NO DOUBT, the task of building trust in Kashmir is the most critical and Himalayan one the Government faces at this moment soon after abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India and cancellation of Special Status to the State. Amid acidic propaganda by a few elements, the Narendra Modi-Government has to initiate confidence-building measures that would convince the people of Kashmir eventually that every recent move has been planned with their collective welfare in mind. Even though the Government is acting on the strength of intense goodwill, doubts prevail in the people’s mind and a lot of work will be needed to erase all those over time.
The enormity of this task makes it clear that the Government has taken a plunge into a monumental mission that the country had been long waiting for. Positive indications are, however, available right from Day one after abrogation of Article 370 about an overall popular acceptance of the Government’s move. Good numbers of people are coming forward to express a sense of satisfaction that the country is on a right course after seventy long years; that separatism will be rebuffed appropriately and terrorism will be controlled suitably. Despite this, this expression of faith that things would improve in Kashmir is only at a primary stage, and much work will be needed to build it up further so that it gets ingrained into the popular psyche not just in Kashmir but also everywhere in the country.
Once that process begins visibly, palpably and openly, India will experience a new push to the sentiment of national integration. For, in all these years since Independence, one point that impeded the smooth flow of sentiment of integration was the disturbed socio-political condition in Kashmir, negatively spiced by separatism and terrorism, building distrust among people of Kashmir and India. In the past thirty-odd years, this distrust kept growing, making things worse every passing day. Though the Government indulged in political tall-talk, it actually did little to change the situation, except for the brief interlude of the six-year regime of Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee when the Centre really tried to build trust in Kashmir. Otherwise, the Centre sat on its haunches doing nothing specifically.
In the meantime, a terrible anti-India upsurge unleashed a reign of terror to push the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community out of their homes by the lakhs. That move was intended to alter the demographic balance of Kashmir. Another fall-out of that diabolical purge was that lakhs of members of even the Muslim community suffered unimaginably. The separatist-terrorist juggernaut rolled on making no difference between Hindus and Muslims and created hell in what was once described as Paradise in India. Political filth only added to the well-planned mess, making it impossible for India to establish its actual claim that Kashmir was an integral part of the country. That statement, therefore, remained only an integral part of the political tall-talk that actually made little sense on the ground. The current efforts to build the atmosphere of trust in Kashmir will have to be made against these realities of the past seventy-plus years. Abrogation of Article 370 is only a constitutional process.
That will have to be carried on in the socio-political arena with a strong bias for national security. For, the Government will have to fight on two fronts -- internal and external. Across the border in Pakistan, the enemy is trying to kick up a hot political storm aimed at singeing Kashmir, keeping it engulfed in flames of socio-political discord and mutual disdain among Indians. That will have to be defeated successfully. There is no doubt that the Government will succeed in this mission.