J&K: New Compact Goes Nowhere

J&K: New Compact Goes Nowhere

19 June 2012
The Asian Age
S.K. Sinha

New Delhi: The three eminent interlocutors for Kashmir, Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari, went about carrying their complex task with great diligence, touring 22 districts of Jammu and Kashmir, meeting 700 delegates and addressing three mass meetings attended by thousands of people. The separatists refused to meet them. In 2004, N.N. Vohra, the present governor, was the one-man interlocutor and the separatists had refused to meet him. They boycotted the two Round Table talks convened by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Mirwaiz Umar Faroooq refused to sit with other stakeholders whom he called “Tom, Dick and Harry.” Notwithstanding this, the interlocutors took into consideration the expressed views of the separatists. The 176-page interlocutors’ report is a comprehensive document. It claims it avoids “the pitfalls of viewing the myriad issues bedevilling the state from the prism of any one region or ethnic or religious community.” However, there is a marked tilt towards the Valley in their recommendations, ignoring some ground realities. The oft-repeated questionable feeling of “victimhood” and assault on “honour and dignity” appears to have overinfluenced them. This applies to the 60-mile-long Valley only, and not to the remaining tens of thousands of square miles of the state. The interlocutors have ignored certain basic facts. Kashmiri Muslims do not constitute a majority in the state. They are 45 per cent of the population, 20 per cent are other Muslims like Paharis, Gujjars, Bakherwals and Kargil Shias and 35 per cent are Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Separatists are confined primarily to Kashmiri Muslims and even amongst them many are not with them. A Mori poll conducted in 2002 by a British NGO, a known protagonist of Pakistan, found that 61 per cent Kashmiris are with India, six per cent with Pakistan and 33 per cent are undecided. The instrument of accession for Kashmir was not conditional. It was exactly the same as the instruments under which other states that merged with India or Pakistan. The only difference in the case of Kashmir was that India on her own made a commitment, separately, to allow the right of self-determination after peace was restored. No doubt Sheikh Abdullah was the tallest political leader in the Valley, but he had negligible influence outside the Valley. He was given a full rein and he took full advantage of this. The Nehru-Sheikh accord of 1952 allowed for the Indian national flag to be flown alongside the Kashmir state flag in the state and the requirement for Indian citizens to obtain a permit to enter the state was scrapped. The craze for restoring the pre-1953 status may even prohibit the national flag flying in the state and reintroducing the permit system. The interlocutors have adopted many recommendations in Justice Saghir Ahmed’s report. This was submitted to the government in a dubious manner, without showing it to the other members of the working group. Amazingly, there is no reference in the interlocutors’ report to the Indira-Sheikh accord of 1975 after which Sheikh Abdullah got back to power. Sheikh Abdullah won a thumping majority in the subsequent Assembly election. This endorsed the accord. That election for the first time in the state was acclaimed as free and fair. The Sheikh had the extending of Central laws to Kashmir after 1953 examined. He decided not to pursue the matter. In view of this, the attempt to put the hands of the clock back to the pre-1953 position is misconceived. The interlocutors’ proposal to have a constitutional committee comprising members enjoying the confidence of all stakeholders and taking decisions by consensus on application of Central laws post-1953 to the state, is utopian. Changing Article 370 from temporary to permanent and even abolishing its first two clauses, making it further restrictive, is uncalled for. In the present political scenario, such a constitutional amendment, requiring a two-thirds majority in Parliament, is not feasible. A solution to the Kashmir problem based on minimum political links and maximum economic aid is unrealistic. The per capita Central aid to Kashmir is '11,000 as against Rs. 900-Rs 1,000 for states like Bihar and Orissa. The number of people living below the poverty line in the state has gone down from 41 to 21 per cent. Ninety-eight per cent householders in the state own houses against the national average of 66 per cent. The interlocutors have recommended regional councils for Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh. This has been stoutly opposed by the separatists and their fellow travellers, saying that it will lead to the disintegration of the state. Jammu region, with an appreciably larger electorate, has nine seats less than Kashmir region in the state Assembly. There is a ban on any change being made till 2026. Thus, regional council falls short of the legitimate aspirations of the people of Jammu. In a New Compact with Jammu and Kashmir proposed by the interlocutors, there is emphasis on “harmonisation of relations across the LoC and development of joint association across the LoC for resource generation and other common matters.” The feasibility of this is questionable, what with the continued hate war being beamed from the other side, terrorist training camps flourishing and cross-border terrorism continuing. In 2005, we opened the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road but the Kargil-Skardu road could not be opened due to the obduracy of Pakistan. The interlocutors have ignored this. The Kargil Shias continue to suffer, for having no truck with separatists and terrorists! The recommendation to provide pensions for the families of terrorists killed in encounters with security forces is bizarre. This does not happen anywhere in the world, including in the case of militants in the Northeast. Article 370 cannot be stretched to justify this. The jihadis believe that they will go to heaven if they sacrifice their lives for a holy cause. Government pensions for their families will only encourage them. The interlocutors have ignored the case of one lakh homeless and stateless residents in the state. In 1947, 30,000 non-Muslims refugees had come from Pakistan to Jammu. They are now over one lakh. Elsewhere in India, refugees from Pakistan immediately became Indian citizens, with two of them eventually becoming Prime Minister and one deputy Prime Minister. These one lakh people in Jammu to this day are denied voting rights for the Assembly and local bodies, they cannot acquire immovable property nor get employment in the state government or admission for their children in technical educational institutions. On the other hand, Tibetan Muslim refugees who came to Srinagar in 1950 were given full citizenship rights. Nearly 1,000 of them are today in the voters’ list of Zadribal and Idgah constituencies. As for the 5,00,000 Kashmiri Pandit refugees (official terminology is “migrant” implying that they moved out of their own volition), the report only pays lip service to their return to the Valley. No concrete or viable measures have been recommended. It is not surprising that the report of the interlocutors has evoked a negative response from almost all stakeholders. It has brought us nowhere closer to resolving the long-festering Kashmir imbroglio.