J&K: Implications of all party meet resolution
by Hari Om on 17 Jul 2010 14 Comments

After a 4-hour long meeting on July 12 in the state’s summer capital, Srinagar, the all-party meet convened and chaired by beleaguered Chief Minister Omar Abdullah came out with a six-point resolution which The CM released to the Press. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), which together have 25 MLAs in the Assembly, did not attend the meeting, saying nothing positive would emerge out of it as the Chief Minister had vitiated Kashmir’s political scene to the point that only his resignation could restore the people’s confidence in the state apparatus. The PDP and JKNPP, which maintain cordial relations, have seen in the crisis an invaluable opportunity to settle scores with the National Conference (NC) and recapture political power.


The most controversial points, which are sure to encourage the separatists to heighten their anti-India activities, were two. One was the decision of the all-party meet to “ascertain the circumstances leading to the death of civilians.” This decision was consistent with what the PDP and several supporters of the Kashmiri separatists, including the human rights industry-wallahs, stood for and advocated.


Mercifully, the BJP dissociated itself from this part of the resolution. Its national general secretary Arun Jaitley declared on July 13 in Delhi that the “BJP is not party to this part of the resolution and, at the same time, assured the NC-led government of his party’s unstinted support that it would help it restore peace in the troubled-Kashmir - trouble, according to him, being fomented by Pakistan agencies under a “well-crafted strategy supported by local separatists.” Mr Omar Abdullah also declared that the “BJP is not party to this part of the resolution.”


The second controversial point was the decision that “urged the state government to strengthen the ongoing peace process (between India and Pakistan) through internal and external dialogue.” The BJP, which consistently says it considers Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India, was in complete accord. In other words, the BJP made common cause with the NC and Congress and endorsed the official view that Jammu and Kashmir is not a settled issue, and that Pakistan has to be taken on board if peace is to return to Kashmir, or even South Asia.


That the local BJP extended support to this highly controversial, unwarranted, part of the resolution suggests that local BJP leaders and their masters in New Delhi consider, just like the NC and other Kashmir-based outfits and separatists organizations, that the aggressor Pakistan is an important factor in the political situation of Indian Jammu & Kashmir; and that BJP is not averse to the idea of compromising Indian sovereignty in the state, which acceded to India in October 1947 in terms of the constitutional law on the subject.


Surprisingly, but interestingly, while Congress seems to be talking tough, the BJP still says that the issues between India and Pakistan could be resolved within the framework of “Insaniyat” (whatever that means). BJP conveniently overlooks the fact that Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists and extremists want to destroy the sovereignty of India in J&K, and do not want reforms in the dispensation as it exists today in Kashmir and New Delhi. They want a dispensation outside India/merger of J&K with Pakistan/a new sovereign state. It may be underlined that Congress declared on the eve of the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks that Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s three-day (July 14-16) visit to Islamabad could turn out to be the last initiative on the part of India in case Islamabad fails to show credible results on the ground or fails to address Indian concerns.   


The people of Jammu province as well as others, who consider the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India as legal, complete, irrevocable and non-negotiable, have taken note of what the BJP did during the all-party meet. They are feeling aghast and doubting the very credentials of the party that claims day in and day out that it has fought for the state’s closer ties with New Delhi and continues to do so even today. By becoming a party to this part of the resolution, the BJP has virtually helped the NC and similar outfits to unsettle a settled issue. The BJP will have to pay a very heavy price for this; the people of Jammu and others expected the party to fight tooth and nail against all moves aimed at giving legitimacy to the politics of communalism and separatism.


The PDP, whose single-point agenda has been to destabilize the Omar Abdullah-led government and tarnish its image in the eyes of the people, especially Kashmiri Muslims; the separatist outfits and their supporters in different parts of India, including human rights-wallahs who have no love lost for India and behave like mercenaries, must be feeling jubilant. The six-point resolution not only talked about an “impartial inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of civilians” and “peace process” (with Pakistan) through “internal and external dialogue”, but did not say anything against those who took the law of the land into their hands for days together, attacked the symbols of the Indian state, challenged the very sovereignty of India, dotted Kashmir’s political scene with innumerable violent incidents, attacked the security forces and created a serious law and order problem. 


They must be feeling satisfied that they have succeeded in putting the Chief Minister on the mat by creating an environment that unnerved him and forced him to request New Delhi to deploy the Army in the affected areas of the Kashmir Valley to help restore calm. Army deployment after a span of fifteen years sent a message across the world that the situation in Kashmir was beyond control and that the people were not with India.


New Delhi should have rejected outright the demand of the Chief Minister, who, like the PDP and Kashmiri separatists, had opposed and criticized the institution of the Army and CRPF, overlooking the fact that as Chief Minister he had presided over the Unified Command meetings where all kinds of security-related decisions had been taken from time to time. By not rejecting Omar Abdullah’s demand, New Delhi walked into the trap laid by vested interests and anti-India forces. New Delhi should have spurned Abdullah because the Chief Minister, instead of defending the institution of the Army and paramilitary forces, repeatedly questioned their actions.                


As previously mentioned, the resolution of the all-party meeting urged the “state government and the Centre” to “act upon the two main suggestions (an independent inquiry and peace process, coupled with internal and external dialogue,) that emerged during the meeting. This means the resolution has (i) urged the Union Government to not only engage in a meaningful manner Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists to clinch the Kashmir issue in a manner that satisfies them, and (2) talked of an inquiry directed against the security forces involved in anti-insurgency operations.


These two highly controversial and separatist-friendly suggestions, if given effect to, would automatically and immediately mean – (1) demoralization of the security forces, which may give an upper hand to our reckless political class and (2) major concessions to Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists at the cost of the Indian nation, Indian sovereignty and Indian unity and integrity, and even at the cost of the values our political leaders profess to espouse.    


Thus, the message from an otherwise divided and fragmented Srinagar is loud and clear: The ball is in New Delhi’s court. It is for New Delhi to create an atmosphere that induces the separatists and other unruly groups, plus the stone-throwing hooligans and paid workers, to help restore peace in Kashmir. The state government has washed its hands off, nowhere accepting responsibility for what happened in Kashmir during the past about 25 days. It has nowhere suggested that the state government allowed the situation to deteriorate day by day, thus enabling anti-national forces to regroup and mobilize disgruntled elements, including unemployed youth, hooligans and drug addicts, to disturb and bloody the whole Valley. 


Can New Delhi vouch for what the all-party meeting resolution suggested? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because the Home Minister has indicated that the Union Government could take a “political initiative” after the “cycle of violence comes to an end.” This suggests that the Union Government is not averse to the idea of engaging the Kashmiri separatists. This happened during the BJP-led NDA regime twice, and it can happen now as well.


No, because it is not possible for the Union Government to accept the demands being put forth from time to time by the Kashmiri separatists, leave aside Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who would not accept anything short of Pakistan. Not because there is none in the Indian political establishment who is prepared to do what the all-party meet resolution wants; there are elements in the Indian political establishment who are willing to go even beyond.


Their problem is Indian public opinion, which is against the idea of New Delhi giving any concessions either to the Kashmiri separatists or to Islamabad. Indian public opinion does not even favour of the idea of the state getting more autonomy or self-rule because it believes this would not only negate the very Constitution of India, but would empower the “sectarian and separatist” leadership in Kashmir to further jeopardize the general political and economic rights and interests of the non-Muslim Muslim minorities in the state.


The manner in which the July 15 Islamabad talks between Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi collapsed because of the firm Indian stand on Kashmir, infiltration from across the border, and action on Hafiz Saeed and others (read ISI) who masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, indicates the impact of Indian public opinion on our foreign policy. It is for the first time in years that Pakistan was put on the defensive and India appeared somewhat determined and assertive. This augurs well for the nation, though Krishna’s failure to rebut the criticism of Home Secretary G.K. Pillai was unfortunate.  


Yet another problem of the protagonists of major concessions to Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists based in New Delhi is the Army, and the presence of certain elements in the Indian political establishment who are against the idea of certain political bosses in the capital giving any concession to Pakistan and the Kashmiri fundamentalists. So, it can be said with some degree of confidence, it would be very difficult for Delhi-based votaries of concessions to Kashmir and Pakistan to ignore Indian public opinion and bypass the opposition of the Army and other elements in the political establishment, who want New Delhi to act tough.


The Chief Minister, in particular, would do well not to play with fire. Instead of yielding and putting forth unacceptable demands, he should reform himself and assert. He needs to wrest the initiative and tell protestors, whosoever they are, to behave and see reason or be prepared for stern action. He cannot pass the buck. Such an approach would not work because J&K is not an easy state. It would create more problems than resolve existing ones if one adopts the approach the all-party meet adopted. 


What had aggravated the situation in Kashmir? What helped Islamabad and Islamabad-supported and funded Lashkar-e-Taiba, United Jihad Council, Hizbul Mujahideen, All-Party Huriyat Conference (Mirwaiz) and Tehrik-e-Hurriyat of Syed Ali Shah Geelani stoke more fire in the Valley? What was the response of New Delhi and the Jammu & Kashmir Government to what the anti-national forces, including Pakistani-inspired stone-throwing hooligans, did to vitiate the atmosphere in Kashmir? What did the opposition PDP do to further complicate the already complicated situation in the sensitive state?


What aggravated the situation in Kashmir was the politics of competitive communalism by the two Kashmir-based mainstream (sic) political outfits, NC and PDP. The PDP, which was in a state of shock since it handed over the office of Chief Minister to Congress in November 2005, consistently put forth demands which were not only brazenly anti-India, anti-Army, anti-CRPF and anti-Armed Forces Special Powers Act, but also patently pro-Pakistan, pro-separatist, pro-terrorist and pro-stone throwing unruly mobs.


It was expected that the NC-led government would behave like a responsible government and take on the PDP and all outfits who tried to foment anti-India and anti-state government troubles. What happened was to the contrary. The NC leadership thought it prudent to walk into the dangerous trap meticulously laid by the canny PDP. Instead of countering the insidious propaganda and baneful influence of the main opposition party, the ruling NC tried to take a more radical stand on each and every issue the PDP raked up, thus making it extremely difficult for people to distinguish between the two, and enabling Pakistan and Pakistan-backed agents in Kashmir to exploit the situation to the extent possible.


The ruling party, like the opposition PDP, which was constitutionally bound to defend the Indian Constitution, the Army and other Indian institutions, adopted a line that created difficulties for the state government itself. One fine day, the Chief Minister publicly warned the stone-pelting force to behave failing which action would be taken against them. But soon he changed his stand and came out with a rehabilitation package for the stone-pelting boys, sending a wrong signal and promoting the cult of stone. The state government thus walked into the PDP’s trap, facilitating the task of Kashmiri extremists and their master, Pakistan.


It was expected that the Congress, a national party with stakes all over the country, would behave maturely and apply brakes whenever required. But its Kashmir-based leaders, particularly the state president, adopted a soft approach towards the troublemakers and on many occasions spoke the language of the PDP. His was a line consistent with what the NC and PDP had been pursuing religiously and relentlessly for quite some time. The result was that there remained none in troubled-Kashmir who could say what was right and what was wrong.


As for New Delhi, it did not act when it should have. Instead, it issued statements from time to time indicating that policy-makers in the Centre, rulers in Kashmir, and the main opposition PDP, were one as far as their approach to Jammu & Kashmir was concerned. Each one of them created an impression that the revival of the democratic process in the state and resolution of the so-called Kashmir problem were two different things.


New Delhi did not even once make it clear that it would not allow anyone to tinker with Indian sovereignty in Kashmir and that it would not allow anyone in Kashmir to speak a single word against the Indian Constitution and other Indian institutions. Instead, it talked of quiet diplomacy, unique solution to the Kashmir problem, amendments in the AFSPA, lowering of guard in terrorist-infested Kashmir, dialogue with Kashmiri separatists, and peace process with Pakistan. That Delhi’s approach would create additional complications was evident, and it happened. New Delhi acted when it was too late, when vested interests and anti-India forces had already set ablaze the whole Kashmir Valley.


No wonder that the situation has assumed alarming proportions, far worse than what we witnessed during 1989-1990. Keen Kashmir-watchers describe the present situation as most dangerous, and say that the entire political class in the Kashmir Valley is responsible for what happened during the past 25 dreadful days and that it would take years and years for things to stabilize, subject to the condition that the ruling party in the state and New Delhi does not make any political statement that has international ramifications and directly or indirectly promotes communalism, secessionism and extremism in Kashmir.


It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the authorities in the state and at the Centre are not likely to learn lessons from their past mistakes. The Chief Minister’s July 9 statement that the “stone-pelting incidents and strikes in the Valley are ‘symptoms’ of a wider problem’’ and that “there is a problem in Jammu & Kashmir that needs to be resolved,” and the report that New Delhi would take the political initiative to win over the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people (read Muslims) and engage what certain elements in New Delhi call “moderates like the Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik,” to find out ways and means to resolve the Kashmir issue, indicate that neither the NC nor New Delhi would ever learn. The statement by Union Minister and NC president, Farooq Abdullah, in Delhi on July 10 that New Delhi must talk to the separatists as this was the only course left to restore peace in Kashmir also indicates that he and his party have learnt nothing.    


Here lies the basic problem. The Indian State is unwilling to move against the jihadis. Unless the authorities categorically say that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and that they shall not allow the politics of communalism and separatism to grow in Kashmir, there is no possibility a return to normalcy. The authorities have to act and comprehensively defeat the negative forces and jihadis at any cost. At the same time, they have to take on board those who have been holding the Indian flag in the state, braving all odds. They are in a majority and they include the people of Jammu and Ladakh and the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus. They are Indians in the true sense of the term and hence the only stakeholders in the state.           


New Delhi must reject outright the all-party resolution as it is fraught with dangerous consequences. It must make it loud and clear that Kashmir is not Jammu & Kashmir and that it would introduce only such reforms that can integrate the state fully into India, and empower the grossly ignored Jammu and Ladakh and satisfy all patriotic people of Kashmir, including internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus. It must reject outright the suggestion that “a calibrated demilitarization of the state, as the situation improves, is also called for.”


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

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