'Democratic process should not be short-circuited in Kashmir'

India had committed an unpardonable sin by rigging elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 1987 and, thereby, inviting disaster, G. Parthasarathy,  former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, said in New Delhi

Mohd Naushad Khan Feb 19, 2020
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India had committed an unpardonable sin by rigging elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 1987 and, thereby, inviting disaster, G. Parthasarathy,  former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, said in New Delhi. It opened the door for others to point a finger at us, he said.  

Many people including Syed Salauddin, head of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a pro-Pakistan Kashmiri separatist militant organisation, could have won the elections (Salauddin was not a militant leader then and was living in the Indian state) if it was free and fair, he argued, implying things could have been far different then. "We short-circuited democracy and invited disaster. I think one lesson we have to learn is that we should never try to short-circuit the democratic process and allow Pakistan to use this (against us)". 
 
“Elsewhere in the world, we are not respected because of our wealth but because of our democratic institutions and inclusiveness in our policies,“ said Parthasarathy, who has served in many world capitals, while speaking after the release of the book, “Kashmir Beyond Article 370” by author Bashir Assad at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) in the national capital on 18 February.      
 
The former diplomat, who also served in the Prime Minister's Office as media adviser when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's tenure (1984-89),  said one can understand the detention of separatists but detentions of people who have sworn by the Indian Constitution is uncalled for, he said, alluding to the current detention in Kashmir of three former chief ministers - Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. 

"If anyone thinks that the whole thing (integrating Kashmir with India) can be done by excluding the political establishment, I am not sure if it is going to work", he said.         

The book, ‘Kashmir Beyond Article 370’ published by Pentagon Press LLP, highlights how the politics around Article 370 pitched the people of the three regions of (Hindu-majority) Jammu, (Muslim-majority) Kashmir and (Buddhist-majority) Ladakh against each other and how the Article was used to create a communal divide by political elites in Jammu and Kashmir.

Another panelist, Lt. Gen. (Retd.), Syed Ata Hasnain, former commander of the Indian Army's 15 Corps in  Kashmir and presently Chancellor of Central University, Kashmir said: "I had evolved my aim for the state and that is what is exactly reflected in this book. It was to mainstream the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of India, politically, economically, socially, diplomatically, and the most important one psychologically. When the last Kashmiri says ‘Jai Hind’ that is the day you can put up the tricolor and say we have won this conflict. Most of us, when we look at Kashmir, we look at in a single dimension, and that is military: how many killed, what we have achieved diplomatically; but we never look at it comprehensively.
   
Touching upon post abrogation of Article 370 situation, Hasnain said one very important aspect the author had mentioned was the psyche of the average Kashmiri, and its impact on the current situation, and the need to use better communication strategy to communicate the government's goals about Kashmir to its people.

"The false narrative spread across the international borders and the line of control that there will be  demographic changes; jobs and land would be taken away; and the culture of Kashmir will change completely,,, This is something that bothers the average Kashmiri and hence better perception management is required, through modern communication strategy, and that is where we are lacking," the former army general said.  
     
In his introductory remarks, the book's author Bashir Assad, said perceptions need to change if one wants to establish peace in Kashmir. According to him, there have been only two kinds of narratives that are playing in the streets of Kashmir and in New Delhi - that people in Kashmir are either associated emotionally with separatist sentiments or so-called freedom movements or they are complete idiots who do not know what is good for them. Kashmir is a very complex society and there is no one single truth about Kashmir, but many truths, he stated. 

He said Indian Parliament passed the bill on the pretext of a narrative called EID - Empowerment, Investment and Development. The only way out is to translate the narrative of EID into reality. Action should follow words. It is challenging how to sell EID to a confused people. They have insecurities and apprehensions. The government cannot claim victory unless and until their fears and apprehensions are removed, the author said. 

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