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Nagalim versus Kashmir

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Javaid Iqbal Bhat
For reasons stupefying, the current regime in Delhi is obstinately refusing to engage with the separatists in Kashmir; Neither with the moderates, nor the extremists, and not even with the so-called mainstream. This unwillingness to enter into a dialogue is radically different from the willingness to sit down with other separatist groups and organisations in other parts of India. Just past week it was reported that Mr. Modi had opened channels of communication with the Khalistani separatists in the diaspora. It has been reported that the current regime is open to the idea of apologising for the Operation Blue Star as well as the massacre of the Sikhs in 1984. Even last year, not long after Modi had come to power, there were meetings with the Khalistanis in London, which was followed by the release of some Sikh separatists from the prisons in Punjab, and easing of visa restrictions for some Sikhs demanding an independent Khalistan. No doubt these latest developments are contingent on a certain context. One of the reasons could be to position BJP closer to the Sikh community and expose the role of Congress in Operation Blue Star and massacre of Sikhs after the assassination of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Or probably an immediate reason is the forthcoming Punjab Assembly election; wherein BJP is trying hard to garner votes following the note ban fiasco. However, there was no pressing reason last year when PM Modi met with the Khalistanis, and the channels of communication were opened for understanding the aspiration of the people of Punjab. The same conciliatory approach is missing in the case of Kashmir. It defies comprehension as to why even after such massive loss of life and property in Kashmir, the doors are shut tight for any effort at healing the wounds.A similar contrast is available in the context of Nagaland. In 1997 the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (IM) declared a ceasefire. Since then, some 80 rounds of negotiations have occurred between the independence seekers of the Nagaland and the Government of India. The latest round took place under the watch of Mr. Modi. The statement issued after the meeting spoke of a “final settlement” of the Naga problem. From the NSCN (IM) the word came that the issue was on the verge of a “final solution.” In fact, the statement from the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim said that the dialogue underwent a “drastic change” after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over. The Government of India interlocutor RN Ravi and the representative of NSCN (IM) in their joint statement reaffirmed that the two sides are heading towards a final settlement. There is news about a separate passport and a flag for the Nagalim. All of this is happening under the ultra-nationalist ruling party, which has inflamed the Line of Control and is willing to fight the last Kashmiri to death but not enter into even token negotiations. These negotiations with the Khalistan supporters and the Nagalim are taking place without any change in the constitution. The media is the same one that reports on Kashmir. The public opinion on the territorial integrity of India has not changed. The Parliament of India has not decided on the fate of Khalistan or the Nagalim. There are conversations and dialogues with the twin separatist movements, but when it comes to Kashmir, the point being made is that the separatists have to demand things within the Constitution of India. Sometimes it is said that the public opinion in India is against any concession to the Kashmiris. On another occasion, the media is blamed for creating an atmosphere of animosity, which does not allow the opening of communication between the Government of India and the separatists. Or the point being made is that there is no consensus on talking to people who demand secession and who do not wish to live by the Constitution of India. All this while all the parliamentary and constitutional paraphernalia is kept to a side, and handshakes are made with people who make no bones about the fact that they have nothing to do with the Constitution of India. Their claims of sovereignty and dialogue with them at the highest level is quietly kept away from the media, and the consensus is sent for a toss. The Parliament, media, and parties are properly managed to keep things heading in the direction the government wishes, and no one cries “anti-national,” and no one bays for the blood of politicians who are willing to concede to the demands. What is the cause of these stark double standards? A cruder explanation comes from the fact that the dominant population in Nagaland is Christian. Imagine India blinding children in Nagaland with Jesus Christ crosses hanging from their necks, and Trump and Pope remaining quiet. In the case of Punjab, it may be to spite the Congress, but it is clear that religion is playing a role in the peace-making in Nagaland, no matter how much politically correct we try to be. And the same religion is playing a role in war-making in Kashmir. The absence of Hindus and Christians is spiking the prejudices and the consequent violence against the people and their homes, and their eyes.

Unfortunately, Kashmir is neither Nagaland nor is it Punjab which can be used to hit the principal opposition party for consolidation of the vote bank ahead of the assembly elections. Even a whisper of dialogue with the separatists in Kashmir creates a jingoistic tsunami in the media, and the ruling dispensation does not play any fewer roles in fuelling the fire. The recent blitz on the eyes of children did not sway anyone worthwhile to call for punishment to the pellet wielders. Instead, a new device was dispatched to pull the population to the ground, the Pava gun. In all of this, a common Kashmiri with some basic information about what is going on in other parts of India wonders why different parameters are used in dealing with the situation. If the Nagas and the Sikh separatists are welcomed over tea and nice feasts, what is wrong with applying the same reconciliatory political etiquettes with Kashmiris? Why is it that the gun becomes the principal spokesperson in Kashmir while as dialogue is used in Nagaland? There is no doubt that if Modi is contemplating an apology for the Operation Blue Star or the 1984 massacre, there will come a time when someone from Delhi will have to say “sorry” for the injustice in Kashmir. Before that time arrives, it is in the best interests of all that bridges of communication and dialogue are opened for a beginning towards sustainable peace and prosperity.

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