J&K: Azadi, Autonomy, Pakistan are one and the same
by Ajay Chrungoo on 30 Sep 2010 14 Comments

At the Muthi refugee camp in Jammu, a refugee-activist Bhushan Lal folded his hands before Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and asked a simple question: ‘Sir, when a not very educated person like me can understand that Azadi, Autonomy and Pakistan are all one and the same, why does this realisation elude such knowledgeable persons like you?’


The all-party delegation to Jammu & Kashmir maintained an embarrassed silence. Bhushan Lal then escorted them around the camp, showing the pathetic conditions in which Pandits driven out of the Kashmir Valley two decades ago, continued to live even after two long decades. Successive governments had failed to provide even basic human necessities, on the specious plea that this would give the refugees a stake in remaining in the camps, and not returning to the Valley when the State Government desired to show the international community that it had achieved the return of the exiled community. Inspecting one of the one-room tenements, CPI-M MP Sitaram Yechury asked: ‘what, is there no bathroom here?’


Pointing to a photograph on the wall, Bhushan Lal said: ‘Sir, when the Prime Minister came here two years ago, he promised this Mataji a two-room apartment with an attached toilet; but Mataji is now a photo on the wall (deceased) and there is still no toilet.’


Some migrants broke down and wept at the plight they had been reduced to – rendered homeless, hopeless, invisible and voiceless in their own land by the pitiless intolerance of Islamic resurgence in the Valley, coupled with the mindless obeisance of secular India to Islamic intransigence. They told the delegation that they were utterly in despair in the land of their birth, in the civilisational frontier they had struggled so zealously to preserve despite the vicissitudes of centuries.  


If the plight of the migrants was sad, the local Hindus of Jammu, and the Kashmiri Hindus who had managed to rehabilitate themselves in Jammu, fared no better. As has been noted by other writers as well, the delegation found no time for the miniscule Hindu community in the Valley (just 2500 persons in all); the beleaguered Sikh community in the Valley or in Jammu city; the Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Occupied Kashmir who came in 1947, in 1948, in 1965 and 1971, and have been denied statehood and many basic human rights in the State.


Even organised Hindu groups like Panun Kashmir were initially ignored, and it was only after the national print and electronic media began flashing the news that minorities were being ignored by the delegation that – perhaps at a nudge from New Delhi - we were told that we would be heard late at night on Sept. 21, 2010. After some deliberation, a four member delegation comprising Dr. Agnishekhar, Sh. Shailendra Aima, Sh. Sanjay Raina and Dr. Ajay Chrungoo met the visiting Parliamentarians to present an alternative paradigm to the MPs who had hitherto heard only one side of the story. 


We informed the all-party delegation that first and foremost, there was an urgent imperative that the Government of India appreciated the truth that there were two separate paradigms operating in the Kashmir Valley – one was that of the separatists and the other was that of the patriots. The Hindus of Kashmir comprised the patriotic constituency of India, but this section found its voice muffled and strangulated by those who had arms and violence at their command.

The Hindus of Kashmir, we told the parliamentarians, want desperately to live in a Union Territory located to the north and east of the Jhelum river, without the menace of Article 370, and under the full bounty of the Indian Constitution. It was high time, therefore, that the Government of India initiated a dialogue at the highest level with Panun Kashmir for the creation of a Union Territory in the Kashmir Valley for the resettlement of the four lakh exiled Kashmiris. 


This homeland (Panun Kashmir) was the only way to reverse the genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus in all the decades since independence, and particularly the gruesome killings, rapes and persecutions and threats that led to the mass Exodus in the bitter winter of 1990. This was also the only way to defeat the communalism and separatism that has destroyed the cultural pluralism that the separatists pretend still exists, while the Valley has been rendered unlivable for virtually all citizens.


In this context, we expressed our outrage and dismay over the manner in which a section of the all party delegation went out of its way to appease the separatist elements behind the vicious stone-pelting that is injuring the security forces and citizenry in the current unrest, and were also responsible for the genocide and religious cleansing of Hindus, which forced us out of our beloved vale. 


All the variants shades of separatism in the Kashmir Valley, we emphasised, are a negation of Indian secularism, of the Charter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and were, above all, destructive of the Fundamental Rights of all citizens. The separatist movement in Kashmir Valley is fundamentally regressive and must be deprived of liberal legitimacy if we are to retain a united India.


Unfortunately, Muslim separatism and communalism have not been challenged ideologically or politically by the Indian State, and this addled the thinking of the entire population. To begin with, the separatists have fed the people with historical distortions and outright lies, which have resulted in the handing over of Kashmiri Muslims, especially the youth, to Taliban-style indoctrination. 


What is important to remember is that Kashmir was never a Muslim preserve and always, through all the vicissitudes of its painful history, upheld the continuity and integrity of Indian civilization. Kheer Bhavani, Vaishno Devi, Raghunath Mandir, Amarnath, and the now lost Sharada Peeth, are proud symbols of a vibrant people who stood for the Sanskrit civilisation even when it was being beheaded in the hundreds and thousands. Legend says there was a time when there were only 11 Pandit families in Srinagar – so intense was the victimization of our people by an intolerant invading ethos. 


The demands for Greater Autonomy, Self Rule, Independence or merger with Pakistan are ideologically one and the same, and mutually complement each other. This needs to be understood in New Delhi so that the complementary relationship between these strands of separatism is decisively destroyed, or the space for democracy, equality and nation-building will never be created in Kashmir. 


Alienation in Kashmir is because, and only because, of the communalism ruling the roost over the minds of Kashmiri Muslims. It must be understood, we informed the parliamentarians, that it is a complete lie that the Indian State made and broke promises to the Muslims of Kashmir.


The truth is that the Partition of India envisaged partition of British India and not the Princely States, and this position was insisted upon by Jinnah and the Muslim League. Thus, when Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India, the Accession was full and final and unconditional, at par with the accession by other states, and not open to any mischief or debate.


It is true that Mr Jawaharlal Nehru did promise to elicit the opinion of the people of Jammu & Kashmir about the Accession following Pakistan’s challenging the same by force and by diplomacy at the United Nations, but this was subject to the basic condition that the invading forces would be totally withdrawn from Kashmir. As that condition was never fulfilled by Pakistan to this day, the corresponding condition cannot be executed unilaterally by India. This is poor logic, and bad in international law. 


Further, it may be recalled that the Indian government held a plebiscite in Junagarh, Gujarat, only after the Indian Government was fully in-charge of the area, and this same principle was to operate in Kashmir as well.


It must also be asserted forcefully that at the time of Accession, neither Nehru nor any other Indian leader gave any assurances to the National Conference leaders regarding the future constitutional structure of the State. Nor did any NC leader ask for any assurances for a special autonomous constitutional status for the State. Article 370 was a mistaken act of generosity on the part of the fledgling Republic, and needs to be undone, so that all citizens of Kashmir can enjoy unfettered Fundamental and other rights enjoyed by other Indian citizens and denied to Kashmiris precisely because of Article 370.


Panun Kashmir categorically asserted that no promises were made to Kashmiri Muslims by Government of India in 1952 when the Delhi Agreement was drawn up or when the Presidential Order of 1954 was proclaimed. There were no promises made in 1975 and no promises made afterwards. Hence the Government of India needed to clarify its position on the poison being fed to the populace by historical distortions of unfulfilled promises and not succumb to pressure to base its future policy towards J&K on such false premises.


The author is chairman, Panun Kashmir

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