A Kashmiri boy poses in front of the graffiti-covered shutter of a shop during a shutdown in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. Photo: iStock

For years, New Delhi tried to observe Kashmir through the lens of electoral politics and disturbances caused by Pakistan. The present dispensation is no exception. Obviously, it is an open secret that India’s neighbor has been waging a proxy war, aiding the separatists and the terrorists to create disturbances in the Kashmir Valley. Anyway, blaming only Pakistan is not going to solve this mess, as when we assign blame, we are talking only of the problem — not the solution.

The Kashmir problem has two solutions — the first is achieved through military action and the second through political engagement. These solutions are very much dependent on each other. To its credit, the central government has worked hard on the first solution. However, without a proper political process, the first solution will never bring peace to the valley. That is why that despite the aggressive policies of the  Indian armed forces, the youth of the valley are not deterred from joining militant groups.

New Delhi must build a grassroots political process, something that has previously been neglected. New Delhi has always interpreted the political process exclusively through the prism of ballot papers and electronic voting machines. The present situation indicates that the same electoral politics will prevail in the 2019 polls. The truth is, such a superficial political approach has never worked — nor will it in future.

A strong military strategy will eliminate terrorists and a productive political dialogue will expose the agents of Pakistan active in the valley

Many people say only political dialogue is needed and insist that a long ceasefire will work for the valley. First of all, it is true that the issue of Kashmir could be resolved through a political process. But to achieve that a rigid policy is needed to combat the so-called “fighters” of religion in the name of “Azaadi.” Had Kashmir’s prosperity been the goal, then the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits and Sikhs would have never faced any persecution in the valley. Also, the Kashmiri Muslims who defied the so-called soldiers of “Azaadi” have also faced their wrath. These “soldiers” fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in the valley have to be neutralized. Without strong military action, this is not possible — especially in the most troubled areas of South Kashmir — Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag.

A strong military strategy will eliminate terrorists and a productive political dialogue will expose the agents of Pakistan active in the valley. It will prevent the violent ideology from spreading further and uproot the already deeply embedded dogma in the valley.

To achieve this, New Delhi must identify the stakeholders of the valley. If New Delhi still considers separatists to be stakeholders, then the approach needs to be re-examined as this gives Pakistan the power to indirectly interfere in valley-related matters. Rather than being soft on separatists, there should be harsh measures against them for conspiring against the nation.

Kashmir has always been an integral part of India, so there is no reason to involve Pakistan in discussions related to Kashmir. Instead, New Delhi and the local administration have to engage the local people – students, teachers, employees, shopkeepers, peasants, etc, while also ensuring the security of nationalists living in the valley. The executives must also propagate declining Sufism, one of the spirits of Kashmir — along with Shaivism – to do away with the prevailing violent ideology. This way, New Delhi will understand the real issues and be able to listen to the pulse of the common Kashmiris.

Sagarneel Sinha

The writer is an India-based commentator on politics, religion, culture and philosophy and tweets @sagarneelsinha.

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