Changing mindsets

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In February 2011, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informed the Parliament that his government was working to provide 50,000-100,000 jobs to the youths of troubled Kashmir, which “would change their mental makeup and mindset”. Obviously he was referring to the preceding summer (2010) of unrest in Kashmir Valley, involving stone-pelting, which had led to a cycle of violence, resulting in death of over 120 people. Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s address, he also confessed that Kashmir had gone through a “difficult time” last year (2010) , and now the government was keeping its “fingers crossed” this summer (2011).

True, at that point of time the governments in the State and at the Centre were not sure as to what will be the situation like in coming summer. The history of three successive summers (2008, 2009 and 2010) of absolute chaos and unrest were already a major cause and source of worry; so were the happenings in Afro-Arab nations in West Asia and Africa. So Prime Minister of the time took the opportunity in Parliament to acknowledge his worries, and wrongs done to the Kashmiri youth, albeit in a diplomatically oblique verbiage.

Singh had also told the Lok Sabha that the report of the Rangarajan Committee appointed by him to work out a plan for providing up to one lakh jobs to Kashmiri youth was “nearly ready” and once its implementation starts the “mindset” of Kashmiri people will change. “Our approach to the problems of Jammu and Kashmir is that we will give no quarter to secessionist elements. We will do everything in our power to strengthen the hands of the state government to provide a fairer deal to the youth, to provide avenues for their gainful employment,” he said.

One can’t say how many of the Kashmiri youth were amused with his statement then, but one can say with absolute surety that Dr. Singh’s speech in Parliament has remained just a speech. Though it would be indecent to question his integrity by doubting if he really meant what he said in February 2011, but then the situation on the ground is there to say it all for the people of Kashmir. Not a thing Dr. Singh had mentioned in his speech has been realized. New Delhi has not been able to deliver on its promises and responsibilities. Instead of investing in to correct its wrongs, there have been needless provocations. Courtesy New Delhi’s complacence with Kashmir – the thinking that “the angry people have been beaten into submission and all is well now”– trust-deficit in Valley vis-à-vis the Centre has been on steady increase as is the people’s alienation and anger.

Historically everything coming from even the highest political offices in Delhi has always been taken with a pinch of salt here. Although this is not to say that Delhi repeatedly going back on it pledges with the Kashmiri people is an indicator of its possible reneging on future commitments as well; but then, it is also true that the Government of India doesn’t seem to prioritize what it claims to — winning over the trust of the Kashmiri people. It has not concentrated on it thus far, and that’s one of the primary reasons for its problems here. Once winning over the public trust becomes priority, it will automatically bring about all those changes in government’s basic orientation and policy vis-a-vis Kashmir.

The change in the “mental makeup and mindset” that former Prime Minister had referred to cannot be brought about with providing jobs alone. The underlying causes of conflict — the problems between Delhi and Srinagar — are far deeper than what mere jobs could undo. One can certainly rest assured that New Delhi is gifted with some of the very best political and academic brains who know the causal factors of trouble and how the same could be tackled. Political expediency aside, it is time New Delhi shows some sincerity of purpose in tackling the problems in Kashmir. In politics, no amount of sincerity is enough as long as it is not publicly displayed and substantiated with purposeful action. For any worthwhile results, New Delhi will have to change its own mindset vis-a-vis Kashmir first; change in the mindset in Kashmir will follow.

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