BJP on Pakistan and Kashmir: Arun Jaitley misleading people
by Hari Om on 18 Jan 2010 6 Comments

The RSS-sponsored Jammu and Kashmir People’s Forum (JKPF) organized a meeting at the Jammu Club on January 10. Seven members of the Working Group on Centre-State Relations (WGCSR) participated; BJP leaders and Sangh Parivar activists were there in strength.


Members of the Working Group present included BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, MLAs Ashwini Sharma and Harsh Dev Singh, Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) leader and former MP Thupstan Chhewang, Panun Kashmir chairman Dr Ajay Chrungoo, Samajwadi Party president Sheikh Abdul Rehman and advocate Surrinder Singh.


Though invited, the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, Congress and CPI-M representatives stayed away, for obvious reasons.


The meeting was organized specifically to learn from the members of the Working Group what exactly transpired in its meetings. All were unanimous in condemning the Justice Sageer Ahmed report. They took the Justice to task for preparing, finalizing and submitting the report to Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a hush-hush manner without the knowledge and approval of the members of the Working Group.


All rejected the report, mocking that it had perhaps been drafted by the ruling National Conference and that Justice Sageer Ahmed had simply signed it. Mr. Arun Jaitley went to the extent of asserting that “had Justice Sageer Ahmed been a serving judge, he would have been impeached.” All repudiated the report saying it was not just anti-Jammu, anti-Ladakh and anti-religious and ethnic minorities, but also anti-India.


In fact, everyone present emphasized the need to oppose tooth and nail the Justice Sageer Ahmed report, and urged the people cutting across party lines to prepare themselves for a full-scale movement so that New Delhi is prevented from taking any action on the fundamentally Kashmir- and separatist-centric report. This was a positive outcome.


Despite this, a disturbing aspect of the meeting was the role of JKPF convener Ramesh Sabbarwal, an RSS activist, and Arun Jaitley.


Sabbarwal dumbfounded all present by saying “Justice Sageer Ahmed’s report is vague”. The report is certainly not vague. It clearly recommends maximum possible autonomy to the state; it clearly asks the Prime Minister to consider the self-rule document as and when the PDP presents the same to Dr Manmohan Singh; it rejects outright the demands put forth by those representing Jammu, Ladakh, and several religious and ethnic minorities, including internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, and Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims; and it repudiates outright the demands of the hapless (Hindu) refugees from West Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir and the border migrants of 1965 and 1971.


Sabbarwal thus insulted the deeply concerned members of the Working Group at the very outset by terming Justice Ahmed’s definitive recommendations and suggestions as “vague”. Perhaps the RSS-sponsored JKPF wants to deflect people’s attention away from the real issue to facilitate the Kashmiri separatists’ anti-India agenda. Everyone now knows that there are elements in the RSS and its political organ, the BJP, who have made up their minds to compromise the Indian position on Jammu & Kashmir and give credibility to the communal politics in Kashmir.


Arun Jaitley’s presentation was no less disturbing, particularly his formulation that the prime cause responsible for the unrest in Kashmir or the ongoing secessionist struggle in the State is the refusal on the part of Pakistan to accept Kashmir as an integral part of India.


Jaitley’s understanding of the origin of the Kashmir problem either establishes his ignorance about the cause behind the ongoing separatist movement; else he made this statement willfully to hoodwink those gathered at the Jammu Club.


It is true Pakistan considers Kashmir an “unfinished agenda” of the communal partition of the nation. But it is also a fact that the problem facing the Indian nation in Kashmir is psychological. Kashmiri Muslims (read Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis) believe that they are a distinct nation and hence cannot co-exist with another nation (read Hindus); they are not willing to remain within Hindu-majority India. Thus, the problem facing the Indian nation in Kashmir is the concept of nationalism that the Kashmiri Muslim leadership advocates – a concept which is both religious and territorial in character and implications.


Even Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari candidly acknowledges that the conflict between India and Pakistan is ideological and that “Pakistan is ready to wage a 1,000-year war with India over the Kashmir dispute”. He said as much while addressing a joint-session of the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir Assembly on January 7 in Muzaffarabad, and stressed that “this is a war of ideologies and would last for generations”. To say that Arun Jaitley is not aware of what Zardari said would be to let him go scot-free.


That Arun Jaitley, instead of focusing on the real and deeper causes responsible for India’s troubles in Jammu & Kashmir, chose to articulate confusing and misleading formulations suggests that the BJP doesn’t want to learn lessons from history, and is no different from other “secular” formations whose single-point agenda is to garner votes and enjoy the loaves and fishes of office.


It may be mentioned that the role played by Arun Jaitley in the Working Group meetings was also highly controversial. The Working Group was a forum that should have been used by the BJP leader to contest those demanding autonomy and self-rule. But he did not do so. Instead, he suggested that the Working Group discuss non-controversial issues, development-related issues and so on. He took this stand despite the fact that the votaries of autonomy and self-rule were forthright and assertive about their demands.


Moreover, Arun Jaitley did not make common cause with those like Dr Ajay Chrungoo and Harsh Dev Singh who questioned the presence of Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah in the meeting, calling him an extra-constitutional authority. Nor did Jaitley put forth any concrete suggestion regarding Centre-State relations. He only said: “Our stand is too well-known. Let us take up non-controversial issues so that the discussions are not deadlocked.” Jaitley also did not raise his voice against Wajahat Habibullah recommending division of Jammu province on communal lines, in virtual endorsement of the Musharraf line. 


The story does not end here. Not content with what he said in the meeting with regard to the origin of the Kashmir problem, Jaitley took the Congress-led UPA Government to task for its Kashmir policy. He accused Congress of bartering national interests and described Article 370 as the “Nehruvian blunder”. He sought to convey an impression, very vaguely, that BJP is against any concession to Pakistan and that it is against demands for autonomy and self-rule for Jammu & Kashmir, asserting that these are all designed to help those in Kashmir who want to take Jammu & Kashmir out of India. Further, he described the Agra Summit as the “high point” and said “it was the Agra summit which internationalized the issue of terrorism” and put the Kashmir issue on the backburner.


Arun Jaitley was partly right and partly wrong. He was right when he described Article 370 as a “Nehruvian blunder”. He was absolutely wrong when he asserted that the Agra Summit led to the internalization of the issue of terrorism. It was not the Agra Summit but 9/11 that changed the world and internationalized the issue of terrorism. He was also absolutely wrong when he put all blame on Congress as far as handling the Kashmir issue and Pakistan are concerned.


In fact, Arun Jaitley concealed the truth and indulged in rabble-rousing in order to make people believe that the BJP’s Kashmir policy and its policy towards Pakistan is different from that of the Congress-led UPA Government.


That Arun Jaitley kept the people, including half a dozen members of the Working Group on Centre-State Relations in the dark can be seen from the fact that he did not utter a single word on what transpired at Colombo in March 1999 between then Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz.


Yet people have now come to believe that it was none other than Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who initiated the “peace process” with an aggressive Pakistan, and that it was Vajpayee who had toyed with the idea of organizing plebiscite in the state and dividing Jammu province along the Chenab River.


To be more precise, it was the BJP-led NDA regime which had taken the decision to dilute the Indian stand on Jammu & Kashmir and on Pakistan, and practically create an environment that would help Kashmiri extremists and communalists to persecute non-Muslim minorities in the erstwhile Doda district, or cause their migration in the manner they did in Kashmir in January 1990, when the miniscule minority of Kashmiri Hindus quit its original habitat to become refugees in its own country. Had BJP returned to power in 2004, it would have surely played havoc with the Indian nation and staked the lives of over four million non-Muslim Hindus and Sikhs.


That BJP had planned to appease Pakistan and the protagonists of Greater Kashmir could be seen from what former Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz wrote in his recent book, Between Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History.


Aziz states: He and his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh met “in Colombo a month after Vajpayee’s famed Lahore trip. We noted the recommendations of the American Kashmir Study Group (AKSG). We discussed conducting plebiscite district or region-wise instead in whole of Jammu and Kashmir… The idea was to narrow down problem to Kashmir Valley and its adjoining areas. The components of the solution included integration of Azad Kashmir with Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. Similarly, India would annex Jammu and Ladakh regions, leaving Kashmir Valley and some of its adjoining areas for further discussion. We had discussed to give to Kashmir Valley maximum possible autonomy and also set a time frame of four to five years for the implementation of the solution… The formula was a replica of Chenab formula as suggested by a UN representative Sir Owen Dixon way back in 1950. Since most of Muslim majority areas lie to the west of river Chenab, it was an ideal solution to either integrate or give autonomy to these regions. We decided to meet again after a month. But Vajpayee government fell on April 17, 1999. And the process ultimately was rocked due to Kargil crisis.”


That BJP is out to accommodate the communal and divisive autonomy demand and risk the lives of non-Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir could also be seen from what Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha only recently, while reacting positively to the Home Minister’s presentation on quiet talks and quiet diplomacy with separatists and secessionists. He asked P Chidambaram only one question: “Have you taken Chief Minister Omar Abdullah into confidence?”


Jaitley did not ask if the Home Minister had taken the suffering and persecuted people of Jammu and Ladakh and the various marginalized religious and ethnic groups in the State into confidence.


The Home Minister answered: “We (he and Omar Abdullah) are on the same page.”  


This is the naked truth. Whom was Arun Jaitley trying to befool, mislead, and hoodwink? Those who already know what the BJP planned to do to harm the country’s paramount interests by accommodating the viewpoints of Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists and communalists?


What Arun Jaitley said during the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Forum meet, organized to garner the views of the members of the Working Group on Centre-State Relations, was an exercise in self-deception. He and others of his ilk in the BJP must stop their propaganda campaign against the Congress, which is simply carrying forward the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.


It is imperative that Congress dissociate itself from the Vajpayee line on Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir because, if pursued, it would not only end the Indian presence in the state and dismember India, but would also endanger the lives of millions and millions of non-Muslims inhabiting the State.


The author is Chair Professor, Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University, Jammu

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