Interlocutors, Kashmiri separatists & Maoists on same page
by Hari Om on 26 Oct 2010 25 Comments

It was not altogether unexpected that the newly-appointed interlocutors on J&K, Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar, would come to the rescue of the radical Islamist Syed Ali Shah Geelani and rabid Maoist Arundhati Roy, who openly preached and instigated sedition in the heart of the capital on October 21.


It was expected that they would try to browbeat the chicken-hearted and ambivalent custodians of the Indian State and urge them to let the secessionists go scot-free in the name of freedom to speech, saying India is a ‘mature democracy’ (whatever that means), and hence it should not feel concerned if freedom is (mis)used to preach treason and instigate open secession. 


It was expected that they, like the frustrated and desperate J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, protagonist of autonomous status for the state and division of Jammu province and Ladakh region on communal lines; former Chief Information Commissioner and J&K-cadre IAS officer Wajahat Habibullah; and well-known supporter of Maoists/Naxalites and Islamic zealots Prashant Bhushan; would defend to the hilt the rank separatists and communalists.


Yet it should alarm the Indian nation and make it sit up and decide whether the views propagated by Padgaonkar and Kumar are conducive to the survival of the Indian State. If New Delhi comes to the conclusion, as it surely must, that these views are contrary to the integrity of the nation, it must consider whether they conform to Wajahat Habibullah’s anti-India lobby (about which much has been written in the past, as readers of this website would be aware).


The Prime Minister, Home Minister, and the entire union cabinet must demand that the Padgaonkar-Kumar duo publicly condemn the views expressed by Geelani, Roy, Varavara Rao and others of their ilk in Delhi that day, or quit. Their continuation as interlocutors even for a day will cause grievous injury to the Indian nation – an injury that may be incurable for a long, long time.        


Padgaonkar and Kumar seem to subscribe to a school of thought that dismisses the Indian State as a banana republic and subverts the Indian State in the name of “justice” and under the guise of freedom to speech, with the help of elements within the establishment. The specious arguments they advanced to defend Geelani, Roy, Rao et al, who spewed venom on the Indian State and advocated independence for J&K under the very nose of the Union Government and its police force, to influence authorities in South and North Blocks, echoed the whines of Omar Abdullah, Wajahat Habibullah, Prashant Bhushan and Nidhi Razdan (NDTV).


First, the views of Habibullah and Bhushan in defence of Geelani-Roy & Co. Habibullah shamelessly told The Times of India on Friday: “We should not be afraid of the term azadi, especially if somebody is demanding greater azadi within India. But if somebody demands azadi from India, we should engage in a debate with them rather than take draconian action. Legalities apart, I would think that any attempt to take criminal action against Geelani and Roy for their speeches would be counterproductive as it would give the impression that we are afraid or vulnerable.’’

And the great promoter and defender of Maoists, Naxalites and Islamic terrorists, Prashant Bhushan said, to the same English language daily: “In any democracy, people should be free to discuss fundamental issues like whether the country needs to change its composition or should integrate with a larger entity eroding some of its sovereignty. India should be open to such discussions, especially in the context of Kashmir, as it has always been a special case of a disputed territory… There is no question of Roy and Geelani being liable to criminal proceedings for their speeches…”


Similarly, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah defended Geelani et al, saying India is a democratic country and everyone enjoys the fundamental right to say whatever he/she wants to say. He condemned the nationalists, mostly displaced Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs, who vociferously demonstrated at LTG Auditorium, where Geelani, Roy, Rao, SAR Gilani (of Parliament attack fame) and 200-odd separatists and extremists had gathered to unleash a break-India and hate-India campaign. Abdullah expressed these highly abominable views the same day and said the pro-India elements should not have been allowed entry into the Auditorium and allowed to do what they did, that is, disrupt the whole anti-India event and hold the national tri-colour high! Unsurprisingly, the Indian Police beat up the nationalists and booked around 70 of them!


Were the views expressed by Padgaonkar and Kumar any different from those aired by Habibullah and Bhushan? Not at all. Padgaonkar and Kumar told the Indian Express the same thing: “Our response should be that of a mature democracy. It should be based on cool reason and not the kind of emotional outbursts we witnessed yesterday… It is unfortunate that such a debate has started at a time when we are going to restart the peace process. In general, one should always exercise caution in such complicated political issues. More than caution, one should exercise vision... The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech but it also specifies what cannot be said as part of this right. If the authorities want to find out whether laws were broken, then they are entitled to do so… But it is in the larger interest if people express their views, no matter how extreme they are. That way, the public gets to know what they stand for and it is good.”


Padgaonkar in particular was aware that Article 19 of the Constitution, which deals with the right to freedom of speech and expression (sub-clause (a) of clause (1), clearly states that “nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India – Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment Act, 1963, sec. 2 -), security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence;” yet he defended Geelani, Roy and other rabidly anti-India separatists, thus establishing that the interlocutors are all out to make common cause with the Kashmiri separatists and extremists. The message was loud and clear.


It would be appropriate to refer briefly to what Geelani, Roy and SAR Gilani said in the LTG Auditorium to put matters in perspective. While Geelani demanded withdrawal of everything Indian from Kashmir and the right to secede, Roy said: “Kashmir should get azadi from bhooke-nange (hungry-naked) Hindustan… India needs azadi from Kashmir and Kashmir from India. It is a good debate that has started. We must deepen this conversation and I am happy that young people are getting involved for this cause, which is their future. Indian Government is a hollow super power and I disassociate with it… Earlier we used to talk about our head held high and now we lay prostrate to the US… Kashmiris have to decide whether they want to be with or get separated from bhooke-nange Hindustan… I am also aware of the stories about Kashmiri Pandits. I must tell you that Panun Kashmir is a false group.” SAR Gilani said: “The demand of Kashmir azadi not only meant the Kashmir Valley, but the entire Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.”


Such are the persons behind whom Padgaonkar and Kumar, Habibullah and Bhushan, stood solidly. As if this was not enough to cause alarm in the nationalist camp across the country, the interlocutors crossed all limits when they landed in Srinagar on October 23 and explained their mandate to reporters, saying,: “Pakistan’s involvement in any future dialogue on the political settlement of Kashmir dispute is a must… Pakistan has a role… There is a Pakistan dimension to Kashmir issue. It was there since 1947. We can’t find a comprehensive solution to Kashmir dispute without taking Pakistan on board. Prime Minister of India has recently stated that India was ready to move beyond half way to settle all issues with Pakistan… Their mandate is limited to finding a permanent, comprehensive and political settlement of the Kashmir dispute… Our primary focus will be to find out a comprehensive permanent solution to the Kashmir dispute… We would love to talk to youth especially students and stone throwers. It won’t be good to spend just 10 or 15 minutes with the youth. We would like to spend a whole day with them probably on Monday. The stone-throwers would be given opportunity to talk at length about their future, apprehensions and whatever they want to discuss… We would try to get a feel of alienation that Kashmiri youth are suffering from. We will exchange ideas with the students as they are the ones who wanted to say something through stones and not guns… There are many sections who are for five-point proposal, autonomy, self rule, merger with Pakistan and even Azadi. We have to listen to everybody and are ready to talk on all these things… We want to know what people lodged in prisons have to say. We also want to meet the people in hospitals… When we met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, she stressed that we should talk to youth and women with a human touch. That is why Radha Kumar is there…”


Stung by Padgaonkar thus internationalising the so-called Kashmir problem by shamelessly asserting that Pakistan is a “party to the Kashmir dispute,” the BJP at the national level asked the Prime Minister’s Office to “clarify the matter and tell the country if they (interlocutors) had been given the brief by him.”


Several Jammu-based political parties and groups expressed similar views and denounced the interlocutors for their unwarranted remarks. Bear in mind that when Padgaonkar talked of the resolution of the so-called Kashmir problem, he did not mean Pakistan-occupied J&K and Gilgit-Baltistan region. He also didn’t mean the February 2004 unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament that mandates the Union Government to take back from Pakistan all the illegally-occupied Indian territories. He meant only the India-retained part of J&K.


As expected, Congress’ response to the interlocutor’s outrageous statement was highly vague. Its spokesman said, “Dileep Padgaonkar is capable enough of explaining what he said or what he did not say,” thus adding fuel to the fire. The cornered and controversial Padgaonkar, who along with his team moved heaven and earth to induce the Kashmiri extremists to meet them (to give legitimacy to their sinecure) and who visited jails to meet those responsible for the orgy of death and destruction in Kashmir Valley, stuck desperately to his foolish and untenable stand – a stand he perhaps took to create an environment that he hoped would motivate the Kashmiri separatists, including APHC (M) chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, to meet them and create an impression in South and North Blocks that he and his team were capable of “breaking the ice.”


Reacting to BJP’s well-founded charge, Padgaonkar said: “I carry the mandate to say what I said. Pakistan is involved since 1948. We have been encouraged by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, and the Home Minister had said there are no red lines for the interlocutors.” If one goes by Padgaonkar, then one is to presume that the PMO, Union Home Ministry and interlocutors are on the same page. If so, this is a serious development that has to be taken cognizance of.


It would be suicidal to allow these interlocutors to function in the manner in which they have started functioning. There is no doubt that whatever Padgaonkar said in Kashmir was what Pakistan and virtually all Kashmiri ‘leaders’ - Geelani, Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti, have been saying.


Padgaonkar and his team have not only complicated the already rather complex situation in the sensitive border state and promoted the Pakistani cause and cause of Kashmiri separatists and fanatics by saying what he said and reiterated, but also brought disgrace to the Indian nation by knocking at the doors of the merchants of death and destruction, and meeting those in jails who have been seeking to dismember India.


It appears that Padgaonkar and the well-known supporters and sympathizers of the Islamic separatists and Maoist terrorists, and persons Habibullah and Bhushan, are working in tandem. It was not a coincidence that a number of supporters of dreaded Maoists and Islamic zealots, Arundhati Roy, Gautam Navlakha, Sanjay Kak, Asmit Roy, Varavara Rao, to mention a few, reached Srinagar when Padgaonkar and his team were there.


These Maoists reached Srinagar as per a diligently crafted strategy. Padgaonkar and his team reached Srinagar on October 23 and the Maoists landed a day later to demand separation of Kashmir from India. It was also not a coincidence that only Padgaonkar, Kumar, Habibullah and Bhushan defended Geelani and Arundhati Roy, and Nidhi Razdan and Pankaj Pachauri of NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India organized highly controversial, motivated and ill-intentioned debates on the right to speech and expression. There must be certain elements which are operating behind the scenes. It could be the ubiquitous Uncle Sam.   


New Delhi would do well to dismiss these interlocutors. They do not represent the nation or the national sentiment. Their words and actions show that they are agents of Pakistan.


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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