The state of Jammu & Kashmir has been a part of India ever since the accession of the state to the Indian Union in October 1947. Throughout the chequered history of the past six decades, Kashmir has been not just a territorial dispute for India but a test of the secular, democratic and federal nature of the Indian Republic.
For the past nearly two months Kashmir has been in turmoil. Since the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Commander, the people in the Valley have been out on the streets in mass protests. More than 70 people have died in the firing by the security forces and a few thousand have been injured. Two security personnel have also lost their lives. Pellet guns used by the security forces have blinded and maimed many. Instead of quelling the protesters, it only intensified with each death and injury in police firing. The main force driving these protests are the youth. These mass protests that have spread into rural Kashmir, graphically illustrate the deep sense of alienation of the people from the Indian State. At no time has the gulf between India and the Kashmiri people been so wide. This serious situation calls for an examination of the entire Kashmir problem.
The consistent stand the Left parties have been taking is that Jammu & Kashmir has a special status which was reflected in the adoption of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. At the heart of the matter lies how in letter and spirit its autonomy and special status, eroded over the years, can be restored. A political agreement must be reached, which should be acceptable to the people whereby the state of Jammu & Kashmir would remain as part of the Indian Union but by fulfilling the commitment, made to the state and the people in 1948.
The entire geo-political situation has changed in the post-independence decades. A solution to the Kashmir problem has also the dimension of India and Pakistan discussing to settle long standing disputes.
These immediate steps must begin by taking certain confidence building measures:
- The first of these must be the immediate cessation of the use of pellet guns.
- Secondly, withdraw the AFSPA and the army from the civilian areas.
- Thirdly, order a judicial enquiry into all instances of excesses committed by the armed forces against civilians.
- Fourthly, adequate compensation to all families who have suffered loss of lives and rehabilitation of the injured by ensuring their means of livelihood must be undertaken immediately.
- Fifthly, time bound projects for economic development and employment generation, including transfer of Dulhasti and Uri power projects; opening of an IIM and IIT in Srinagar.
Further, the initiation of the political dialogue must not be based on any preconditions. The earlier recommendations of the various working groups and the report of the team of interlocutors appointed after the visit of the all party delegation in 2010 following the then disturbances must be kept in consideration.
The Left parties suggest the following necessary steps at for arriving towards a political solution in the current concrete circumstances:
a. The internal dialogue with all stakeholders in Jammu & Kashmir should proceed on the basis reversing the erosion of Article 370. The three regions of the state, Jammu, the valley and Ladakh, should have autonomous structures within the State of Jammu & Kashmir. This will entail changes in the constitutional and legal scheme which can begin by revising the existing orders and laws. Ultimately, a fresh political framework should emerge.
b. The second dimension is the India-Pakistan factor. Since 2014 India has been adopting a blow hot-blow cold policy towards a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan. This Government of India had announced that this dialogue will also deal with the question of Kashmir, the government must carry forward this process safeguarding India’s interests and ensure that Pakistan is brought to the discussion table.
The people in the rest of the country are being fed various stereotypes about the Kashmiri people. Kashmiris are being depicted as secessionists, terrorists and pro-Pakistan. This must be put to an end. Reports of attacks on Kashmiri youth in other parts of the country must be immediately investigated and culprits punished.
Sudhakar Reddy, General Secretary, CPI
Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI(M)