the policy must be to reduce this risk as rapidly as possible. Second, given that it has inherited a severe social and economic decline, second key objective is to restore economic and social conditions.
The high risks of further conflict reflect both risks inherited from prior to the conflict as well as the risks caused by the conflict. Simply put, in Kashmir context it will mean the risks that were there prior to 1989 when armed insurgency formally surfaced. As the history stands witness, the institutional break-down in the state during mid-to-late-eighties, rampant corruption and unaccountability in both politics and bureaucracy, and above all the unresolved political questions — the intra-state dimension of the state’s relationship with New Delhi as well as the inter-state aspect of Kashmir being a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan duly acknowledged by the international community, comprise the risks inherited from prior to 1989 era.
Unfortunately, despite all the bloodshed and mayhem not much has been done to take care of and neutralize the actual risks. In fact the situation seems to have only graduated from bad to worse. Corruption and unaccountability have grown and multiplied so much so that the state figures among the most–corrupt states as per Transparency International indexing. Government’s institutions and systems, including the all-important correction system, remain as ineffective as they were prior to 1989. Be it the corrupt police or the lethargic judicial system, access to justice continues to remain a distant dream for the majority. And capping it all is the huge burden of human rights violations involving common people as victims and the state agencies as perpetrator. Here again despite assurances of “zero tolerance for rights violations” coming from the country’s top, the situation on the ground continues to be precarious for the life and liberties of the common people. Despite complicity of multitude of actors, including even the government forces in rights violations remaining a proven fact, the state has done nothing to bring guilty to book and justice to victims. Obviously this has only resulted in further erosion of whatever trust people had in the state and its systems, laws and the constitution.
On the inter-state front too, the relationship between India and Pakistan is yet to out-grow the trust deficit that has always plagued it. Needless to say that they are as far away from addressing the questions pertaining to Kashmir as they were prior to the break-out of armed militancy here.
Common sense is that if a place faces an unusually high risk of conflict from a particular source, state should devote particular attention to reducing that risk. Now it is for the governments here as well as in New Delhi to look if they are giving the kind of attention to the factors that comprise the major risks and keep Kashmir eternally caught up in the conflict trap. Not only are the pre-conflict factors crying for attention but the post-1989 ramifications too — the risks born out of the continuing conflict during past over two decades — too need to be tackled and reduced as quickly as possible. As of now a great deal is being said by the political establishment, but whatever is being said is neither reflected in the policy nor is it visible in the actions on the ground. ‘Actions speak louder than words’ — should we dare to repeat this clichéd adage to refresh the memory of those at the helm of affairs in New Delhi as well as in Srinagar!