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December 2009 - January 2010


Political News

That slice of India...

by Dr Hari Om


What is the history of Kashmir and what can we learn from it? Can the issue of Kashmir ever be solved?

Home Minister P Chidambaram has disappointed the whole nation. He has dumbfounded everyone who believes in national unity and integrity and Indian sovereignty; who abhors and hates communalism, terrorism, separatism and politics National Conference, People’s Democratic Party and Pakistani-style.

The case in point is the outrageous and highly controversial speech he made on the second day of the All India Editors’ Conference in Srinagar on October 14. He said: “Voice of separatism in Kashmir is a reality…There is a political problem in Kashmir and it has to be solved…Centre would start a dialogue…but it will be a quiet dialogue and quiet diplomacy, away from the media glare, till a political solution to the problem is arrived at…The dialogue cannot take place in the glare of the media…The dialogue will be held quietly – one-on-one, two people to two people…Once the broader contours (of a solution to the Kashmir issue) are arrived at, it will be made public…The solution (to Kashmir problem) must recognise the unique history and geography of Jammu & Kashmir. Solutions to other problems in India cannot be replicated here. We may find a unique solution, there is nothing wrong… But it must be acceptable to the vast majority of the people of Kashmir.” What exactly does he mean by “quiet dialogue” and “quiet diplomacy”? What does a “unique solution” mean? What does he mean by what he called “the unique history and geography of Jammu and Kashmir”? Why is he hiding things from the nation? Why is he not explaining the contours of the so-called solution to the so-called Kashmir problem?

Is Chidambaram representing the Indian nation and the Indian State or is he representing those in Kashmir, the United States, China, Pakistan, Libya and so on who are working overtime to ensure the segregation of Jammu & Kashmir from India on the ground that it is a Muslim-majority state; that Kashmiri Muslims (read Kashmiri-speaking and Kashmiri Sunnis) are a race apart and cannot live in a democratic and liberal India?

Has Chidambaram forgotten Jawaharlal Nehru who got Sheikh Abdullah dismissed and arrested on 9 May 1953 on the charge that he was hatching, in collaboration with the United States, a conspiracy to de-link Kashmir from India and establish a “Switzerland-type of Independent Kashmir”? Does he know Indira Gandhi dismissed Farooq Abdullah in 1984 saying the National Conference leader had become a “threat to national security”? Has he forgotten Rajiv Gandhi dismissed GM Shah, son-in-law of Sheikh Abdullah, in 1986, for identical reasons? Has the Home Minister also forgotten that the Congress to which he now belongs snapped all ties with the National Conference in 1977 and again in 1984 and 1990 for almost similar reasons?

The answer is: Yes, he and others in South and North Block have forgotten everything and are now indulging in unsettling activities to please and appease Islamic terrorists and religious bigots.

What does all this signify? Well, many things. It signifies the willingness of the Congress-led UPA Government to grant major concessions to the politics of terrorism, blackmail, communalism and separatism being practiced by all Kashmir-based leaders. It signifies the decision of the Congress-led UPA to barter paramount national interests and compromise the age-old Indian position on Kashmir to pander to communalists and extremists and their source of inspiration - Pakistan. It signifies the willingness of the Union Government to give absolute and unbridled powers to the Kashmir leadership that helps it enslave, further exploit, humiliate and disgrace the people of the state in general, and the people of Jammu and Ladakh in particular, and weakens the northern frontiers with a view to extending their tentacles to other parts of India with utmost ease.

All this also signifies the baneful influence of a handful Kashmiri leaders and of Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner, on the Home Minister, nay on the Congress-led UPA Government. It further signifies the chicken-heartedness of the Union Government, as also its bungling instinct. It signifies that the Congress-led UPA is incompetent to promote paramount national interests and defend the very institution of the Indian State. It signifies that the Union Government has willingly walked into the American trap and refashioned its foreign policy taking into consideration the views of Pakistan, Kashmiri leadership, terrorists and so-called human rights activists masquerading as peace-mongers. It signifies the humiliating defeat of those in Delhi managing affairs relating to internal and external security. It can be construed that the Congress-led UPA has raised its hands before a handful of Kashmiri separatists and communalists and that it is treading a dangerous and suicidal path.

The Home Minister said the Kashmir problem is a “political problem.” He is totally wrong. It is a pure communal problem – created by the sectarian, anti-secular, anti-democratic and pro-Pakistan Kashmiri Muslim leadership. Can the Home Minister say that the people of Jammu and Ladakh and displaced Kashmiri Hindus are part of the ongoing separatist movement in Kashmir? He cannot. Can he say that the people of Jammu and Ladakh and displaced Kashmiri Hindus want a dispensation outside the Indian constitutional framework; that they want withdrawal of the Army and paramilitary forces and anti-terror laws from the state? He can’t. Can he say that the people of Jammu and Ladakh and displaced Kashmiri Hindus want withdrawal of Central laws and institutions from the state? He can’t.

The Home Minister says the solution to the so-called Kashmir problem has to be such as “recognises the history and geography of Jammu & Kashmir.” Does he know anything about the state’s geography and history? It can be said without any hesitation that he is blissfully ignorant about both.

The history of Kashmir is that it has always been ruled by outsiders. The only exceptions were Avantivarman (ancient times) and Sheikh Abdullah and his son, son-in-law and grandson; Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Shams-ud-Din, GM Sadiq, Mir Qasim, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad (after 1947). The history of Kashmir is that Jammu ruled over it during ancient times, medieval times and modern times. The history of Kashmir is that its leadership has all along indulged in intrigues with a view to enabling outsiders to rule over the Valley and it continues to do the same even today.

Today each Kashmiri Muslim leader looks towards Pakistan; each one wants the aims of Pakistan to be fulfilled; each one hails Islamabad without any reservation. The history of Jammu and Kashmir is that both these regions have never shared each other’s perception; both regions have all along treaded different paths - Kashmiri Muslim leadership has been treading the separatist path and the Jammu leadership the path to Delhi; the Kashmiri Muslim leadership has been pouring venom on India and everything Indian and the Jammu leadership hailing New Delhi and everything Indian.

The history of Jammu & Kashmir is that while Kashmiri leaders contemptuously dismiss the people of Jammu as “aliens” and “outsiders” and condemn the Treaty of Amritsar under which the State of Jammu & Kashmir came into being in 1846, the people of Jammu dismiss the Kashmiri leadership as a “bunch of exploiters” and “communal” and “separatist”. The history of Kashmir is that those who have been ruling the state and exploiting political power since October 1947 to enrich themselves and the Valley at the cost of Jammu and Ladakh and the Indian tax-payers are involved in separatist activities.

The history of the separatist movement is that the unpopular separatist leaders have all along been defeated by Kashmiri Muslims. The latest example is the humiliating defeat of People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone, son of the slain Abdul Gani Lone, in the 2009 general elections. He could not lead even in one Assembly constituency – even in his own home constituency and a constituency which returned his father to the Assembly several times! The geography of Jammu & Kashmir is that mighty Pir Panjal constitutes a very high wall between these two regions and that it was the people of Jammu and their ruler who founded the State of Jammu & Kashmir in March 1846, using their political and diplomatic skills and after making supreme sacrifices. It was the people of Jammu and their ruler Gulab Singh who founded the Jammu & Kashmir State at a time when the princely states were crumbling one by one like houses of cards before the canny British imperialists.

This is the history and geography of Jammu & Kashmir; this is the history of relations between the people of Jammu and the Kashmiri leadership; this is the history of the role Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi played to isolate Kashmiri separatists and check the fissiparous tendencies in Kashmir; this is the history of the role Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi played to integrate the state into India. They introduced hundreds and hundreds of Central laws in the state; they brought the state under the ambit of several Central institutions, including the office of the Election Commission of India, Supreme Court of India and the Comptroller and Auditor-General; they abolished the offices of Wazir-e-Azam (Prime Minister) and Sadar-e-Riyasat in 1965 and brought the state at par with other states of the Union by replacing these nomenclatures with Chief Minister and Governor; they abolished the obnoxious permit system in order to enable the people of the state and all other Indians to visit any part unhindered as Indian nationals.

To say all this is not to suggest that the Congress did not commit blunders. It made several blunders. It incorporated Article 306-A (370) in the Indian Constitution to fulfill the communal and separatist urges of Sheikh Abdullah, and it signed an unsettling accord with Sheikh Abdullah in 1975, enabling the latter to seek withdrawal of any Central law he considered harmful for the identity of Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslims.

Home Minister Chidambaram must not go by those in Kashmir who distort and murder history to promote their vested interests. He should not allow himself to be guided by those who feed wrong information and misinterpret things to mislead and hoodwink New Delhi. He should not use terms such as “quiet dialogue”, “quiet diplomacy” and “back channels”. These are all disturbing formulations. He should do things in a transparent manner and take the nation into confidence. His approach needs to be holistic, secular and nation-centric. His approach should be to isolate, marginalise and reduce to nullity all those in Kashmir who preach communalism, use terror as a weapon to force down the nation’s throat their pernicious ideology, and who do not believe in the concept of the other, or whose ideology rigorously excludes others professing different faiths. He should dismiss out-of-hand such formulations as “Kashmir, Kashmiris and Kashmiriyat” and, instead, recognise that a small section of Kashmiri Sunnis is involved in subversive and communal activities and that an overwhelming majority of the people in Jammu & Kashmir is for peace, tranquility, development and socio-economic and political regeneration.

Chidambaram must remember that any concession to the state would mean a major concession to terrorism and extremism; a step short of independence. He must stop saying that “solutions to other problems in India cannot be replicated here” (Kashmir) for the simple reason that the state is part and parcel of Indian civilization, and is an integral part of liberal India.

But more than that, the Home Minister should study the state’s demographic landscape before speaking on the state and on the nature of the Kashmir crisis. He should read the autobiography of former President R Venkataraman and go by his suggestion on Jammu & Kashmir, which he gave the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, that Jammu should be given statehood, Ladakh should be given what it wants, and deal with Kashmir separately.

In fact, this is the only option available. Not to exercise this option and to continue to cling to the line the Home Minister and the Prime minister are pursuing would only create more problems rather than resolving existing ones. Follow Venkataraman and resolve the issues facing the state, subject to the condition that nothing is done that dilutes Indian sovereignty in Kashmir; weakens the northern frontiers; and gives any kind of respectability to the cult of the gun; that recognises and rewards communalism.

(The author is Chair Professor, Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University, Jammu)

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