NIT and the Issue of Kashmir - May 5, 2016

The recent incidence at the National Institute of Technology at Srinagar, in which the issue of support to Indian cricket team resulted in a crisis situation, demonstrated the deep-rooted nature of the problem in Jammu and Kashmir. A careful look at the history of Jammu and Kashmir in the post-independent India suggests two things. One, the journey of Jammu and Kashmir so far is full of paradoxes and complexities and therefore, any simplistic solution will never work. Second, the process of dialogue and discussion with people and groups in Jammu and Kashmir is of vital importance for any solution to have even limited success.

A section of Kashmiris has some major grievances against the Indian state. One section raises the issue of a broken promise of plebiscite in Kashmir made by Nehru and demands plebiscite. There is a feeling that the Congress governments at the centre misused their power to undermine and destabilize the duly elected state governments under opposition parties. It is felt that democracy that is practiced in the rest of India has not been similarly institutionalized in the state of J & K. It increased the feeling of alienation among people. The emergence of militant groups in the state in the late 1980s and the subsequent rule by the armed forces completely destabilized the lives of common Kashmiri people. The scholars maintain that a paradoxical situation exists in today’s Kashmir. On the one hand, there has been an expansion of electoral space as elections were conducted in a fair manner after 1996 and the emergence of People’s Democratic Party ensured more grounded electoral discourse. On the other hand, though, this democratic deepening did not result in shrinking the space for separatist movement. People do not see much contradiction between electoral politics, which is a measure for governance, and separatism, which is considered as a force dealing with the conflict with central government. So while people participate in electoral politics, they also take part in agitations, many times against the Indian army. The political parties in India have recognized the existence of separatist forces in the state and expressed the need to talk with them. The recent example of this is the U-turn by the Modi government when it said that Hurriyat Conference leaders are Indian citizens and they are free to meet any foreign representative in India, including Pakistan high commissioner. Earlier, the government has taken a tough stand on this issue and cancelled foreign secretary level meeting because Pakistani high commissioner met Hurriyat leaders.

In a nutshell, NIT issue represents a deeper crisis in the state which calls for innovative and genuine measures on the part of the state. 

- Prof. Kalpana Dixit