J&K: Parliamentary debate rigorously excludes Jammu & Ladakh
by Hari Om on 02 Sep 2010 5 Comments

On August 26, Lok Sabha members discussed the situation in Kashmir and suggested ways and means to surmount the problem confronting the nation in Kashmir. National Conference president and Union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah did well to tell Parliament that those who were demanding independence for Kashmir were not well-wishers of the people of Kashmir. They were their enemies, he virtually said.


Dr Abdullah said the grant of independence would Talibanize Kashmir and Kashmiri society, and reminded those demanding independence what the Taliban had done in Pakistan and Afghanistan to “wreak havoc” in both countries. He warned of the dangerous consequences of independence, and drew the attention of the law-makers to the fact that “he had visited Jalalabad in Afghanistan where he had seen that not a single building or a house was intact. Is that the kind of freedom we want?”


Dr Abdullah also made some very significant statements while reflecting on the situation in the valley: “Most Kashmiris want to find a solution to the problems within India. We want to find a solution to the problem within India, not in Pakistan, China or in America… We want Jammu & Kashmir of Raja Hari Singh (as it existed on August 15, 1947)… Hindustan is in our hearts and there is no machine available today that can open our hearts and show our sentiments are with Hindustan… Kashmir shares its borders with Pakistan on one side and China on the other. Both are nuclear-armed countries. Pakistan is sending terrorists into the State, while China’s army is intruding into its territory time and again… Most of the people in Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir want to be with India…”


These statements are significant as they constitute an objective reflection on the ground realities in Indian Jammu & Kashmir as well as Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, where an overwhelming majority of the population is fed up with Islamabad and wants a dispensation that is democratic and allows the people of the occupied areas to manage their own political, administrative, economic and social affairs themselves. Dr Farooq Abdullah deserves appreciation for his bold assertion, as also for his scathing attack against those demanding independence from India and facilitating the task of the primitive, regressive and inhuman Taliban to Talibanize Kashmir and Kashmiri society and economy. He must also be commended for saying things which no other Kashmiri would ever say, that too in Parliament and at a time when the protagonists of Taliban have set the whole of Kashmir on fire and created a situation under which the people are finding it extremely difficult to sustain themselves and their family members.


Yet Dr Abdullah negated all by singing the same old monotonous and irritating autonomy song without recognizing the fact that his stand on autonomy would irk the people of Jammu and Ladakh. He reiterated his provocative and communally motivated stand knowing full well that there are no takers for his autonomy proposal in Jammu and Ladakh.


It is an established fact that the people of Jammu and Ladakh do not want anything other than complete merger with India and application of the Union Constitution to the state in full, minus Article 370 under which Jammu & Kashmir enjoys a special status within the Indian Union. The people of these two provinces have been – apart from demanding a fair, impartial and state-centric dispensation that treats all regions equally at all levels and in all spheres and that enables the ignored people of Jammu province to compensate for the losses they have suffered thus far at the hands of successive Kashmiri-dominated, Valley-centric governments in the state – consistently fighting for complete integration into India since October 1947. It is not a secret that it is because of the pressure from below in Jammu and Ladakh that New Delhi has brought Jammu & Kashmir under the ambit of hundreds of Central laws and extended jurisdiction of its institutions to the state.


It’s true that Dr Farooq Abdullah, unlike other Kashmiri leaders, didn’t really say that the problem in Kashmir is political. But his statement, “if you (Members of the Lok Sabha) do not understand the sentiments of the people of Kashmir…India will not become strong,” indicated that his whole approach to the Kashmir issue was communal. What exactly did he mean by the “sentiments of the people of Kashmir”? Didn’t he demand autonomy from New Delhi on the ground that Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region? It was naked and blatant communalism. He demanded autonomy and outraged the sentiments of non-Kashmiris across the state by focusing on what he called the “sentiments of the people of Kashmir.”


Kashmiri Muslims enjoy absolute political power. They also enjoy residuary powers. They are under a system that debars New Delhi from extending any Central laws to the state against their will or the will of the state government. They not only exercise unbridled political powers, but also enjoy the power to exploit, humiliate, loot and fleece the people of Jammu and Ladakh. Indeed, they have been enjoying power that has reduced the people of Jammu and Ladakh to a nullity for all practical purposes. People of Jammu and Ladakh under them are entitled to crumbs only. What more do Kashmiri Muslim leaders, including Farooq Abdullah, want? That he did not say anything about the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh should clinch the issue and establish that he, like his political bosses in New Delhi, takes these people for a ride. 


Dr Abdullah told Parliament there was only one way in which the people of Kashmir could be satisfied and that was by restoring Article 370 to its original form. In other words, he asked Indian law-makers to negate the Indian Constitution and restrict the jurisdiction of New Delhi over Jammu & Kashmir to just three subjects – defence, foreign affairs and communication!!!


To be more precise, he asked the Lok Sabha to declare Jammu & Kashmir as an autonomous state and pump more and more money to meet the financial needs of its people. At the same time, Dr Abdullah said: “Let us have a dialogue, only then Article 370 will go and we will have a better India. You will never make a better India if you do not win the hearts and minds of the people” (read Muslims of Kashmir).


Does Article 370 give anything special to the people of Kashmir? Or, does it deprive the people of the state of even those normal civil and political rights they at present enjoy under the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution of 1957? Article 370 doesn’t give anything to the people; but it has empowered the ruling elite to exploit Indians and deny citizens of the state the rights that citizens in the rest of the country enjoy under the Constitution.


This can be seen from just one example. Militant-infested Punjab remained under President’s Rule from 1987 to 1992. In between, the Indian Constitution was amended at least four times. In other words, the entire nation was involved in the process. It needs to be underlined that no state can be kept under President’s Rule for more than one year under Article 356 of the Constitution, and Parliament has to amend the Constitution if the Government of India feels the situation is not conducive to holding fresh elections and establishing a democratically elected government in the concerned state.


But in Jammu & Kashmir, the President of India can keep the state under his/her rule for any number of years without taking Parliament into confidence. The case of Jammu & Kashmir is never taken to Parliament. Under Article 370, the President exercises unbridled executive powers. Using these powers, he/she can keep the state under President’s Rule for an indefinite period. Jammu & Kashmir remained under Governor/President’s Rule from January 19, 1990 to October 9, 1996 (over 6 years). It is the only state where the Governor has the power to dissolve the Assembly and take over the administration under section 92 of the state constitution, for a maximum period of six months.


Did the Government of India take the case of our state to Parliament even once? No. Did Parliament amend the Constitution even once during all these years of Governor/President’s Rule in Jammu & Kashmir? No. Is this the special status Dr Farooq Abdullah talks about? No sane person, no ardent believer in democracy, would ever endorse this viewpoint.


Votaries of Article 370 have always exploited this controversial Article to create schisms between the people of the state (read Muslims of Kashmir) and other Indians by feeding wrong information. They consistently tell Kashmiris that if Article 370 is abrogated, people from the rest of the country would purchase land in the state and obtain jobs under the state government, though they know that Article 370 has nothing to do with it. The State Subject Definition of 1927 debars people other than Permanent Residents of the state from acquiring immovable property and obtaining jobs under the state government. The fact is that Article 370 is undemocratic and anti-people. It has never allowed the people of Kashmir to join the mainstream politics, and has created a high wall between the state and rest of the country.


Dr Farooq Abdullah was not the only one who urged Indian law-makers to “assuage the hurt feelings” of the people of Kashmir or to respect their sentiments. Members of the CPI and CPI-M, Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal–United, Bahujan Samaj Party and Biju Janata Dal also spoke of Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslims alone. No reference was made to the miserable plight of the people of Jammu and Ladakh and the displaced Kashmiri Hindus. The speeches and interventions of the leaders of these parties were all Kashmir-centric. An impression was created in the Lok Sabha that meeting the aspirations of the Valley-based communal leadership would be tantamount to meeting the urges and aspirations of the non-Kashmiri people in the state, and that Kashmir means Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Their approach was lop-sided by any yardstick.   


CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta accused New Delhi of ignoring the Valley in terms of development and employment: “Acts of stone pelting should not be equated with acts of hooliganism.” He lamented the closure of the HMT watch factory in Kashmir, saying it was of strategic importance, giving employment to many people. He criticized the authorities for not making the Indian Telephone industry in Kashmir functional. The upshot of his argument was that the government, instead of providing “relief and rehabilitation”, often used “hardline approach.”


Shailendra Kumar (SP) expressed the view that “a political solution was needed and sending security forces alone would not bring about a permanent solution to the festering problem. This needs to be done soon if Kashmir has to prosper.” BJP-led NDA convener Sharad Yadav (president, JD-U) took Congress to task for jailing Sheikh Abdullah, “who named his party ‘National Conference’ in place of the ‘Muslim Conference’, in line with the secular fabric of India.” He reminded the House that Sheikh Abdullah in 1948 refused to make Pakistan a party to the Kashmir issue in the United Nations and pledged undying support for India, but was jailed (by Congress) for 20 years.


Sharad Yadav conveniently forgot to tell the Lok Sabha what kind of politics the Sheikh believed in and practiced. He did not tell Parliament that Sheikh Abdullah stood for three-nation theory and was jailed for hobnobbing with the United States to set up a “Switzerland-type independent Kashmir.” Yadav, however, did not talk about autonomy for Kashmir. He talked about the need for organizing local body elections in the state, which, according to him, would create a “wedge” between separatists and the people of Kashmir, as happened in Punjab. It is obvious Yadav is living in a world of his own.


Daya Singh (BSP) said: “We need to unite to help the people there (in the Valley) to join the national mainstream through respect for their feelings and sentiments.” “Pushing the development aspect alone is not the real solution,” he told the Lok Sabha. P Karunakaran (CPI-M) took almost the same line. Cautioning the government against “further alienation of the people of Jammu & Kashmir (read Kashmir) from the mainstream”, he said the “need of the hour is to talk to all the sections of society there.” “We need to gain confidence of the people there and set a credible mechanism with all sections for a political solution of the problem in Jammu & Kashmir.”


Tathagata Satpathy (BJD) opined that “any solution of the Kashmir problem required going deep into the history of the region” and that “the feeling of alienation which has seeped deep into the mind of the people of Kashmir is also to be found in the north east, so Kashmir should not be taken as a unique case.” In other words, he endorsed what the Kashmir-based leaders, without exception, have been saying since 1947.


Several members of the Lok Sabha took part in the discussion on Jammu & Kashmir, but none of them spoke of the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh. It was all about Kashmir, Kashmiri alienation, underdevelopment of Kashmir, unemployment in Kashmir and so on. The BJP, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal (Badal) opposed the idea of the state getting autonomy, but did not say anything about the people of Jammu and Ladakh and the displaced Kashmiri Hindus, their aspirations, their miseries, their utter neglect and their status in the state polity. They should have drawn the attention of the Lok Sabha to the dangerous ramifications of Article 370. They should have told the MPs that Kashmir is the most prosperous region in the country and that the problem in Kashmir is neither political nor economic, but communal; they didn’t. They should have told the House that it is the people of Jammu and Ladakh who stand totally alienated from Kashmir because of its discriminatory policies and that the need of the hour is to win the hearts and minds of the suffering people of Jammu and Ladakh; but they didn’t.


The moral of the debate on Jammu & Kashmir in Parliament was that there was none in the Lok Sabha who could hit the nail on the head and say that the Kashmiri Muslim leadership was not demanding devolution of power, but concessions leading up to separation of Jammu & Kashmir from India. There was none who could say that the bottom-line of the Kashmiri Muslim leadership is secession and nothing else, and that it should be dealt with as such.


Thus, things are not inspiring for the nation. Leave alone the people of Jammu and Ladakh and displaced Kashmiri Hindus and under-attack-Sikhs. Everyone in the corridors of power in New Delhi and all law-makers want to promote communalism in Kashmir under one pretext or the other. None is prepared to diagnose what ails Kashmir. It appears as though New Delhi has made up its mind to compromise the Indian position on Jammu & Kashmir, overlooking the fact that an overwhelming majority of the people in the state has nothing to do with the ongoing separatist and communal movement in Kashmir.


One thing is clear: the nationalist constituency in the state has made up its mind to comprehensively defeat the likes of Home Minister P Chidambaram, who say day in and day out that “Kashmir is a unique problem” and “it needs a unique solution.”             


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

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