Saturday, June 02, 2012

Interlocutors’ Report on J&K: Reflections (K.N. Pandita ) - 2

The authors of the report concede that “iniquitous delimitation of constituencies” is a raw deal to the people of Jammu. It does not adversely affect only just representation of the people of Jammu region in the legislature and the government but also embodies numerous ramifications that ultimately lead to economic disadvantage of the people of the region. Likewise, budgetary allocations on population basis in the case of Ladakh are unjust owing to territorial size of the region and its sparse population. While the authors touch on intra-regional tensions and fears exemplified by the Muslim dominated districts of Jammu region and Buddhist dominated region of Ladakh, it inexplicably sidetracks identical fears among the religious minorities in Kashmir Valley.

It is not clear how uprooted communities will be able to establish their direct stake in the State’s power structure through democratic governance carried out through appropriate regional and Panchayati Raj institutions. Democracy, as we are aware, is a number of games. Destiny of a community hinges on the number of souls it stands for. Reservation with specificities has been found a viable option of assuring the minorities that their voice will be heard in all organs of the state.

Before we proceed to deal with the chapter on Special Status, we would like to appreciate the Interlocutors for stating threadbare that UN Resolutions of 1948 and 1949 have lost their validity as stated by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2004. The chapter about Special Status for J&K is adequately dealt with and key features of legal documents beginning with the clauses of the Instrument of Accession have been precisely stated. There should be no controversy on various Articles of the Indian Constitution like Article 353 which clarify the constitutional status of the State. The authors have rightly carried the discourse from theoretical to practical aspect. Their report states that “the State’s economy is inextricably linked with the economy of India, especially on the strategic, economic, technological and cultural fronts”. This is the sum and substance of the need of extending various laws passed by the Indian Parliament to J&K State over the years. Application of these laws was possible only with the concurrence of the state legislature. It is true that three reviews were ordered by the state government at different times and consensus of opinion could not be arrived at. But that falls under juridical discourse and has little to do with political dimension of the case.

The interlocutors have made a cogent point by arguing that the people of the State in their capacity as Indian citizens would immensely benefit from autonomous institutions of the country like NHRC, National SC/ST Commission, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Women, etc. And finally the report winds up the debate about extension of the jurisdiction of various Indian institutions to the State by saying that “the State’s economy is inextricably linked with the economy of India, especially on the strategic, economic, technological and cultural fronts.” Therefore, it concludes that the demand of repeal of the Central laws is uncalled for.

However, the report lapses into ambiguity and complication when the recommendation of replacing word “temporary” with “special” is accepted in the case of Article 370. Example of Article 371 (Maharashtra and Gujarat) or Article 371A (Nagaland) is irrelevant because these states did not have the same background history as that of Jammu and Kashmir. If the word “temporary” reflects subtle doubt, it is unfounded because, as the interlocutors themselves argue, ultimately economic and developmental compulsions will make Article 370 irrelevant. That is what Jawharlal Nehru had meant when he said “ghiste ghiste ghis jayega” He had the future progress and development of the State in his mind.

A recommendation of far reaching importance is that of creating three Regional Councils, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Ladakh will be given provincial status. The recommendation is to invest the three regions with legislative, executive and financial powers. This is the most feasible way of removing the sentiment of victimhood that has dogged the people over past six decades. It will not only speed up development of the regions but will also enhance inter-regional trade, tourism, economic activity and educational expansion. Panchayats are already in place and creation of empowered Regional Councils will put a seal on devolution of powers on each region. The report has brought historical content to the constitution of three Regional Councils, which is almost akin to regional autonomy. It has to be recollected that in 1996 elections NC leadership had championed regional autonomy for Jammu and Ladakh and sub-regional autonomy for ethnic and religious communities. Significantly it did not speak of sub-regional autonomy for religious communities in Kashmir Valley. Amusingly while the report seems to be supportive of regional as well as sub-regional autonomy by considering Balraj Puri’s 1999 RAC report as most comprehensive and realistic, the interlocutors are silent on the issue of sub-regional autonomy to religious minorities of Kashmir Valley.

Interlocutors have suggested that each region should have “fairer” representation in the Legislative Council of the State. In the earlier part of their report, the authors have conceded that discriminatory treatment has been meted out to Jammu and Ladakh regions. Their sense of discrimination will not be mitigated by “fairer” representation but by just and factual representation. Why has the delimitation been barred till 2026? Repealing of this law should have been strongly emphasized. By not making that recommendation, the interlocutors have, by their own confession, become inadvertent party to discrimination perpetrated against Jammu and Ladakh regions. The idea of clubbing displaced persons with the category of women, SC’s, STs and OBCs “assured representation” is ridiculous. Displaced persons in the state are the members of the minority group. They must get representation not as displaced groups but as minority group. Suppose they return to the valley one fine morning. Should they cease to have the right of sending their representatives to the Regional Council of the Legislative Assembly because they are no more displaced?

The recommendation for a Constitutional Committee to examine the legality etc. of Central laws extended to the State is an exercise in futility. Dissidents call it an eyewash and time gaining process. It does seem to be so. Let it be clear to all that even if this Committee is constituted, it will not be able to single out one instance where the Central law has been applied arbitrarily. Even if there is a stray instance does it make any big difference in the situation? If the interlocutors assert that the clock cannot be turned backward, then why make such a nebulous suggestion? Maybe a mechanism of denying Central laws any jurisdiction in J&K could be evolved for adoption in future. But there is no rationale for return to 1952 or 1947. Investment of six decades and half cannot be allowed to be trivialized and thrown into dustbin. The bogey of “dual status” of the people of J&K could become another source of alienation and estrangement. Majority community of the State is enjoying the rights and privileges of majority group in the State and minority group on national level. Minority community in the State is denied minority rights as they are told that they belong to national majority. This dichotomy is unjust and inequitable. Despite strong recommendations by the National Minority Commission, the State and Central governments both have refused to confer the status to the minorities of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. That is why the Working Group on Minorities at the UN Human Rights Council characterized Kashmiri Pandits as “reverse minority”.

The purpose was to ensure their rights as members of a minority group in a particular region of a state.
Chapter 3 of the New Compact contains recommendations in the area of culture. Instead of pontificating about cultural bonds we expected the team to probe into the causes of erosion of cultural harmony. Report nowhere responds to the grouse of Kashmiris that India is making cultural invasion into Kashmir. According to them all cultural manifestations stem from Hindu mythological sources and are in total violation of Islamic civilization. Dance, music, painting and sculpture are strictly forbidden in Islam. Destruction of Bemoan Buddha was extensively appreciated by Kashmiri literati. In regard to media, interlocutors have cleverly circumvented the ugly truth that local media is polarized on regional, community and ideological levels. Urdu press has hardly demonstrated national orientation and Hindi press has rarely come out of right wing moorings and ultra-nationalist tendency. Report does not touch on the role of media in fanning flames of disorder and turmoil by taking recourse to insinuations. There is not a single piece of writing in the vernacular media during past two decades that condemns the gun and gun culture or denounces militancy. Is there a single instance of PCI taking up a case of violation of journalistic ethics in the State?

Chapter 4 is a comprehensive study of economic situation in the State, major developmental projects in the pipeline and a slew of recommendations of dos and don’ts. The core of this study is that the State is financially a deficit state and maximally dependent on aid from the Centre. While dealing with the doctrines of Greater Kashmir and Self-Reliance of Kashmir leaders the report does not find any ask why there is no proposal of a meaningful economic reform or innovation in them that would reduce State’s dependence on Central aid. The reason of non-utilization of funds provided by the centre is too serious a matter and should not have been swept under carpet. It has political trappings. The State government and political leadership has consistently opposed and discouraged private sector investment by mega industrial houses in the country. A couple of industries established in recent past like the HMT and Cement Factory have all run into difficulty as these have been made strongholds of parochial and anti-Indian politics. Jammu region has suffered more on this count because it was poised for more conducive atmosphere, better labor conditions and work culture. The Report does not take these features of Jammu region into consideration and does not propose vigorous investment and energetic industrial policy.

Chapter 5 deals with the credibility of the dialogue process. Very strange to note is that the interlocutors are convinced that trust deficit among Kashmiris “is partly due to the ambiguity over Jammu and Kashmir’s political status”. They further hold that there are two credibility gaps, viz. centre-state and state-people. It is unfortunate that the team interlocutors have succumbed to the haranguing of “political uncertainty” cliché. Instead of examining and analyzing situations and issues from a solid ground of J&K as an integral and irrevocable part of the Indian Union, and PoK being under illegal occupation of Pakistan, they tend to behave like arbiters between the oppressor and the oppressed. By accepting uncertainty syndrome, we shall be recklessly diluting all the sacrifices made in terms of men and material to protect J&K against foreign aggression. We will be demoralizing our armed forces who have performed unparalleled acts of gallantry that the country can boast of.

Credibility deficit is directly the result of ambivalence of political leadership in the State. In any democratic arrangement political leadership has the onerous duty of not only directing but also of educating the people on the virtues of a particular ideology and line of action and party line. This element has been woefully lacking in the State especially in Kashmir region. The result has been deep-seated trust deficit. The interlocutors have done a great disservice to the people of the State by not concentrating on the fault line adopted by local ambivalent leadership. It will be noted that Kashmir leadership has generally been said to be changing the content of its political discourse in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi. The team says it was often posed the question whether their mission would be result-oriented. Sadly, the interlocutors fail to fathom the import of the question which when simplified boils down to: “Are you going to report that India has forcibly occupied Kashmir and she should quit? This is verifiable from how Mirwaiz Umar Faraoq the Chairman of Hurriyat (M) reacted to the publication of the Report of Interlocutors. It may be harsh to recount that on March 30, 1990; nearly 15 lakh people assembled on Idgah grounds in the vicinity of Srinagar city and declared legitimization of gun as the instrument of winning freedom of Kashmir from Indian occupation.

The issue of human rights has been discussed (5.3) in very laconic manner creating an impression that it does not carry the weight it should while discussing Kashmir issue. The gun wielder, bomb hurling youth and stone pelting student as well as the “migrants” and “displaced persons within the valley” all have been clubbed together as deserving to be meted out justice according to human rights. This casual treatment neither credits nor testifies to the unbiased approach of the interlocutors. Killing of hundreds of minority community in the valley in 1990, extirpation of entire minority population from their thousands of years old habitat and their ethnic cleansing (as stated by the Indian government in its report to International Committee of Jurists in Geneva) are all only trivial matters for the team interlocutors not meriting an exclusive paragraph if not a page. Likewise there is hardly any mention of its reaction to the suffering of people displaced from PoK in 1947 and still homeless and stateless. What inter-community dialogue can be fruitful when not even a simple enquiry has been ordered in the rise of Theo-fascist movement in Kashmir in 1989-90? In contrast, there is hectic activity to pave the way for return and rehabilitation of militant youth from PoK.

At many places in the report, one comes across convoluted but totally indefensible logic. Is there any pragmatism in the assertion ascribed to the Prime Minister that “invisibility of LoC is the core element of a settlement and that it will come into being without a settlement?” Since this brings into focus the interplay of Parliament’s unanimous resolution of 1994, the interlocutors have, in their wisdom, tried to dilute the real import of that resolution by stating that “engaging Pakistan is the only way to move towards a solution.” This is cowardice not diplomacy and tantamount to saying that we stay put in Kashmir only on the goodwill of Pakistan.. The resolution in question asserts the will and power of the Indian State to get back the illegally occupied part of her territory in J&K. Justifying talks with Pakistan as having yielded small results after decades of talks should not become reason for the Parliament to revisit the resolution in question.

Most of the recommendations made in connection with CBMs are vague, hypothetical and unrealizable. 
Separatists consider the proposal of constituting a constitutional committee nothing short of a repeat of ridiculously delaying tactics. The norms proposed for Centre-APHC (M) talks are arbitrary and ill-advised. (38) Interlocutors give undue importance to their recommendations by inviting Pakistan and PoK to consider them. What precisely has emerged from the series of talks held between the Centre and the APHC (M) so far so that one may expect more from them? While item 4 of recommendations (p.108) states Pakistan and PoK to consider the recommendations made by the team, only a couple of lines below, it discounts Pakistan’s role in political settlement. A type of subtle contradiction runs as undercurrent throughout various appraisals and recommendations. For example, we know that the State Government has constituted inquiry into the case of unmarked graves. What necessitates the team to recommend establishing a judicial commission to look into the same matter? It is overdoing the things and thus counterproductive. If the team’s approach was unbiased and laced with ultra-humanism, then it should not have advertently sidetracked recommending inquiry into the Theo-fascist upsurge in the valley in 1989-90 and its fallout especially on minority community, Indian secularist practice and much trumpeted Kashmiriyat. In the calculus of Team Interlocutors, genocide (or akin to genocide in the words of the NHRC), exodus, ethnic cleansing, general loot of property, internal displacement and highly doubtful return and rehabilitation of a defenceless religious minority of Kashmir did not merit even half a paragraph in a 170-page Report on Kashmir in which two full pages are devoted to the promotion of so-called cultural activities like mushairas, storytelling, dancing, singing, farce (bhand pather) etc. (p.60-62) to build bridges of harmony. Another vague and illogical recommendation (p. 109) is this: “Finally, this Group recommends that agreement on a political settlement should not be made contingent on whether Pakistan is willing to enter into it.” It means to say that the Centre should go ahead with entering into an agreement of sorts with the APHC (M) even if “Pakistan in not willing to enter into it.” This is naivety par excellence. Who does the team want to befool?

Curiously, Chapter 6, the concluding chapter of the report, filling 10 full pages, is devoted to the brief history of PoK/Gilgit-Baltistan. One fails to understand the necessity of indulging in this exercise. To an observer it seems an attempt of profiling PoK as a viable entity with which negotiations could be undertaken. Comparison and contrast with the Indian part of the State is subtle and inoffensive. Why is it so? Certainly it is an effort to dilute the force of the Parliament’s unanimous resolution of 1994 to which we have alluded earlier. This is a dangerous move and can pose challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

In summing up this rather lengthy essay, the impressions one gathers from the report are (a) the team has very faithfully stuck to the brief it received from the Home Ministry. Therefore observations and recommendations both are pre-meditated and not pragmatic. (b) Interlocutors have tried to smoothen a way for alignment of Valley-based dissident and PoK-based pro-nationalist political forces and sideline Pakistan in the process if Islamabad does not want to fall in line (c) water down force and impact of Parliament’s 1994 unanimous resolution on Kashmir (d) totally blackout history, relevance and role of internally displaced persons from PoK and Kashmir valley as an entity made meaningless to the future arrangement of the State, kind of unwanted baggage.
Before concluding this critique, it is in national interests that the Home Ministry returns the Report to the team of interlocutors with the advice of re-drawing its main observations and recommendations so as to be compatible with ground situation. We would suggest that revised recommendations should necessarily enfold the following:

(a) A clear and unambiguous message to the people and leaders that entire and original J&K State is not 
only an integral part of the Indian Union but is also crucial to the security and stability of the nation.

(b) Defence and security of North and North-Western borders of India touching with Pakistan and China should be of highest effectiveness and strike power not only in terms of weaponry and man power but also in terms of strategy and military tactics.

(c) Kid-glove handling of political minions in the State should be replaced by a powerful mechanism of accountability.

(d) A Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired CJ of India be instituted to enquire and report on the rise of Theo-fascism in Kashmir from mid-1980s and the massacre and extirpation of a religious minority of the Valley. It should be a time-bound assignment.

(e) Restructuring the State along regional and sub-regional autonomy parameters, giving all entities constitutional validity and arming them with political, financial and administrative powers be expedited on priority basis. This would mean revocation of Delimitation Act. Sub-regional autonomy has to be on various but essentially on religious and linguistic basis.

It will be disastrous to turn the clock back and re-open the subject of application of central laws to the 
state. Streamlining of administration, energizing delivery system and providing good governance are the rights never to be denied to the people. Democratic process has to be strengthened through purge and purification and not through protection and pusillanimity. Those who carry the impression that Kashmir is a unique issue and needs unique solution should rise above the issue itself if they really want to be pragmatic. There is no consideration higher than the nation and its interests. In the life of a nation a time comes when myths and shibboleths have to be dismantled once for all The truth of the axiom that people get the Government they deserve cannot be diluted. (Concluded)

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