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All round development only can usher in peace in Valley

   By Vijay Darda | 28-06-2021

The Prime Minister’s initiative on Jammu and Kashmir is welcome. Enough of bloodshed, let us give peace a chance.

Vijay Darda

I have visited Kashmir Valley a number of times and have travelled the Valley in almost all seasons. Everytime I visited the Valley and saw the implausible beauty nature has endowed it with, the words of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir expressed about 500 years ago started resonating in my ears. Jahangir had said in Persian, “Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast”, which means ‘if there is a heaven on Earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here’. But then I am reminded of the present situation in Kashmir and the question starts popping up in my mind as to who has cast an evil eye on this ‘Paradise on Earth’. Why do the sounds of bombs, grenades and bullets resonate across the Valley where Sufi tunes reverberated once?

Now the big question is how will peace return to the Valley? The new initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is certainly welcome and it is a matter of comfort that the leaders of all the parties of Jammu and Kashmir have shown a positive attitude towards this initiative too. No one pointed out that they were put under house arrest, so why should they come for a discussion? From Farooq Abdullah to Mehbooba Mufti everybody attended the meeting. The Prime Minister assured the leaders that the democratic process will start at the appropriate time. Appropriate time simply means that the situation is completely under control. Anyway, there has always been the cooperation of the Centre in the governance of Jammu and Kashmir. The main issue in the Valley is that of infiltrators. They come from Pakistan and wreak havoc in the Valley. There was a time when the American agencies used to disturb peace in the Valley and later Pakistan kept doing it with the help of Taliban. For this, Pakistan sometimes raised Jaish-e-Mohammad and sometimes took Lashkar-e-Taiba in its lap. The US intelligence agency CIA no longer appears to have any role in the Valley, but the presence of intelligence agencies of Pakistan and China is well known to all. It is a matter of concern that the Islamic State is very active in Kashmir now. Infiltration is happening from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

However, the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and the police of Jammu and Kashmir are engaged in breaking the back of the terrorists and have achieved a lot of success. Now the situation is improving. Otherwise we have seen that period too when, for 24 years, Kashmir was broken from the whole country. An entire new generation grew up in closed rooms. People’s homes were destroyed. The business had collapsed. Tourism was destroyed and lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of their homeland.

The leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi certainly took a commendable decision by abolishing the provisions of Articles 370 and 35A. Abrogation of these provisions was the need of the hour. Once upon a time, some special provisions were made to keep Kashmir with India. That was the need of the hour then. There was no point in continuing with them when they were no longer needed. I have always been a supporter of the fact that there should be only one flag in a country. It has always been my belief that action must be taken against those who work against the country and also those whom we suspect to be so, irrespective of who it is! But there is also a need to understand that not all people or all leaders in Jammu and Kashmir are terrorists. The Prime Minister has given a good message by keeping the supporters of terrorism away from the meeting that their dream of separating Kashmir from India can never be fulfilled.

I feel that if we eliminate terrorists on one hand and streamline the democratic system on the other, it will help improve the situation. Reinstatement of statehood and the State Legislative Assembly is very important. There may be elections but the government should not be dependent completely on the lieutenant governor for decisions. We are witness to what is happening in Delhi. There is a state government but all the powers are with the lieutenant governor. Democracy has no meaning if the people’s representatives are not able to make decisions freely for their people. Keep in mind that people’s representatives certainly understand the sentiments of the people much better. The command should be in their hands.

As far as Kashmiri people are concerned, what have they got to do with politics? The most burning problems before them are unemployment, education and the health of the children. Kashmir is still grappling with these problems even today. Whatever the statistics may say, how can the ground reality be ignored? Today, if the youth of the Valley join terror outfits and take to terrorism, the biggest reason for this is unemployment there. For Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 a month, they risk their lives because they neither have a job nor business. Do not trust the job figures as they show contradictions. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had reported in September 2020 that the unemployment rate in the country is 6.7 per cent while in Jammu and Kashmir it is 16.2 per cent. The same organisation reported this year that the unemployment rate had come down to 9 per cent at the end of March 2021. Can such a big difference be brought about in just six months?

You can understand the unemployment scenario from the fact that two years back, five lakh youths had applied for 8,000 vacant posts of class IV employees in Jammu and Kashmir. We have to understand that statistics never help a dream come true! The figures which deal with reality only can write the success story. We should hope that the Central government will not only speed up the restoration of democracy, it will also provide employment to the youths so that none of them picks up a gun hereafter. The whole country is waiting for the guns in the Kashmir Valley to fall silent. Let Sufi tunes resonate again so that we can once again tell the world, “If there is a heaven on Earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here!”

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All round development only can usher in peace in Valley


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