Latest on Kashmir is that the Congress party has set up what it calls “policy-planning group” to access the situation in the Valley. What is important is that this panel will be headed by former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Congress which has been critical of the Centre as well as the PDP-BJP coalition government over the handling of the situation here since July last year, says it is concerned over the "disturbed" situation in the Valley. So the Congress president Sonia Gandhi put together this new group which will, besides Dr. Singh, also have former Home Minister P Chidambaram and CWC members Karan Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad, J-K Congress in-charge Ambika Soni, state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir, CLP leader in state Rigzin Zora, former MP Tariq Hameed Karra and party vice-president Shyam Lal Sharma are members.
Congress says the group will study and “assess the ground situation and make initiatives for restoring normalcy to the state”.
In the face of it, there is nothing wrong in the move. However, given that there is already a mammoth trust-deficit between Srinagar and New Delhi, even studying or assessing the ground situation here won’t be an easy task for this panel. Particularly also because people here are very skeptic about any initiatives originating from New Delhi – which are seen as nothing more than time-buying tactics, and which end up producing nothing worthwhile for the people! And unfortunately, the Congress party desperately lacks a template which could invest its latest move with some seriousness and sincerity of purpose.
That this panel is headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh may make its look very attractive, but one is again not sure if this alone could do the trick. Dr. Singh himself has a huge burden of unfulfilled commitments and wasted opportunities on Kashmir. As Prime Minister, when he actually had the stature and the power to do something for the Valley, he squarely squandered every single opportunity that was there for taking. For instance, he is the one who, as Prime Minister had announced so many initiatives for Kashmir – be it the PM’s working groups that were constituted to assess situation in Kashmir and suggest measures for bringing peace to the Valley after much-hyped roundtable conferences that were held prior to it, or for that matter the group of interlocutors that was set up in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 summer unrest here. But absolutely nothing was done to implement the suggestion that were put forth both by the working groups and the interlocutors. And mind it all these recommendations were virtually consigned to dust-bins at a time when Singh himself was the Prime Minister, and Chidambaram, who has of late been very vocal on Kashmir, Union Home Minister. Needless to say that Ghulam Nabi Azad was the J&K Chief Minister during the 2008 unrest triggered by the Amarnath land row, and that G A Mir, Ambika Soni, Rigzin Jora and other members of the panel too have all along enjoyed enough power to make some difference to Kashmir, but none of them have done a thing thus far!
So it is a bit problematic for the ordinary Kashmiris to believe that all these people, who couldn’t do much for Kashmir when they were in power and could actually have done a lot, would now be able to do much beyond the regular run-of-the-mill kind of politics. Besides, even if they somehow – after “assessing” the situation suggest something – it is very unlikely that the same would be taken seriously by the incumbent BJP government at the Centre, or the PDP-BJP combine in the state.
However, having said it, it is also not necessary that those who have faltered or erred in the past, should not be given a chance to correct their course, and thus summarily dismissed on hindsight. The Congress’ initiative is timely and appropriate. The party could be trusted on its new move – one for time for courtesy sake! Otherwise also, there is very little that ordinary Kashmiris or for that matter or the separatist leadership and other “stakeholders” (as they call it – a cliche though!) could do about it. All they have to do is to just wait and watch – and see how this latest initiative unfolds, and what all it may have to suggest and how those suggestions are going to be taken by the governments in New Delhi and Srinagar.