Characterising the policy pursued by the Centre during the past five years in Jammu and Kashmir as “dreadful”, a group of authors on the Kashmir issue today unanimously sought resumption of the peace process in the troubled state through dialogue and the democratic process.

Participating in a discussion organised on “Kashmir: The way forward”, the six authors came up with a range of ideas on issues like the peace process, shades of democracy, aspirations of Kashmiris, radicalisation, governance and state of affairs on the Line of Control (LoC) in the state.

Organised at the India International Centre (IIC), the event was presided over by former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vohra, currently the President of IIC. Professor Radha Kumar, who was once one of the Centre’s interlocutors, was critical of the “Operation All-Out” policy of the present NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

She said, “The Centre’s current policy in the state is dreadful and talk of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A is dangerous. If the two are taken away, the whole issue of the instrument of accession will open up and unleash more militancy and Army action.”

Noting that “you make peace only with the enemy and not with friends”, Prof Kumar asked for immediate initiation of the “political peace process” and conduct of Assembly elections in the state.

Professor Rekha Chowdhary, formerly with the University of Jammu, claimed that in J&K, the conflict is “very complicated”. It has three dimensions — external involving Pakistan, internal (Centre-state relations) and inter-regional (Jammu with Kashmir and Ladakh with Kashmir). She argued that any serious effort to deal with the vexed problem requires participants to simultaneously deal with all the three dimensions. She, however, said the armed forces should be allowed to deal with militancy.

Former J&K Police chief AM Watali talked about the aspirations of Kashmiris and held the view that the erroneous policy of the Centre at different times had led “our youth in the state to pick up arms”.

Blaming it on the “blindness of the state apparatus in J&K”, author David Devidas noted that unfortunately “for the past four years, it is difficult to figure out if there is any policy with regard to Kashmir”.

To address the issue of radicalisation, he said the state needs to revive the system of primary education that became a victim of the conflict of the 1990s.

Professor Aijaz Ashraf Wani suggested a mix of measures which should include “what ought to be done and what ought not to be done”. 

He said, “Jingoism is horrifying to us and the rest of India should stop punishing the entire Kashmiri population. Otherwise, things would be pushed back to an armed struggle.” Professor Happymon Jacob advocated formalising the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan and reduction in the calibre of weapons used at the border.