Event ReportsPublished on Aug 20, 2010
Underlining the urgent need for sustained dialogue representing all stakeholders in Kashmir, speakers at a discussion on the present crisis in Kashmir opined that the situation was very critical.
Kashmir, a systemic failure; dialogue a must
Underlining the urgent need for sustained dialogue representing all stakeholders in Kashmir, speakers at a discussion on the present crisis in Kashmir opined that the situation was very critical.

They said there was an urgent need to decipher the problem and find ways to tide over the current crisis and prevent future recurrence. It was highlighted that within the Indian framework, necessary changes to Kashmir’s autonomy status, state of governance, development and education should be considered.

The discussion, organized by Observer Research Foundation on August 20, 2010, was chaired by Mr. M. Rasgotra, President, ORF Centre for International Relations, and former chairman of a committee on Kashmir, appointed by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. It was attended by experts, former top bureaucrats, former diplomats, academics, journalists and members from the industry.

Present situation

The present situation was said to be grim, with Kashmir fast becoming a political catastrophe and the degree of autonomy being diluted. Normal life in the valley had been disturbed for more than two months. The possibility of Amarnath  and Shopian incidents being contributors to the trigger were examined. The situation was compared to the 1989-90 winter when the tensions in the valley were at their peak.

Historical incidents were dwelt upon considerably in an attempt to learn from the mistakes in the past. It was agreed that dialogue had frequently led to the defusing of tensions. Several instances, such as the successful conduct of the 2002 elections were cited as outcomes of fruitful dialogue.


It was said that the leadership needed to reinvent itself and learn from the present crisis. While Chief Minister Omar Abdullah‘s gesture in pardoning the constable who had hurled a shoe had gone down well with the people, his  comments on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act were disappointing.

Through the summer of 2008, the mood in the valley was upswing as the National Conference was brought back after the elections. However the situation had changed since then. Kashmiris had a pile of grievances and there was lack of confidence in the leadership. Most other moderate leaders had been brought under custody and political representation was suffering. Dr Farooq Abdullah is the tallest leader in the valley, but he had not been accorded the respect he deserved, it was felt.

Law and Order, Governance

The criticality of the law and order situation was underlined and it was said that deploying the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the by lanes and residential dwellings of downtown Srinagar etc  was exacerbating the situation. It was said that CRPF should only be assisting the J&K police. Considerable fatigue had also affected the police. It was highlighted that blaming Pakistan for the present situation in Kashmir was not the right approach as these protests originated from widespread discontent which had been exploited by opportunists.

Information had revealed that there have been identified instigators. However, long simmering unrest had been the main reason for the issue to have become so complex. The Machill encounter case trial was cited as an example of failing to deliver timely justice as no court martial had taken place. Issue of justice was cited as being at the forefront of the crisis. It was said that the Kashmiris understood Indian resolve for sovereignty, however the sentiments and internal dimensions needed to be addressed.

Role of the Centre

It was suggested that the situation appeared to be a systemic failure as there had been lack of dialogue and neglect from the centre, which led to the worsening of the situation. It was further added that the moderates need to be given a hearing, else the hardliners would take over. The government needed to restart the dialogue process.

Way forward

It was opined that the main objective was to make Kashmir want to remain part of Indian democracy voluntarily. It was agreed that the issue in Kashmir is a political one but no steps had been taken to deal with it politically. One of the most critical problems was the gap between intention and effects, and the challenge was to reverse the present trend.

Avoiding curfews, increased accountability and sensitivity to Kashmiri sentiment, capable interlocutors and considering changes in degree of autonomy were mentioned as the way forward.

It was mentioned that late Observer Research Foundation (ORF) chairman R.K Mishra, who had excellent relations with various sections of Kashmiris, was sorely missed during this time of crisis.

(This report is prepared by Akhilesh Variar , Research Assistan, Observer Research Foundation)

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