In an interview with The Times of India, Professor Mattoo discussed the proposed return of Kashmiri Pandits, realistic steps forward, several levels of reconciliation required — and why it is in PM Modi’s interest to end draconian laws in the region:
How would you assess the proposed Pandit rehabilitation?
Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has gone through turmoil in the last 25 years and a certain state of instability since Independence. You now have perhaps — once the militancy’s ebbed — an attempt to create a climate for reconciliation which, in the case of J&K, means not just one but multiple processes.
You need reconciliation between Kashmiri Muslims and Delhi. For decades, Kashmiris have felt deeply alienated from the Centre’s policies. In the Valley, you need reconciliation between Pandits and Muslims. Everyone recognises they were faithful to a syncretic culture for centuries — but the gulf between them has widened.
Then, within the state, you need multiple reconciliations between the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh and within these regions, there are sub-regions.
Finally, there has to be reconciliation between two parts of Kashmir across the LoC. And, in a grand kind of reconciliation, we need to build foundations of India-Pakistan peace.
How can this be achieved realistically?
There is no magic mantra, no quick fix. No one has a solution that can be mechanically adopted. I think to believe, or create a mechanical construct of the perfect way for Pandits to return, is unreal — you require a dialogue between Pandits and Muslims at civil society level, so that you can arrive at an understanding. Then, state government and Delhi can facilitate whatever is arrived at.
I think no one has spoken to Pandits directly or to civil society in the Valley. Rather than impose solutions, you need consensus in an organic way — that would be a way of ensuring durable, sustainable return of Pandits with dignity.
The return would be one important marker of peace.
The PDP-BJP government appears confused over the issue — your view?
The government has been in office for just two months. The very attempt to form the government was an attempt at reconciliation.
PDP and BJP represent, in some ways, two extremes — to form a government with these extremes and arrive at a common agenda is also the basis of trying to address divergent aspirations.
You have to take a strategic long-term view.
Unfortunately, given that you have the glare of the media on every single move, whether tactical or incremental change, it is all put under a microscope.
Meanwhile, critics still point to draconian laws in the region.
Well, you need to address a genuine sense of insecurity in the Valley.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated he no longer wants to be just leader of a section of people but be seen as an international statesman — he wants to rise above partisan politics.
The greatest hallmark of his success would be durable peace in Kashmir.
One of the markers of it would also be withdrawal of all other extra legislations.