The purpose of this paper is to identify the structural faultlines in the report on Jammu and Kashmir that the Group of Interlocutors has submitted to the Government of India. Written in carefully chosen words, the report has a hidden agenda. A detailed exposition of the recommendations envisaged by the report as well as its hidden agenda will be the subject of a subsequent paper.
The broad theoretical framework within which the interlocutors conducted their investigations has been laid out by them in accordance with an ingeniously devised methodological plan. Thus, they have carried out investigations to collect data and facts about the conflict in J&K on the basis of what they call “public perceptions”. They used these ‘public perceptions’ to evolve a set of generalizations which they claim reflect the reality of the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Proceeding further, on the basis of these generalizations they have fabricated a theoretical construct which they have described in their report, and which they claim provides insight into the content and contours of the conflict in the State.
The report reads: “The contents of this report are primarily the outcome of the Group’s interaction with more than 700 delegations held in all twenty two districts of Jammu and Kashmir and the three Round Table Conferences (RTCs) we organized since our appointment on 13 October 2010. The delegations represented the political parties at the State and local levels, civil society groups engaged in the protection of human rights, development and good governance, students’ bodies, academic fraternity, associations of Lawyers, community organisations, trade unions, religious establishments, community organisations of specific ethnic groups and people uprooted from their homes due to war or endemic violence, newly elected Panchayat members, the heads of the police, the Para-military forces and the Army.”
The report adds, “Additionally, we have held around twenty meetings (the 3000 strong public meetings at Langate, 600 strong public meeting at Kathua and 500 strong public meeting at Kupwara). Among the more influential community leaders, we met clerics, traders and worker’s associations, women groups, media and welfare organisation. Lastly, but in many ways most importantly, we have met members of armed groups in prison, families of those killed in 2010, parents of the disappeared, the victims of militancy and human rights abuse.”
The report does not specify how wide the spectrum of the investigation carried out by the interlocutors was, and how closely it represented the people of the State. Nor has the report provided any information of how they sifted and collated the data and facts collected by them. But the whole description the report provides of the delegations and people that the Interlocutors met leaves no one in doubt that the Interlocutors did not follow any scientific and systematic procedure in their investigations and were either unable to reach the people of the State or unwilling to reach them.
How do the “700 delegations of community representatives comprising 6000 people” the Interlocutors heard reflect the opinion of over one crore people inhabiting the State? Who among the people of the State constituted the 700 delegations in a situation where nearly half the people in J&K are caught in a siege, nearly a quarter are smoldering in displacement in refugee camps, and the rest are staggering under the fear of terrorism and religious war? Understandably, the delegations of the political parties, ethnic groups, women’s organisations and even clerics could claim representative character. But who did the association of lawyers, journalists and businessmen, trade unions and religious establishments, student bodies and other interest groups represent? Who did the NGOs with their dubious antecedents and the non-descript entities such as “civil society” represent in the State?
The Interlocutors should have known that society in J&K is traditionally stratified and sharply divided and because of being conflict-ridden, more fractured than society elsewhere in India. Why did the Interlocutors refuse to make use of new techniques of stratified sampling to reach the lowest and the last of the sections of the people in the state, the sections cut off and alienated, the sections dispossessed and deprived? The Interlocutors went from door to door to beseech the Muslim separatist flanks, the so-called moderates, the extremists, and even the militants among them, to talk to them. They went to meet the terrorists, whom they describe in their report as “the members of the armed groups”, in Jails, wherever they were lodged.
But they did not care to contact the veterans who lead the resistance against Muslim separatism, secessionism and militancy in the State, and who were abandoned by the nation they had fought for. Not to speak of going to meet the families of those killed by the terrorists, thousands in number. The report makes no mention of terrorism, which has upturned the whole community of Hindus in Kashmir.
The truth is that the universe of enquiry was laid out for the interlocutors by people who were commissioned to do so. Interlocutors were either told what they wanted to hear or what they were instructed to hear. The Round Table Conferences and public meetings in which the Interlocutors participated were organized by district officials. None of the Interlocutors had any knowledge of local languages, mainly Kashmiri and Dogri. Both Langate and Kupwara, where the public meetings were held, in which the interlocutors participated, are highly sensitive places in Kashmir and known major centers of separatist activity. How did the Interlocutors, or those who arranged the meeting for them, believe that any of the participants would dare to open his mouth to make a clean breast of what was on his mind, in the atmosphere of suspicion and fear in which the meeting was held?
The practice of organizing roadside meetings, such as held at Langate and in Kupwara, is old and common in Kashmir. Most of such meetings have always been stage-managed and conducted according to script. The Round Table conferences, which the report refers to, were officially organized as they have always been, and were conducted with official patronage and considerable preparations to ensure that their deliberations were conducted in accordance with the procedure laid down for them.
The interlocutors have not followed any standard techniques in sifting, collating and interpreting the data and information they have received in their public interaction. The report reflects a disconnect between the inferences drawn by the Interlocutors and the actual events which have taken place in the State. A content analysis of the report reveals that a) the information received by the Interlocutors have not been authenticated; b) the information which was monitored was not sifted out and c) standard and generally accepted norms and techniques of the interpretation of the data and facts were not followed.
An inbuilt prejudice and a desire to arrive at conclusions which correspond to pre-conceived notions have visibly underlined the procedure the Interlocutors followed in sifting and collating the data and information they received. In the interpretation of the data as well, bias appears to have played a major role.
Recasting of Reality
The Interlocutors have identified the core issues comprising the aspirations of the people of the State on the basis of “public perceptions”. The interlocutors describe the core issues as: a) “the redressal of past, a sense of historical grievance”; b) “current daily life harassment”; c) “longing to envision future that connects them to opportunities of a globalizing India”; d) “violation of human rights and freedoms by the security forces”; d) “corruption and failure to deliver”; e) “moral and social degradation”.
To these core issues the Interlocutors have added a “larger political issue” which they believe is central to all other core issues, which they describe as follows, “All these issues (the core issues) are tied in ‘public perception’ to the larger political issue of Jammu and Kashmir’s status and relation to the Indian Union, with many if not all failures of the State administration being laid at New Delhi’s door.”
What the Interlocutors have subtly suggested is that the root causes of this conflict in J&K lie in Indian mismanagement in J&K; erosion of autonomy the people of the State were ensured by provisions of Article 370; violation of human rights and freedoms by Indian security forces; and a past which awaits redressal and which has created “a sense of historical grievances” among the people of the State.
The Interlocutors have not stopped here. They have attempted to change the whole contextual framework of the conflict of the State by recreating a set of new categories of political reality. Thus they have redefined the Muslim distrust in J&K against India as the “sense of victimhood prevalent in Kashmir valley”. And they have redefined the fundamentalisation of Muslim society in J&K as “religious extremism”. Proceeding further, they have redefined the use of force and intimidation by the militarized Muslim separatist flanks to enforce compliance as “threats to the religious, linguistic and cultural identity of all communities”, and “social structures and policies that are detrimental to disadvantaged social groups, minorities and women”. They have redefined the claim to precedence of the Muslim majority in the government, economic organisation, and society of the State, and the staggering phenomenon of its enforcement by successive State Governments as “majoritarian conceits’.
Further ahead, the Interlocutors have redefined genocide of the Hindus in Kashmir and the Exodus forced upon them and the Hindus of Muslim majority areas of Jammu province in 1990 and the years that followed, as the “kind of intimidation and violence that compel people to flee their habitat”. They have redefined the resistance offered by the Hindus, the other minorities and other patriotic forces to Muslim separatism and militancy as “ethnic chauvinism”. Likewise they have redefined the protest and resilience offered by the people of Jammu and Ladakh against the discrimination meted out to them as “regional chauvinism”. Most interestingly, the Interlocutors have characterized both “ethnic chauvinism” as well as “regional chauvinism” as a challenge to “communal and regional harmony” in the State.
The most intriguing aspect of this redefining of reality undertaken by the Interlocutors is that they have left the new categories they themselves have created as totally unaddressed. They have made no recommendations about the issues which they have taken pains to identify as the ‘perceptions’ of the public.
Viewed in the light of inferences drawn by the Interlocutors, the demand for separate freedom by the Muslim separatist movements in J&K assumes new historical significance. The whole separatist struggle in J&K becomes a part of the conflict which is endemic to the State and society in India. In simpler terms, the interlocutors have sought to suggest that the Muslim unrest which has ravaged the State for the last six decades of Indian freedom – the struggle for self-determination the All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front spearheaded for more than two decades from 1953 to 1975 when the Indira-Abdullah Accord was concluded; the virulent Muslim separatist movement which grew along with the fundamentalisation of Muslim society in the State in the aftermath of the Accord and the armed struggle for the liberation of the State from India which commenced in the State in 1990 – formed a part of the conflict which the society and State in India generated.
The British claimed that they ruled India because conflict is endemic to this nation. While leaving, they cried hoarse that they had divided India and created the Muslim power of Pakistan because they had not been able to end the conflict in Indian society and nation. The Interlocutors have endorsed the claims of the British colonial rulers. The report reads, “This accounts for the political demands ranging from Azadi and the establishment of an Islamic State, to autonomy, self-rule, achievable nationhood and such other alternatives. At the heart of all these dirges, however, is the sentiment that the woes of Kashmir are due to the emasculation of the substance of its distinctive status enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India.”
Selectivity in dealing with Article 370
The Report revolves round the provisions envisaged by Article 370 of the Constitution of India. But it does not make any mention of the blackmail and betrayal which drove Indian leaders to accept the inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution. Nor does the report refer to the incalculable harm which the exclusion of the State from the Constitutional organisation of India that Article 370 envisaged, did to the evolution of democratic institutions in J&K. The report also does not refer to the widespread deprivation of the people of the State of their fundamental rights and freedoms which the Constitution of India secured for all people in the country.
The interlocutors have very craftily placed the whole process of inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution out of its historical context. They have made no reference to the political impact it had on the evolution of Center-State relations, and out of their premeditated design came to the nebulous stage of ‘1952 position’. The truth is that in 1952, the State remained completely out of the constitutional organisation of India, a position that continued till 1954.
The report does not refer to the two successive Interim Governments, the first headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and the second by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, which ruled the State by decree and ordinance for more than ten years, from 1947 to 1957. The report is silent about the policy of the two Interim Governments, later followed by successive State Governments, to enforce the precedence of the Muslim majority in the government, economic organisation, and society of the State. There is hardly any mention in the report of the political isolation and economic deprivation to which Hindus and other minorities (Sikhs and Buddhists) and the socially marginalized and depressed sections of the Muslim society were subjected to.
Ignoring the Objective Reality
Behind the façade of the perceived reality, the Interlocutors have conjured on the basis of “public perceptions” that there is an objective reality - the ugly truth of the conflict in J&K. The first aspect of the objective reality of conflict in Kashmir is that nearly half of the State is under the occupation of Pakistan, including a part of Kashmir province, a part of Jammu province, and Gilgit Baltistan region of the erstwhile Frontier Division of Ladakh, along with a number of Dardic tribal Chieftainships which formed the dependencies of the State lying across the territories situated around Gilgit.
The occupied territories given the name ‘Azad Kashmir’ form part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and are governed in accordance with the precept and precedent of Islam as the rest of Pakistan is. The people in the occupied territories are regimented in their outlook like the rest of the people in Pakistan. Muslims in the occupied territories are ideologically as committed to the unification of the whole state with the Muslim homeland of Pakistan and its integration with the Islamic order of the society, as the people of Pakistan are.
Immediately after the invasion, the occupied territories of the State were converted into a springboard for action to liberate J&K State from the Indian hold. Since then, the occupied territories have formed the mainland from where the campaign of subversion has been carried on by Pakistan inside the State. Over the years, the occupied territories of the State have become an all-important operational base for waging Jihad in J&K to bring about its unification with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The core centers of the military command which carry on the religious war in the State, the operational centers of the intelligence network and the propaganda agencies actively engaged in subversive activities, and the command centers of the Jihadi war groups, their training camps and operational headquarters, are all based in occupied territories.
Gilgit Baltistan and the Dardic dependencies were separated from the occupied territories and reorganized into a separate political organisation called Northern Areas. The Dardic Dependencies, particularly the Chieftainships of Hunza, Nagar, Punial, Yasin, Ishkoman, Darel and Koh-Gizir which sprawled across the strategic regions east of the borders of Pakistan in the close vicinity of Wakhan Valley of Afghanistan, formed the crucial feature of the configuration of power along the Himalayas in the post-war world.
During the Cold War, the Northern Areas were fortified into the most formidable military outposts of the Anglo-American-Pakistan alliance in Asia. They assumed fresh importance during the war in Afghanistan, which eventually lead to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The whole region has now been converted into a new strategic ground. While the British, Americans and Chinese are jostling to enter Central Asia, Pakistan is looking eastwards seeking a way forward to extend its power into Jammu and Kashmir and reach the Shivalik plains spreading west of the river Ravi.
The second aspect of the objective reality of the conflict is the part of Jammu and Kashmir on the Indian side of the Line of control. This area is the “Himalayan Battleground” where three wars and the battle of Kargil have been fought and where a long war of subversion continues to be fought for the last six decades. The campaign of subversion is waged across the Line of Control from the occupied territories and it has virtually held the State in a state of siege for almost half a century. The campaign of subversion aims to a) undermine the institutional framework of the government and administration of the State; b) disrupt the intercommunity communication to foment communal distrust and conflict; c) use religious propaganda to regimentalise the outlook of the Muslim community in the State.
The third part of the objective reality of the conflict in J&K is the virulent Muslim separatist movement which has been in progress in various forms from time to time. From 1947 to 1953, the Muslim separatist movement was confined to the cadres of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference and the sections of Muslims which did not support accession of the State to India. The Muslim Conference spearheaded the Muslim movement for Pakistan in the State and received its main support from the non-Kashmiri speaking Muslims in Jammu province and the border districts of Kashmir province.
The Muslim separatist movement assumed a more virulent and widespread expression with the disintegration of the National Conference and dismissal of the Interim Government in 1953. A large section of the National Conference leaders which advocated a reconsideration of the Conference commitment to the accession of the State to India formed the All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front and launched a state-wide agitation for the self-determination of the Muslims of the State.
The struggle for self-determination continued till 1975 when the Indira-Abdullah Accord was concluded, the movement for self-determination called off and the Plebiscite Front reconverted into National Conference. The Indira-Abdullah Accord did not bring the Muslim separatist movement in the State to a close. After the dissolution of the Front, the leadership of the Muslim separatist movement was assumed by the new generation of educated Muslim youth which had grown under the shadows of the struggle for self-determination. The Islamic revolution in Pakistan changed the entire content and direction of Muslim separatism in the State. The acceptance of Pan-Islamic fundamentalism as the basis of unification of Ummah that the Islamic revolution advocated, imparted a new ideological commitment to the Muslim separatist movement which transcended narrowly local loyalties which the struggle for self-determination hitherto professed.
With the onset of Jihad in Kashmir in 1990, the Muslim separatist movement in the State merged with the armed struggle for liberation from Indian occupation. In fact, the Muslim separatist movement gave the jihad in Kashmir an expression of a mass upheaval. As the Jihad settled down to technical terrorism, the separatist movement settled down to an auxiliary flank of the Jihad. To give itself a pronounced expression in the struggle for freedom of the Muslims in Kashmir, it established itself in the form of an over-ground leadership as the All Party Hurriyat Conference. The Hurriyat Conference is now divided into two main factions, one led by the more puritan Muslim leadership including Jama-i-Islami and the other led by the traditional Ittiquadi Muslim leadership. Both factions of Hurriyat Conference have played a major role in giving the Muslim separatist movement a continuity which it lost when it joined the Jihad.
The fourth part of the objective reality of the conflict in Kashmir is the Islamic Jihad itself, which Pakistan, the jihadi war groups and the militarized Muslim separatist flanks are waging in the State for the last 22 years. The Jihad is the continuation of the Muslim struggle for the separate Muslim Homeland to complete the agenda of Partition by securing the Muslim majority State of J&K for the Muslim state of Pakistan. For more than two decades, J&K State is an active theatre of war, where a new form of religious war is being fought, which combines in itself, military combat, guerrilla warfare and international terrorism. The jihad seeks to achieve several military, political and tactical objectives simultaneously: a) displacement of Indian Army from its positions in J&K; b) demolition of all resistance to Jihad in the State; c) ethnic extermination of the Hindus; and d) suppression of all dissent in Muslim society in the State.
The fifth part of the objective reality of the conflict in Kashmir is the ethnic extermination of the Hindus and other ethnic minorities, Sikhs and Buddhists, which took place in 1947 and continued thereafter, and the genocide of Hindus which has been in progress for the last 22 years. In 1947, while the India-Pakistan hostilities in J&K continued, nearly 40,000 Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists were massacred in Jammu, Kashmir and the Frontier Division of Ladakh by the invading army. More than 10000 of their women were abducted. The rest of the Hindu and Sikh population living in the occupied territories of J&K were driven out to take refuge in Jammu province. The Buddhist minority in Baltistan and Ladakh were driven out to take refuge in Ladakh. The Hindu and Sikh refugees, now nearly a million people, are living in the province of Jammu still awaiting rehabilitation. Among the Hindu and Sikh refugees living in Jammu are more than 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs of erstwhile west Punjab, who continue to remain as stateless persons because they are still waiting to be granted the citizenship of the State of J&K, though they were given asylum by the State Government under the prevailing rules and regulations.
In 1990, forty years after the invasion of the State, nearly 1000 Hindus were killed in the terrorist violence in Kashmir. The rest of the Hindu population of Kashmir province was driven out to take refuge in Jammu and other parts of India. About half a million people, the Hindus of Kashmir, are living in improvised encampments in Jammu and other parts of India for the last 22 years, abandoned and neglected. According to the assessment of the local doctors published in Indian news journals in Jammu and other parts of India, a large number of the Hindu men, women and children died in the first two years of exile due to undernourishment and poverty, exposure to climatic variation and environmental hazards, and last but not the least, the lack of health care facilities.
The exodus forced upon the Hindus of Kashmir by the terrorist violence has deprived them of their means of livelihood, their homes and their property. In 1993, the Minister of State for Home Affairs in the Government of India stated in the Indian Parliament that 13 temples were demolished and damaged in 1989, 9 temples were demolished in 1990 and 16 temples were demolished and damaged in 1991. Seventeen temples were demolished and damaged in Kashmir valley in the wake of the demolition of the Babri structure in Ayodhya. Referring to the destruction of temples, the White Paper on Kashmir written by the human rights committee of the Kashmiri Hindu community, notes, “the destruction of the temples and religious institutions was evidently aimed to destroy the Hindu religious tradition and culture and pave way for the total Islamisation of Kashmir. The militant organisations followed a systematic policy to uproot the Hindus from Kashmir economically and socially and break their resolve to return home.”
While terrorist violence continued to take a heavy toll of the lives of Hindus who stayed behind in Kashmir after the upheaval of 1990, it took a heavier toll of Hindus in Jammu province after it spread in its length and breadth. The genocide of Hindus is the most glaring part of the objective reality of the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. So is the sprawling mass of 1.5 million Hindu and Sikh refugees in exile in Jammu, unclaimed by the State to which they belong. Genocide of Hindus and other minorities in the State is not a baggage of history of J&K which the Interlocutors wanted to avoid. Nor are 1.5 million Hindu and Sikh refugees living in Jammu a baggage of history. They are a very visible part of the conflict in the State. The Interlocutors have refused to see them, but that does not mean that their future and freedom is not as sacrosanct as the future and freedom of Muslims in the State.
The Interlocutors’ attempt to internalize the conflict in Kashmir and lay the blame for what is happening there at the door of the people of India is the primary thrust of the report. The internalization of the conflict in the State is a tradition inherited by the Indian political class from its colonial past. The conflict in J&K is far too serious to be trivialized the way the Interlocutors have done. It poses a serious threat to the unity of India and the commitment of the Indian people to secularism.
Pakistan is an ideological state. It is waging an ideological war in Jammu and Kashmir, in the many forms it has chosen so far. The Muslim separatist movement in the State is also ideological in its content and character. Any compromise with Muslim fundamentalism and separatism in the State will lead the country straight to a second partition. The report seeks to place the State as far away from the Indian Union and as close to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as the Muslims want it to be.
Prof MK Teng is Political Adviser, Panun Kashmir, and retired Professor & Head of the Political Science Department, Kashmir University, Srinagar
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