Crafting peace a greater dimension of restoring valley’s lost glory

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah’s speech in both the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and the Lower House (Lok Sabha) was not striking in itself, but his cogent and effective pitch on abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) served to prevent opposition taking steadfast stand against nullification leading to passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019.

Whether the scrapping of the muchtalked-about Article 370 has been just and proper – only time will tell. Also, whether revoking J&K’s special status will really impact people’s lives and even if it does, up to what extent– only time will tell. But, the very move by Amit Shah yet again proves he has an unerring instinct for his opponents’ weaknesses. It left opposition alliance incohesive and Congress in particular directionless.

The BBC News article ‘Why Modi’s Kashmir move is widely supported in India’ read: “Slowly, sedulously the hardened sentiment on Kashmir had acquired a pan-Indian footprint.

An obvious upshot was and is a frustration with the status quo in Kashmir and fatigue with what is seen as the familiar cycle of victimhood and violence, blackmail and bluster. Politically the ground was fertile for a break from the past and for a new initiative, however audacious it may be.”

However, according to Professor Amitabh Mattoo of Jawaharlal Nehru University and former Vice-Chancellor, University of Jammu, ‘the battle for doing away with 370 was the easy battle. The battle for the hearts and minds is the larger war which has to be won. The war for peace. And that can only be done by demonstrating to the people of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh that they are better off without 370. Simply put, that economically, there will be better opportunities, that there will be investment, that they will get employment opportunities…..’

It’s true that ongoing uncertainty and confusion in J&K has affected the peak tourist season and its impact will be felt in the coming months. Though imposition of internet blackouts, reportedly 51st time this year, is not something new in J&K but cutting off all forms of communication certainly enrages people and disturbs economic activities.

Kashmir has been a vexed issue having multiple dimensions internally and externally. Internally, it’s a trouble-prone state, with resentment, alienation, hostility, alleged human rights abuses that need addressing in all earnestness.

Externally, Kashmir is a disputed territory divided between India and Pakistan.  Several foreign policy experts commented that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s chronic lack of understanding would doom the country’s foreign policy to failure. May or may not be so. Recently, a meeting to discuss ‘Kashmir’ at United Nations Security Council for the first time in 48 years ended without any outcome or statement from the council, much to India’s apparent relief.

However, there is no denying that Kashmir policy greatly revolves around domestic politics charting a political discourse aimed towards vote banks.

Learning from a crisis in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous country and one of its fastest-growing economies. Ethiopian Prime minister, Abiy Ahmed after taking office just over a year ago embarked on unique reforms. He released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling ethnic bloodshed once held in check by the state’s iron grip.

Referring to Ethiopia, ‘The Economist’ in its recent article ‘The global gag on free speech is tightening’ writes that free speech is hard-won and easily lost. Only a year ago it flowered in Ethiopia, under a supposedly liberal new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. All the journalists in jail were released, and hundreds of websites, blogs, and satellite TV channels were unblocked. But now the regime is having second thoughts. Without a dictatorship to suppress it, ethnic violence has flared. Bigots have incited ethnic cleansing on newly free social media. Nearly 3m Ethiopians have been driven from their homes.

Ethiopia faces a genuine emergency, and many Ethiopians think it reasonable for the government to silence those who advocate violence.

But in reality it did far more than that—in effect, it silenced everyone. And, it’s here the Ethiopian government committed a gross mistake.

Is Narendra Modi government too committing the same mistake? It’s too soon to give a definite answer because a yes-or-no answer contains within itself some assumptions and conditions.

In the developing scenario, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led NDA government has to tread very cautiously. Showing sheer political will at the highest level is of little help unless it works at the ground level. The government must take Kashmiri people particularly the youth into confidence to instill buoyancy into every faith-filled Kashmiri’s heart. The government machinery must consider the youth as agents of change; young people’s inclusion in the peace agenda is a key to building and sustaining peace. Besides, the administration must assist and make room for the needs of those who wish to navigate their path to a better life.

The dilemma lies elsewhere, though. If the government deals sternly with militants and those who display their anti-India stance, it should also deal firmly with those BJP functionaries known for whiff of arrogance and ideological obstinance in their comments, e.g.  the comments centering on the notion that anyone who doesn’t share their views is against the country – as opposed to, perhaps, simply disagreeing. Agreeing to disagree is central to democratic principle but disagreeing about disagreement smack of overt and hidden dimensions of the political plan.

Since the Union Territory (UT) of J&K will now be under the Centre’s direct rule, there should be an atmosphere of trust and accountability toward a common goal. To replace the over two-decade-old insurgency with a new paradigm of waging peace, all the stakeholders must be committed, compassionate and passionate to seize the opportunity to demonstrate the real intention and show sincerity and sensitivity.

Finally, given the bounty of nature, scope, and talent in J&K, it can be transformed from the land stagnation to the land of prosperity. From the land of suboptimal utilization of resources to the land of optimal utilization of resources. And, to make that happen crafting peace is fundamental. Crafting peace a greater dimension of restoring the valley’s lost glory