Habibullah preaching Azadi for Kashmir
by Hari Om on 21 Jun 2012 61 Comments

National Commission for Minorities chairman Wajahat Habibullah was in Srinagar on Sunday, 17 June, to take part in a seminar on “Jammu and Kashmir and the Federal Models of Shared Sovereignty”, organized by the Political Science Department of Kashmir University in collaboration with the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. The CDR is a Delhi-based controversial think-tank; its activities have been funded by the Government of India from time to time.


The truth is that the CDR has been working for the separation of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian constitutional framework. It, like the Kashmiri leaders of all hues, believes that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory, that New Delhi has brought Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of various Central laws and institutions by questionable means, that New Delhi has willfully eroded the special status of Kashmir, that New Delhi has to “assuage the hurt feelings of the alienated Kashmiri people” (read Muslims) by accepting all of their demands, and that the solution to the Kashmir problem has to be such as is acceptable to both Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.


Jammu and Ladakh are conspicuous by their absence in all of the CDR’s formulations. In fact, the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation considers Jammu and Ladakh and nearly 50 per cent of the state’s population that lives in these two regions, as irrelevant.


As for Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, he has been advocating the division of Jammu and Kashmir into five geographical (read religious) zones, and the creation of five regional assemblies - one each for the plain areas of Jammu Pradesh, hilly and mountainous areas of Jammu Pradesh, Shia-majority Kargil district, Buddhist-majority Leh district, and Sunni-majority Kashmir.


Mr. Habibullah was one of the main speakers at the CDR seminar. Given his previous record, it was expected that he would speak the language of Kashmiri separatists and vouch for a solution that not only renders the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) ineffective for all practical purposes, but also enables the people to enjoy an independent status with both India and Pakistan sharing sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir, which is legitimately Indian. He lived up to these expectations.


Speaking about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act, he said: “I personally believe that AFSPA should be done away with. The Government of India is working on a model to frame rules that would govern the AFSPA as so far we have no rules to govern the controversial Act. A clause in the AFSPA even surpasses the powers of Prime Minister and President of India. There is a clause that a soldier can shoot without seeking orders from the superiors. This clause even exceeds the powers of two top dignitaries”.


Regarding the PSA, he said, “It is a matter (revocation) to be resolved by Jammu and Kashmir Government. The Act was passed in 1982 by the Jammu and Kashmir Government. The Government of India can’t interfere in it as it is a state Act. People demanding scrapping of this Act should approach the Jammu and Kashmir Government”.


This is fairly obvious that the Minorities Commission chairman, like Kashmiri leaders, both “mainstream” and separatist, wants these two Acts to be thrown out root and branch. In other words, he wants the Army, paramilitary forces and state police to fight secessionism with their hands tied behind their backs, and suffer at the hands of the secessionists. He wants unbridled freedom for those in Kashmir who hate and despise India and everything Indian, including Indian laws, and want a dispensation independent of India.


Yet Mr. Habibullah continues to hold a constitutional post in New Delhi. Moreover, the Congress-led UPA Government had appointed him first as Chief Information Commissioner and then chairman, National Commission for Minorities, while knowing well that he is biased towards one community’s misplaced aspirations, and pro-separatist.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even appointed him as his emissary so that he could speak in the Working Group on Centre-State Relations and persuade the members of this Working Group to divide our Jammu and Kashmir into five communal zones and help the votaries of Greater Kashmir accomplish what they wanted: Establishment of Greater Kashmir comprising Kashmir and Muslim-majority areas of Jammu and Ladakh. The Working Group on Centre-State relations, appointed by Manmohan Singh in 2006, was headed by Justice Sagheer Ahmad, who submitted his report without discussing it with group members and wound up the group without further ado. To this day, members do not have a copy of the Report, which is simply unheard of, and a sad reflection on the manner in which the UPA has conducted itself on the sensitive issue of Jammu and Kashmir.


Mr. Habibullah also expressed himself on the issue of shared sovereignty: “While finding out a political settlement (read communal settlement) of Kashmir, two things need to be kept in mind. When Shimla agreement took place (in 1972), it was decided that what is with Pakistan would remain with it and what is with India will remain with it and the Line of Control (LoC) will also remain same… Kashmiri people need Azadi – feeling of freedom. I have been reiterating this again and again. Kashmiri people should move forward by feeling the freedom of democracy”. Since Pakistan never abided by the Shimla Accord, just as it disregarded the UN resolution on vacating occupied Kashmir, how can any agreement be unilaterally binding on India alone? Naturally Mr. Habibullah does not say.


Three things were crystal clear from his exposition on shared sovereignty. One, Jammu and Ladakh have no place whatsoever in his scheme of things. Two, the aspirations of the people of Kashmir (read Muslims) have to be respected; they need be given the kind of independence they want from India. Three, he remembers only the 1972 Shimla agreement, and not the February 1994 Parliamentary unanimous resolution which rendered the Shimla agreement redundant. The 1994 resolution has mandated the Government of India to integrate into the Indian Union Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, using all possible means. That no regime has been sincere in this quest is another matter.


Yet can one legitimately blame Mr. Habibullah for being so irrational and communal? No; because India permits anybody to say anything and go scot-free. We are not a Republic in the true sense of the term. We are a Banana Republic where the powers-that-be in New Delhi are least bothered to censure those who have been working overtime to disintegrate India or ensure yet another communal partition of the country.


The worst part of the whole situation has been the total and abysmal failure of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Had it played the part of a responsible and effective opposition, New Delhi would not have dared to do what it has done to promote the likes of Wajahat Habibullah who continue the unfinished task of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his ilk. But when the BJP, including its parent RSS, is unable to checkmate the towering ambitions of its Jinnah-loving leaders, this too, is no surprise.


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research

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