Irish Stew, Scotch Blends And Gushtabas Galore!

Irish Stew, Scotch Blends And Gushtabas Galore!

3 November 2013
Kashmir Times
Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

Jammu: Chief minister Omar Abdullah has again courted controversy by proposing a peace accord in Kashmir on the lines of Irish and Scotland model. A deal was struck by Britain in Northern Ireland in 1998 which led to a power-sharing government after prolonged violence. The Scottish model pertains to devolution of powers in Scotland under which Britain created a Scottish Parliament with powers to make laws on a range of issues. The two autonomy models have managed to bring calm to these two regions within United Kingdom but have not been totally able to quell the aspirations of complete independence that seethe within this calm. Scottish and Irish independence continue to be the ultimate political fantasy in which people of these respective regions invest all their hopes. The calm, however, has been achieved through several meaningful steps by guaranteeing some kind of autonomy, and mind it, no militarization. Unlike the Northern Ireland dispute, the recent history of Scotland dispute is devoid of violence and non-state militia. But the Good Friday agreement with Ireland entailed that Britain withdraw its troops, after prolonged bloody street battles, before beginning the power sharing deal, which it did and even though it failed to bring in an independent commission to probe the excesses by British soldiers in North Ireland, United Kingdom did bring in a no less significant international and autonomous ombudsman to check the excesses by police. The power sharing agreements have helped in economic reconstruction of these areas, even as both continue to simmer beneath the surface with the unending yearning for independence and with their own internal sectarian conflicts. The problem, as of today, in these two regions is not of excessive brutalities, repression, murder of civil liberties and gross violation of human rights. However, what is still problematic is the narrow, dogmatic account of Britain to deem these areas as part of a historical union, which is incorrect to say the least, and its insistence of deeming the parliament as some kind of a sacred entity of this union that came about on the edifices of the weak foundation of several wars, inspiring resentment. The Kashmiri aspiration of independence stems from a similar blunder of appropriating the right of rewriting the history of the region from an Indian unionist perspective. This similarity may not be sufficient to draw parallels, not only because the western models wouldnít fit in squarely in an oriental mould. There is a sea difference in how Indian government has dealt with Kashmir case and Britain has dealt with its own regional conflicts. The fundamental flaw in drawing parallels between the British models and the Indian models is the different ways in which the two respective countries deal with change and the aspirations of the people. Kashmir continues to be one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world and the human rights track record has taken such a beating that any kind of talk of autonomy is unlikely to restore the sense of dignity without the basic measures to provide a conducive framework for any probable road map. At a very elementary level, the Irish and Scottish models become irrelevant in Kashmir because of the absolute rigidity on trimming the size of the troops or rolling by laws like AFSPA and replacing them with some kind of an authentic mechanism of justice to probe the gross human rights abuse. And, who, by the way, is Omar Abdullah in suggesting such models? What political authority does a man have in proposing models from distant lands when the autonomy report sent by his party a decade back to New Delhi stands brutally discarded and shelved? What moral authority does a man have to suggest these when he rides to power on the promise of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ill-conceived, problematic and with its scope of limitations as it is, but puts the onus on Pakistan once he assumes the reins of power? His own mandate is far too limited when his own suggestions of AFSPA review and revocation get to be struck down by the army generals. His sense of commitment stands challenged in the face of excessive use of home made laws like PSA and brutal opposition of any kind of dissent and protest, which betray no respect for dignity of human life, much less a respect for some kind of autonomy. Human rights violations continue to be justified in the name of insurgency and national interest, not just through the discourse of sanctity of unionism, as is the British case. A chief minister who himself pursues an aggressive policy, while living under a false illusion that heís at constant war with the people he is supposed to represent as head of Jammu and Kashmir government, may need to introspect his own performance, even before he questions the Indian government role in perpetuating unrest and a profounder yearning for independence in Kashmir. His recipe of Irish stew and Scotch cocktail is too unsavoury. Itís not only about being a misplaced agenda, itís also about from whom the suggestions come from for people who it is wrongly assumed can be tamed with simple lies repression and Gushtaba politics.