Let actions do some talking …
It has been for decades now that people here have been listening to the government assertions about prioritizing development. No wonder the words and terms like ‘peace’ and ‘development’ have become sort of clichés owing to their excessive over-sue in political speeches. Cynicism aside, the unfortunate reality remains that whatever is being said in these 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 a place like 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 has a 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.
Unfortunately all the ‘development talk’ here does not seem to be sensitive to the political conflict -- at least not to the degree it is supposed to be -- even though political economy of any conflict can neither be overlooked nor underestimated. While the political speeches promise a great deal which would, if implemented properly, considerably improve the economic and social conditions, but it cannot be termed conflict-sensitive as it fails to properly articulate plan of action regarding specific areas of economic concern. For instance, while there is discernible popular concern about the economic predation of the state by Centre and its varied agencies, the ‘development talk’ here conveniently avoids to talk about it, perhaps for the reason to avoid any further controversies. No wonder nobody talks about the Centre’s clear refusal to handover state’s power projects which are practically mortgaged to NHPC much to the detriment of the state’s interests.
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 that continue to day, 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.
Despite all the bloodshed and mayhem this places has witnessed over past three decades, as well as the political pledges that have followed since and are being made with ever-increased audacity even now, 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 J&K figures among the most–corrupt states. Government’s institutions and systems, including the all-important correction systems, remain as ineffective as they were prior to 1989. Be it the corrupt and brutal policing or the lethargic judicial system, access to justice continues to remain a distant dream for the majority. On the inter-state front too, the relationship between India and Pakistan is yet to out-grow the bundles of trust-deficit that plague 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, it 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 conflict during past 30 years -- 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 political affairs in New Delhi as well as in J&K!