Dear Rahul Gandhi,
I am writing this open letter to you because I believe that you are the only person in our polity today who can take a bold and effective initiative to salvage the day-by-day worsening situation in Kashmir.
I know you are busy paving the way for your party’s comeback in Bihar, West Bengal and U.P. But will winning back a state or two for five or ten years compensate for the permanent loss of a very precious part of our body?
The fast-deteriorating situation in Kashmir demands that you at once divert your attention to the Valley to apply the ointment of love and care on the bruised body of the people of the Valley who had only recently made it amply clear in two foreign opinion polls that they want to remain a part of India. But the merciless bullets and brutal batons of our security forces for the last three months have pushed a majority in the Valley to a point of no-return.
With an arrogant behaviour, inability to feel the pulse at the grassroots and by adopting a cruel bullet-for-stone policy, our government has foolishly alienated the people of the Valley, and invited international intervention and rebuke of the harshest order. The world today has begun to doubt our commitment to democracy and human rights.
It is time for you to at once visit Kashmir, meet families of the victims of army bullets, lend an ear to their version of the situation on the ground, announce an immediate withdrawal of the army from all inhabited areas, set free all young and old people arrested for throwing stones and violating curfew, sack the failed government of Omar Abdullah, impose governor raj for a fixed period of six months during which truly free and fair elections must be held and thereafter whoever wins them must be allowed to rule Kashmir just as is the norm elsewhere in the length and breadth of India.
All this must be coupled with an immediate announcement that the central government is accepting the autonomy resolution passed by the J&K legislature in 2000.
And finally, once normalcy returns to the Valley, no time should be wasted to negotiate a final settlement of the issue with Pakistan. Without such a final solution, the Valley will keep bursting periodically, one way or the other, sapping our resources and diverting our attention for other pressing problems.After all the sad events of the past three months, it is now impossible to retrieve the situation with half-hearted measures. The grave situation today demands an immediate action to wrest Kashmir back from the precipice by a bold and credible person like you.
In view of the legacy you represent and the youthful sincerity you exhibit, I am sure you will rise to the occasion and will not wait until it is too late to salvage the land and people of Kashmir. It goes without saying that personal relationships should not influence your decision just like your great grandfather when higher national interest is at stake.
Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan
Editor, The Milli Gazette
Former President, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat
17 September 2010