An unusual conversation between a Kashmiri man and son recently hogged prime time news space. The man was heard encouraging his son, trapped in a firefight with the army, to die fighting and not surrender. The man, despite his act, lives free as a law-abiding citizen while the son, a dead terrorist, is now statistics and a locally celebrated martyr.
Dissected to the thread and discussed ad nauseam, most 'experts' advocated military retribution while a minuscule few sounded genuinely concerned. Panellists, irrespective of individual socio-political compulsions, agreed that glorification of and ground swell for 'home-grown terror' was luring local youths to terrorism like never before and that one man’s 'terror' could well be another's 'movement of resistance.'
The peace process in Kashmir should have ideally moved forward, with the current political tie-up being at the helm. Increasing incidence of confrontation between security forces and 'terrorists' and its expanding geographical spread, with the active support of the local populace, indicate that the current policies have failed or are hopelessly irrelevant. What should worry policy makers at this stage is the way in which the local population is being recruited and the manner in which educational institutions are turning into sourcing bases.
When parents become facilitators, respected professionals and highly educated youth join ranks. 'Terrorism' in Kashmir is no more a refuge of the unemployed. Treating it as a mere law-and-order problem can be catastrophic.
One should remember that the hawkish and often-recommended policies and practices of the Israeli government have not delivered peace on the Jewish soil. While the military may be successful in temporarily containing 'visible violence,' it can’t be the means to the end. In fact, such operations are classic 'David-Goliath' confrontations where the underdog grabs sympathetic glory, breeding a new wave of suicidal volunteers. Whatever be the policy of the current administration, it is a proven failure. Activities undertaken in the valley to 'win the hearts and minds' (WHAM) of people have yielded no credible results.
Like all multi-player, socio-political issues, where positions have hardened, concessions or agreements made by one side can be interpreted as victory or defeat. Solutions lie far beyond the normal. Unless all parties engage with each other with the sole aim of finding a solution, there can be no end to the problem. Macho rhetoric and short-term political expediency can only worsen the situation. Absurd panel discussions and chest thumping that stems from ignorance when couched in loud patriotism can at best bring down issues of strategic importance to street-level thuggery. Unfortunately, the trajectory visible to the naked eye now points to escalation and spread of conflict.
Kashmir is not a problem that can eternally be contained by the military. It is to be solved politically. Any further delay can only carry the situation to the point of no return. It is time to revisit and re-imagine the Kashmir peace process.
(Jacob Tharakan Chacko is a retired major-general with 36 years of experience at various managerial and directional posts. He is a recipient of the Sena Medal. He may be reached at: email@example.com)