Manmohan's Grand Compromise
20 November 2004
New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a disaster. His dream of a 'new Kashmir' will not work because it is based on a fallacy. J&K has not been racked by terrorism for want of financial sops from the Central Government. Terrorism has its genesis in Islamic intolerance to the idea of a Kashmir within the family of Indian states. Manacled by pseudo-secular cant which espouses a 'root cause' ignoring the 'seed', Mr Singh has ended up blowing the advantages India fought hard to win over the past three years. Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not need to scatter money on the streets of Srinagar. He sent a firm message to Kashmiris that they are just one among 28 states of India and their religious uniqueness has no weightage in secular India. 'Jammu and Kashmir is not just a territory, but the basis of our estimate of ourselves as a nation', thundered Mr Jaswant Singh at a press conference ahead of Agra 2001. An equally piercing epistle was sent to Islamabad, that fountain of global terror. For four years Mr Musharraf ranted and raved on his 'freedom struggle' theory before ending up grovelling before Mr Vajpayee at Islamabad in January. Now his successor has reversed the picture. First his Rs 24,000 crore bonus for J&K? What has the state done to earn it? At any rate, more money has been poured on J&K over the past 50 years than any other state in the Union under the assumption that the way to the Kashmiri's heart is through the Swiss bank accounts of his politicians and contractors. Mr Singh, who proves with each passing day to possess the mind of an accountant on who fate has been excessively kind, has announced further largesse. He ends up fooling nobody because it is well known that the sum was due to the State anyway. In 1996, HD Deve Gowda went to the Northeast and announced a Rs 16,000 crore 'package' betraying the same foolhardy notion that money can buy you love. Unless such gifts flow through structured programmes ending in tangible progress in the form of jobs and factories with smoking chimneys, the people won't be impressed and terrorism-insurgency will continue to enjoy reservoirs of support. So not only will Mr Singh be accused of fraud ( after all there is no Rs 24,000 crore) , his 'gesture' would also have the opposite effect: A lot of Kashmiris will joke that Pakistani pressure forced India to make that fantastic promise. So, long live Azadi because that way you can milk Delhi better. And they won't be very wrong either. Just look at the way this gentile professor agreed to 'consider' Musharraf's TV proposal of carving up J&K. Its preposterous that the head of the Government of any self- respecting country should waste even one minute before dismissing the suggestion to redraw his national map. There has been no reiteration of the validity of the 1994 Parliamentary resolution proclaiming J&K, and by that is meant the whole province, as an inalienable part of India. The Hurriyat, whose myth had been decisively deconstructed by New Delhi, now has the nerve to reject the overture of an Indian Prime Minister saying Pakistan must be drawn into the dialogue process. Under Mr Vajpayee the same lot agreed to unconditional talks. Why talk of Kashmiris, every Indian anywhere is now convinced that Manmohan Singh has sold out. His foreign minister has met his Pakistani counterpart on more occasions in six months than his predecessor did in his four years. One is entitled to know, therefore, what was the diplomatic breakthrough which formed the basis of the decision to roll back troops from the valley. Have the Pakistanis begun closing down their terror camps in POK? According to the latest infiltration figures, 30 terrorists crossed over in October, 33 in September, 65 in August, 117 in July and 111 in June. So we have 356 more who have joined the hundreds already holed up in safe houses. In 2002, the then Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal, had snubbed an American journalist who argued in favour of Musharraf saying 'infiltration had come down'. Mr Sibal shot back: 'We will not lower our guard till infiltration is totally stopped.' That was not just a maximalist statement , but the position of a proud nation. The biggest tragedy resulting from Mr Singh's two-day sojourn was the ceremonial immersion organised for the right of an Indian, regardless of faith, to exist out of communal ghettos. Instead of standing by the hapless Kashmiri Pandits and arranging for the return to their homes in the valley from where they were hounded out by terrorists, the Government has rubbed insult to injury by offering them two-roomed tenements. This signals the abandonment of not only the KPs but also the right of Hindus to live with dignity in Muslim-dominated parts of India. In Mallapuram, the Muslim-majority district of Kerala carved out by the Marxists in 1969, Hindus have abandoned their ancestral homes en masse because of day-in-day-out harassment by the 'secular' Muslim League. In many parts of West Bengal, people have been rendered refugees for the second time in their lives: First in 1947 from East Bengal, and then again in the 1980s thanks to Bangladeshi infiltrators encircling their homes with illegal shanties mosques and madrassas. The argument that KPs have been recognised as 'internally displaced persons' is utter falsehood. India has neither a national policy nor an institutional legal framework governing IDPs. The KPs are casually referred to as 'migrants', which, is itself a lie because 400,000 people don't just walk out of their homes and go to live in tent cities. They fled because their houses were torched and killer gangs roamed Srinagar's 'Downtown' area shouting Kashmir mein rehna hai, toh Allah hu Akbar kehna hain. And, mind you, the same standards do not apply to the Muslims of J&K who were either trapped on the wrong side in 1947 or went to Pakistan willingly. In 1980, a private member's bill called the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Permit for Resettlement Bill was passed by the State Assembly making it possible for all Kashmiris who had migrated to Pakistan from the state between March 1, 1947 and May 14, 1954 to return to their homes and reclaim them. Though it was passed, the then Governor, BK Nehru, sent it back for reconsideration. In September 1982, the President placed the reference before the Supreme Court seeking advice, but during the pendency of the reference, the State Legislature passed it within a month of Farooq Abdullah becoming Chief Minister. Left with no choice, Mr Nehru had to give his assent. Why can't the KPs enjoy similar rights is the logical next question. The moment they accept their two-room hovels, they will automatically abdicate all claims over their ancestral homesteads. This is more pernicious than the permit system which Shyamaprasad Mukherjee protested in 1953 and died for. A nationwide campaign should be launched immediately to prevent Manmohan Singh from selling out the KPs, and by extension J&K valley, to terrorists. Next, Manmohan Singh travels to the Northeast. But before he gets there lets call for the balance sheet from the Vajpayee era on that region. The Bhutanese action, which was a result of Indian diplomacy, had broken the backs of the ULFA and NDFB. Myanmar's military junta had been won over to the Indian cause and Bangladesh was waiting with baited breath in anticipation of a coming blow. The Bodo problem had been solved despite the Tarun Gogoi Government's best intentions to sabotage the deal (he is still at it-just note how he keeps postponing the council's formalisation).The return of the Congress to power has generally signalled the revival of the underground in the Northeast and the Christian groups which went about sowing seeds of dissent prior to 1998 are breathing easier now. A solution, though far off, was at least on the horizon in May. Let's hope Mr Singh will not follow up on his Kashmir debacle by destroying the delicate balance in the Northeast as well.