Raouf Rasool

Kashmir needs more than promises and pledges

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Political promises alone don’t suffice the need, certainly not in Kashmir which has been torn apart by decades of conflict – a civil war like situation. Any government, whatever its composition and complexion, as some important studies conducted into the conflict situations world-over indicate, here will be confronted with two major challenges. First, Kashmir has a high risk of 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, another 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 of the intervening years as well as the political pledges that have followed all along, and are being made with ever-increased audacity even today, 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 continues to figure 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 governance systems 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 trust deficit that plagues 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 thirty years – also need to be tackled and reduced as quickly as possible. As of now a great deal is has been said by the political establishment, but whatever has been said is neither reflected in the policy nor is it visible in the actions on the ground.

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