Show political imagination | HT Editorial – Editorials
There can be no positive side to a crisis like the current one. The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the foundations of how citizens live and work; it has taken thousands of lives; It has caused immense economic suffering. But disasters also offer an opportunity to tackle inherited problems. Take the tsunami. In Indonesia, it was after the natural disaster that the government and separatists in Aceh province signed a peace agreement, ending an armed conflict. Closer to home, after the devastating 2015 earthquake, political parties in Nepal came together to draft a Constitution after years of stalemate. It undoubtedly generated criticism from the country’s ethnic minorities, but the disaster ended up giving the country a stable political order.
India should consider this moment to address its inherited problems, in particular conflicts. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) offered a ceasefire and said it will not launch an attack on police personnel until the threat of the pandemic subsides, and called for a government response. This occurs shortly after a Maoist attack killed 17 members of the security staff in Chhattisgarh. The Maoists are against the Indian state and the Constitution; they have used violence and murdered state and innocent officials; and the security establishment should not, for a moment, allow them to have the advantage. But this is a time when the regime can also show political imagination and see if it is possible not only to have a ceasefire but also to have a more sustainable peace agreement. For this, the precondition, of course, remains the Maoists who renounce violence and abide by the Constitution.
This is also an opportunity to heal wounds in another key region suffering from internal turmoil: Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The government has done well to free leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah and revise their domicile policy based on sentiment on the ground. This must continue with the release of other political detainees and the promise of an eventual restoration of statehood. For its part, the J&K political leadership must accept that the annulment of Article 370 is final. This may be the framework for policy to resume in the Valley. Crises like the pandemic should make all parties to a conflict recognize that there are common challenges facing humanity and that there is a bigger battle to be fought, in unity with each other, not in conflict.