September 1999 News

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The post-Kargil scene in Kashmir

10 September 1999
The Hindustan Times
By: Balraj Puri

The patriotic upsurge that swept the whole country during the Kargil conflict did not affect the Kashmir valley. There were no anti-Pakistan demonstrations, no collection campaigns for welfare of the Kargil jawans and their families, no expressions of solidarity with them and no blood donation camps. Separatist groups, on the other hand, vied with each other to organise processions in support of the "Freedom Fighters" of Kargil. However, when Pakistan withdrew its army and others who had crossed to the Indian side of the LoC, it dawned on Kashmiris that unlike the insurgency in the valley in 1990, the "freedom movement" in Kargil was an imported phenomenon.

Now the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has expressed its disillusionment with Pakistan for its "weak, parasitic and West-oriented foreign policy" and for "damaging the Kashmir cause at the international level." In a 32-page booklet, the APHC has criticised the role of the UN, Russia and the Ogranisaion of Islamic Countries vis-a-vis the Kashmir issue. Realistically, it has exhorted the people of India to call upon the government and leadership to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all.

There may be many reasons for the alienation of Kashmiri Muslims. But one conspicuous fact is that Indian democracy did not fully encompass Kashmir except for brief periods. a glaring proof of this is the doctrine that Farooq Abdullah has been preaching as a basis of Kashmir's relations with the Center. He has said that Kashmir should support any government that comes to power at the Center.

Farooq does have as much right as Fernandes, Hegde, Mamata, Badal, Naidu and other allies of the BJP to persuade Kashmiri Muslims that it is better party. But to deny them the right to choose, change and oppose the government at the Center is a negation of the elementary principle of democracy and implies that they are not equal citizens of the country but only its colony.

His further argument in support of his doctrine is that it is necessitated by special circumstances of the state, especially its financial dependence on the Center. If the political support of the ruling party of a state to the ruling party of the Center is to determine its share in the Central financial allocations, it cuts at the very roots of federalism. Moreover, no people would surrender their freedom and self-respect for more aid. Kashmiris are no exception.

Farooq went out of his way to prove his loyalty to the BJP than what was expected of him. His identification with Pokhran, his presence at the release of the election manifesto of the NDA, his praise for the "patriotic" virtues of the RSS at a function in New Delhi, his going all the way to Mumbai to participate in the birthday celebrations of the Shiv Sena Chief Minister are some of the glaring gestures.

Farooq was converted to his present doctrine in 1986 when after being dismissed from Chief Ministership, two years earlier, he was allowed to resume it on agreeing to share power with the Congress, the party in power at the Center at that time. He had then declared "any one who wants to form a government in Kashmir cannot do so without sharing power with Delhi". This was the beginning of the alienation of the people of Kashmir which got accentuated by the manipulation in elections a year later pushed them to militancy in the next two years. In the election of 1977, Shiekh Abdullah's National Conference swept the polls in the valley defeating the Janta Party, then ruling at the Center. It not only gave a sense of self-respect to the people of Kashmir but also gave a common secular nationalist platform of dissent in the form of Janta Party to all those forces which were so far anti-India.

A similar experiment was repeated in 1983 when the Congress, the then ruling party at the Center, was almost wiped out in the valley by the National Conference in the Assembly elections. As long as the avenues of discontent against the State and the Central government existed, secessionist and communal voices were silent. The situation now is not similar to that in 1977 or 1983. For the BJP is not a contender for any seat in the valley, but as Pramod Mahajan has said any seat won by the National Conference would be in its basket.

The defeat of the NC candidates in Kashmir may not automatically revive the spirit of 1977. In essence it means that loyalty to the ruling party in the state and at the Center and to India are not synonymous. After this synonymity is broken, anti-India sentiments may not vanish altogether. But it these sentiments may not vanish altogether. But if these sentiments are not fed by anti-government sentiments, Kashmiri aspirations would be articulated in a more rational way. It should then be possible for the people of India to understand them better and to discuss how far they can be reconciled with the national interest.


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