Autonomy and the Saghir Ahmed report
by Thupstan Chhewang on 01 May 2010 2 Comments

There is an old saying that for making momentary lapses sometimes we have to suffer for centuries:

Yeh jabr bhi dekha hai tareekh ki nazron ne

Lamhon ne khata ki thi sadiyon ne sazaa payee


Every time I speak about my home State of Jammu and Kashmir I wonder how long the people in New Delhi will go on making mistakes, pushing us to the brink of despair. How long will we continue to suffer? At least someone should stand up and tell us what our mistake is. Is it our mistake that we call ourselves Indians in a State in which New Delhi’s repeated focus is on wooing those who say that they are not?


For long the Congress has been blamed for all the ills in the Kashmir Valley. It had shut its eyes to the ground realities in a sensitive border region. I never thought it was true till I found that the party was playing games in my own trans-Himalayan territory, fiddling with local aspirations and creating a bunch of power-hungry sycophants. It is a typical example of the power clouding a party’s vision. I am afraid that the track record of other parties has not been much better.


In this distinguished gathering, which consists of sympathisers of the Ladakh region, I shall be failing in my duty if I don’t speak my heart out.


Time has come for the Bharatiya Janata Party to be really different in every sense of the word. Its emphasis should not only be on changing the system of governance, but the system itself - a system that discriminates between one set of the people and the other, and a system which puts a premium on anti-nationalism and pushes nationalists of integrity into the background.


The party should introspect why while being in power it has not been able to deliver on its basic commitments vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. The argument that the party was part of a coalition and not having total say in policy matters is not going to convince those who are looking up to it to change their lot. I want the party leadership to be aware that many in the State feel that you are merely using it as a guinea pig with an eye on a vast constituency in the rest of the country.


There is a significant section of the intelligentsia in the State which has no love for the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, and in fact may have opposed it with even greater force than the BJP has done. But it is also keeping away from the BJP because it seems to think that there is a difference in what it says and what it actually does. It is time that we honoured the memory of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee by pledging to carry his mission forward.


Last year, I had the privilege of presiding over a function in the memory of Dr Mookerjee in Jammu. Respected Mohan Bhagwat ji, Rajnath Singh ji and Kidarnath Sahani ji were among those with whom I had the honour to share the dais. Dr Mookerjee’s words “ek desh mein do Vidhan, ek desh mein do Pradhan and ek desh mein do Nishan nahin challenge, nahin challenge” (a single country can’t have two constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two national emblems) are indeed prophetic. Had we proved equal to them we would not have suffered as we have done for the last many decades now.


Where have we failed him? Building statues to perpetuate his memory is no tribute to him. It is important that we translate his dream into reality. Till this goal is achieved, issues like autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir would keep cropping up. There would also continue to be such vague exercises as done by Justice Saghir Ahmed in the name of a Working Group on Centre-State relations set up by no less a person than the Prime Minister.


Autonomy in the context of Jammu & Kashmir has a wicked connotation. It seeks to weaken the bond between the State and the rest of the country. It must, therefore, be rejected lock, stock and barrel. It is like a vicious cycle: autonomy is opposed by self-rule and self-rule is sought to be overruled by the slogan of azadi or the two-nation theory of Jinnah. Autonomy in this sense also creates a serious regional imbalance in the State.


I have no quarrel with the concept of autonomy if it means only the sovereignty of an individual in a democratic India. It entails that a person in Jammu & Kashmir is as important as the one in Kerala and there is no barrier between the two. Every individual and every state is equal in my perception of autonomy. For, I firmly believe we all live only if India lives as a harmonious society.


So far as the Justice Saghir Ahmed report is concerned, it is not worth wasting time for. It is strange that the entire debate so far has taken place on the basis of an unofficial summary of the report which itself has not yet been made public.


I have been a member of this Working Group and I have not put my signatures on any report. That is why I have repeatedly said that it is Justice Saghir Ahmed’s report which he in his wisdom has not presented to the Prime Minister who had appointed him and the Working Group, but to the Chief Minister.


I really don’t know the reason why the National Conference is celebrating the report as having vindicated its stand on autonomy. My information is that it is a highly confused report. What else can be expected from a person who does not have even the courage of taking his colleagues alongside? The document needs to be thrown into the dustbin as and when we get it.


The Prime Minister has shown a distinct lack of vision about Jammu & Kashmir by going in for such Working Groups. I have no hesitation in admitting that like many I have always believed the Prime Minister to be a man of his word. I don’t know about others, but I no more have this opinion of him as he has proved me wrong. He has not fulfilled any of his commitments made to me for improving the plight of the Ladakh region. How can I share the view that he is a man of intellectual integrity?


The overall milieu, friends, is very disappointing. It can be demoralising for us who from the other side of the Himalayas look upon New Delhi as a ray of hope, only to be let down time and again. This does not shake our faith in our idea of India in which everyone is equal. Let me also reassure you that we, the Buddhists, constitute the defence line of this country and will defend it with all our might.


We shall stand up against China and Pakistan, as we have done so far, as and when they cast their evil eyes on our nation. More than ever before we shall echo “ek desh mein do Vidhan, ek desh mein do Pradhan and ek desh mein do Nishan nahin challenge, nahin challenge.”


And, we seek the company of men of courage, conviction and integrity in this journey.


[The author is a former MP from Ladakh, and leader of the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF). The article is based on a speech delivered at the seminar, “Are we losing Kashmir,” in New Delhi on April 1, 2010]

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