Interlocutors: Biased and Kashmir-centric
by Hari Om on 22 Jul 2011 11 Comments
The New Delhi-appointed interlocutors came out with a “four-point formula” for the resolution of the so-called Kashmir issue and meeting the aspirations of the people inhabiting different regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. They evolved this formula on the basis of their interaction with the 50-odd delegates who participated in the 2-day-long round table conference, held in Jammu on July 11 and 12. The formula, made public on July 13, when the NC, PDP and Congress bigwigs gathered at Martyrs’ Graveyard at Naqashband Sahib Shrine, Kashmir, to pay “floral tributes” to those killed that day in 1931 while demanding independence from Jammu and fighting against the Dogra Maharaja, was as vague as it was misleading.


Actually, what the interlocutors told media persons was not a solution, but mere suggestions, basically four in all. One, “everyone is convinced that dialogue is the only solution to resolve the crisis…There is a clear understanding that militancy and violence have not served any purpose and have worsened the situation.” This means dialogue should continue. Two, “there is an immediate need to maintain the integrity of the state. Three, “despite what has happened in the past, there is a need of power sharing between regions and sub-regions. Four, “everyone needs restoration of a tolerant and pluralist culture.” They had one more suggestion - “everybody in the state is looking for solution that will accommodate each aspiration to largest possible extent”.


The interlocutors sought to dispel the impression that they were Kashmir-centric and that their interaction(s) with certain selected persons was an exercise undertaken to weaken the Jammu cause and prepare grounds for New Delhi to appreciate and accommodate the separatist, communal and dictatorial urges of the Kashmiri leaders, without any exception. “We are neither Jammu centric, neither Kashmir centric nor Ladakh centric. We are here for ensuring that state is not divided,” they told reporters. They did not stop here and went on to say that “whatever we have recommended or whatever we recommend is known only to the government.” In other words, they did not divulge what they are up to.


It would be appropriate to first comment on the nature of the composition of the round table conference and the methodology the interlocutors adopted to ascertain the views of the participants and then reflect on the implications of the suggestions they made. Regarding the composition of the conference, it can be said that the interlocutors ensured the participation of those who would either talk about Kashmir and Kashmiri aspirations or those who would be incompetent to represent the viewpoint of Jammu, as also to counter the Kashmiri-sponsored anti-India vicious propaganda.


They invited from Kashmir as many as 9 persons, all out-and-out anti-India, patently communal and fundamentally parochial and Valley-centric. Two of them were Nyla Ali Khan, US-based granddaughter of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, and Gul Mohammad Wani, a political science teacher in the University of Kashmir. Most participants from Kashmir were highly indoctrinated. They had come prepared to propagate the cause of Kashmiri separatists, denigrate India as black, barbarous and oppressive. They held their ground firmly during the conference. This was what reports in the print media suggested and what some of the concerned Jammu-based delegates revealed on condition of anonymity.


The interlocutors also ensured the participation of six persons from Leh and Kargil in Ladakh. They were also political persons, and came and made the points they wanted to make. The delegates from Leh told the conference that they had nothing to do with Kashmir and Jammu and wanted Union Territory status for Ladakh. It was expected that the delegates from Kargil would oppose the delegates from Leh and they did so. At the same, however, they demonstrated their pro-India credentials. Remember, they were Shiite Muslims and they do not support the demands in Kashmir for independence or for withdrawal of the army from the region. Their interventions were patently political but not anti-India.


At least seven Kashmiri Hindus attended the round table conference. While some are known for their pro-separatist leanings, others are known for their exclusivist approach. According to reports, those who spoke only talked about their community. They neither supported nor opposed the demands ranging from autonomy to self-rule to independence to withdrawal of the army from the state. Their whole approach was “narrow” and “community-centric.”


The most striking aspect of the composition of the round table conference was the participation of at least seven persons from outside the state, viz., Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyer, BJP MP Rajan Sushant, Sadia Dehlvi (journalist and writer), Pankaj Bhan (journalist & writer), Chinmaya Gharekhan (former special envoy for West Asia, Government of India), Syed Shahid Mehdi (Vice-President ICCR & former Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia) and M K Raina (theatre director & actor).


Why did the interlocutors ensure their participation in the conference? What had they to do with the people of Jammu province? What did they know about Jammu & Kashmir? What did they know about the nature of the problem the people of Jammu province had been facing since 1947 at the hands of the Kashmiri leadership and the powers-that-be in New Delhi? What did they know about the relations between Jammu province and Kashmir Valley? They knew only what their contacts in the Valley had told them from time to time. Besides, what did they know about the demographic profile of Jammu & Kashmir? All of them were either blissfully ignorant about the state of affairs in the state or were biased towards Kashmir and the followers of a particular religion. Obviously, the intentions of the interlocutors were not noble. They wanted to defeat Jammu and they manipulated things to achieve their objective.  


The fact that the interlocutors ensured the participation of the likes of Aiyer and Dehlvi was a clear signal that their basic objective was to vitiate the deliberations by airing Kashmir-centric views and raising Kashmir-specific issues. While Aiyer is a known supporter and sympathizer of pro-autonomists, Dehlvi is a known communalist. Reports suggest that she had held “RSS radicalization” as the root cause of alienation in Kashmir and accused VHP of “unleashing a cultural invasion” on Kashmir. Their participation in the conference showed that the interlocutors had brought them to Jammu as per a meticulously evolved strategy to neutralize the voice of Jammu.      


The interlocutors claimed on July 13 during interaction with reporters that as many as 35 persons from Jammu took part in the proceedings and expressed their views. They could be right, but the question is not about numbers but who they were and who they represented. Most were non-political persons with little contribution to public life except in the field of art and literature. They were bound by the interlocutors to reflect only on art, culture, pluralism, co-existence, tolerance and so on.


Besides, the agenda for the conference was different from the agenda for participants from Kashmir during the round table conference held in Srinagar sometime back. That was a pure political agenda. At the Srinagar round table conference every issue was discussed - autonomy, self-rule, “human rights violations”, “promises made by New Delhi” and so on. There was no discussion on culture, art, pluralism, co-existence and so on.    


Believe it or not, but those from Jammu who wanted to speak about the disparities between what the delegates from Kashmir said and the actual position were prevented from saying what they wanted to say. Thus, Congress leader and former cabinet minister Gulchain Singh Charak was not allowed to rebut what the delegates from Kashmir said but the same delegates were given full time to counter Charak. Significantly, even Aiyer did not come to the rescue of Charak; he told the chair that he was in complete accord with what a particular delegate from Kashmir had said. This was Gul Mohammad Wani.


Implications of the four suggestions the interlocutors made. First suggestion: Dialogue is the only solution. No sane persons would disagree that in a democratic country, dialogue among the various interests and sections and between the people and the government is a must. But no one would appreciate the nature of dialogue the interlocutors suggested. Theirs’ was not a holistic approach. They established by their words and actions that by dialogue they meant the exclusion of those who have definite views on Jammu, on Kashmir and on the nation as a whole. They left none in any doubt that their whole exercise was aimed at projecting and accommodating the views of the Kashmiris and creating an impression that the people of Jammu province and the people of Ladakh were not opposed to what the Kashmiri delegates said, suggested and advocated and what they have been propagating since decades.


The resentment in Jammu against the methodology of the interlocutors while selecting delegates and the approach adopted during the conference needs to be viewed in this context. The people of Jammu are seething with anger and saying that the round table conference in Jammu, instead of highlighting the Jammu problem, further weakened the Jammu cause. Even the displaced Kashmiri Hindus and other refugees are seething with anger. Their grouse is that the interlocutors did not invite any real representatives of the displaced and persecuted communities to take part in the dialogue process. The leadership of these hapless communities with a population is no less than 1.5 million was conspicuous by its absence in the so-called round table conference.


Second suggestion: State must be maintained as one political entity. They told reporters that their suggestion was based on what transpired during the two-day-long conference. In other words, that everyone present in the conference was opposed to the demand in Jammu and Ladakh for the state’s trifurcation. They were patently wrong, for the delegates from Leh were adamant about Union Territory status and separation of Ladakh from Jammu & Kashmir. The interlocutors were also wrong when they sought to convey an impression that none in Jammu supported the trifurcation demand. They had ensured the participation of those from Jammu, as mentioned earlier, who were, with a couple of exceptions, meek, weak and non-political. They did not invite the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) and Jammu State Morcha (JSM) leadership – all votaries of the state’s trifurcation/reorganization. A day before the round table began, the BSP and JSM had submitted comprehensive memoranda demanding trifurcation. Earlier, the JKNPP had demanded the state’s reorganization and separate assembly and separate chief minister for Jammu. The JKNPP also submitted a detailed memorandum demanding the state’s reorganization. The fact that the interlocutors did not invite the leadership of these three formations to the deliberations and invited rank communalists from Kashmir and secular fundamentalists from New Delhi should clinch the issue and establish that they conducted themselves in a partisan manner. Their objective was to project a wrong picture and hence they manipulated everything.


Third suggestion: Power-sharing between the regions and sub-regions. While the interlocutors were quite vague while explaining what should be done to enable all three regions to exercise co-equal powers, they were quite emphatic when they talked about the non-existent sub-regions in the state. In fact, what they said in this regard was a contradiction of sorts. On the one hand, they underlined the need for maintaining the state as a one political unit and, on the other hand, they sought to divide the well-defined regions. Their objective  was apparently to work out a scheme that would segregate the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu province from the Jammu mainland and enable the Kashmiri leadership to set up Greater Kashmir consisting of Kashmir and the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu province and Ladakh region. It also appears that they are the ardent believers in the plan Sir Owen Dixon evolved and made public in the early 1950s to resolve the so-called Kashmir issue. Significantly, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah is also a staunch supporter of the Dixon Plan which envisaged division of Jammu province on communal lines. In fact, the interlocutors advocated what Kashmiri leaders and their supporters in New Delhi and elsewhere have been advocating. As for empowerment of Jammu province, they had nothing concrete in their scheme of things. But one could say without hesitation that they want the people of Jammu province and Ladakh to live under Kashmiri hegemony and suffer and they want New Delhi to settle the so-called Kashmir issue politically.


Suggestion four: Restoration of a tolerant and pluralist culture. The fourth suggestion was quite intriguing. They should have organized discussion on this theme in Kashmir where the followers of a particular religious sect have established their stranglehold and cleansed the entire Valley of all or nearly all non-Muslims. All the non-Muslims, barring a couple of thousand Kashmiri Hindus and about 30,000 Sikhs, quit the Valley in early 1990 to escape the wrath of religious bigots. It would be only desirable to mention here that Kashmir was hundred per cent non-Muslim some six centuries ago. It was then one of the major centres of Hindu civilization and Hindu culture, but today it has become the sole preserve of Islam.


It is a different story that New Delhi and the so-called opinion leaders in the country term the exclusivist Kashmir as an oasis of peace and secularism. It is a different story that they denounce the people of Jammu province as communalist and reactionary, overlooking the fact that Jammu has been accepting and accommodating refugees since 1947 in the face of all odds. Earlier, the people used to call Jammu as the land of the Dogras, but now Jammu is known as the land of refugees. It is indeed inspiring that the locals and refugees have been living and co-existing peacefully and sharing each other’s joy and grief. There is no rancour and ill-will between the locals and the refugees, notwithstanding the immense losses to the locals in several spheres. The interlocutors simply caused an affront to the self-respect of the Dogras by organizing a discussion in Jammu on tolerance and pluralism.


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

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top