Discredited Interlocutors likely to pander to separatists
by Hari Om on 16 Sep 2011 28 Comments

“The interlocutors are discussing their proposals by taking into account ‘Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India in 1947, the 1952 Delhi Agreement, Sheikh-Indira accord of 1975 and Achievable Nationhood of People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone. Obviously, all legal documents defining the Centre-State relations would be taken into account’. The accession of Jammu and Kashmir and the 1952 Agreement are the two most crucial legal documents on the issue.”


Who has made these suggestions? None other than interlocutors Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar, who were only recently severely criticized by a section of the media and patriotic Indians for their participation in the ISI-Ghulam Nabi Fai / Abdul Majeed Tramboo-sponsored anti-India seminars on Jammu & Kashmir in Washington D.C. and Brussels.


They expressed these views a week ago while reacting to a newspaper report that they might suggest pre-1953 position as a solution to the “Kashmir problem”. It is an altogether different story that these interlocutors are so shameless and thick-skinned that they continue to believe in views which, if accepted, would unsettle the settled in the state and accord legitimacy to the politics of secession, based on religion.


Acceptance of their views would automatically entail consolidation of the Kashmiri leadership’s hegemony over the unwilling and nationalist Jammu and Ladakh, as well as direct encouragement to the anti-India forces operating in different parts of the country, including the North East, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and so on. It appears that the formulations of the discredited interlocutors are getting support from certain elements in the political establishment, including Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and others of his ilk. How else could Padgaonkar and Kumar express views which negate the Constitution of India and seek to reestablish a Kashmir Republic within the Indian Republic?


Padgaonkar and Kumar say that “they are discussing their proposals by taking into account Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India in 1947, the 1952 Delhi Agreement, Sheikh-Indira Accord of 1975 and Achievable Nationhood of People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone”. This clearly indicates that they are basically depending upon the suggestions of and documents prepared by the Kashmiri leadership as well as certain ‘agreements’ which do not actually exist or which were implemented years back.


Take the Instrument of Accession: The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. The document signed by him was identical to that signed by 560-odd princely states, which had been prepared by the State Department of the Government of India. Under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the princes alone had the authority to take a decision on the political future of their respective states. Besides, the Independence Act had nowhere suggested that the princes could remain independent of India and Pakistan. The Independence Act gave only two options: join the Indian Dominion or Pakistani Dominion taking into account the state’s contiguity.


The decision of Maharaja Hari Singh to join the Indian Dominion was as per the constitutional law on the subject and his decision was final and irrevocable. Hence, the issue of accession cannot be reopened by anyone, not even by the Prime Minister of India. Any attempt on the part of the Prime Minister or any other authority in the country would only provoke explosions of portentous dimensions in the country and result in the collapse of the Union Government. The Indian nation is not prepared to accept any such non-sense.


True, the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh said that the jurisdiction of the Indian Dominion over Jammu & Kashmir would be limited to defence, foreign affairs and communication. But this was true of all princely states that acceded to India; Jammu & Kashmir was no exception. The process of constitutional integration took place only after the Indian Constitution was framed and implemented in January 1950. Jammu & Kashmir, like all other princely states, was also brought under the jurisdiction of several Central laws.


The only difference was that Central laws were extended to the state with the concurrence of or on the demand of the state government. This methodology had been suggested by Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded a special status to Jammu & Kashmir. This was an Article bad in law and spirit, and had been adopted by the Constituent Assembly much to chagrin of the Indian nation. The then Congress government had adopted this controversial, even separatist, Article to please Sheikh Abdullah of the Kashmir-based and essentially anti-Jammu and anti-Ladakh National Conference. However, Article 370 nowhere suggested that the Kashmiri leadership would have the power to review the issue of accession or obtain a dispensation outside the Indian Constitution.


Interlocutors Padgaonkar and Kumar emphatically say that the so-called 1952 Delhi Agreement, like the Instrument of Accession, is very “crucial”. But where is the Delhi Agreement? There exists no such agreement as the 1952 Delhi Agreement. They, like the misleading NC leaders, describe the incomplete negotiations between Nehru and Sheikh as “Delhi Agreement”. Agreement is something that is signed between the parties. There is nothing in the Parliament records and the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly records that remotely suggest that Nehru and Sheikh had signed a particular agreement.


What happened in 1952? Sheikh Abdullah challenged the Indian State. He revolted and used all kinds of invectives against the nation, expressing extreme views in RS Pura, Jammu. This threatening stance made Nehru summon Sheikh to Delhi and the result was negotiations on Centre-state relations. Both Nehru and Sheikh read out an identical statement in this regard in Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly, respectively. The negotiations remained inclusive as several issues needed further discussion.


There was, for example, no agreement on fundamental rights, jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India, nomenclature of the head of the state and head of the government and so on. And before they could reach a final understanding, the situation in the state turned extremely dangerous as Sheikh started hobnobbing with the United State and conspiring against India with a view to setting up a Switzerland-type independent Kashmir. It was in these circumstances that Nehru had him dismissed and arrested on August 9, 1953.


The interlocutors are probably unaware that in the early 1990s this writer had made a pledge that “he would write against New Delhi and in favour of the NC if the NC could oblige this writer by supplying to him a signed copy of the Delhi Agreement”. This commitment was made in the presence of all ministers, including Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, as also in the presence of all NC MLAs, MLCs and party ideologues, including M.Y. Taing, in Srinagar, at a two-day-long seminar on autonomy. The then Director Information (now Member of Jammu & Kashmir Public Service Commission) K.B. Jandial and Devendra Singh Rana, Political Advisor to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, were present. No one accepted the challenge.


Initially, Farooq Abdullah wanted to respond, but suddenly he changed his mind. Ultimately, Abdul Rahim Rather, present Finance Minister, came on the dais and acknowledged, “we agree with Prof Hari Om that there exists no signed agreement and that what actually happened in 1952 was that both Nehru and the Sheikh had made identical statements about the nature of negotiations which had taken place between the two leaders”.


Now this should clinch the issue and expose the ignorance-is-bliss of Padgaonkar and Kumar. They must immediately stop referring to the non-existent “Delhi Agreement” as their inaccurate and unwarranted statements are creating confusion among the people. They should realize that all their statements are based on heresy alone, and that their suggestions are strengthening public belief that they are dishonest and may undermine the Indian Constitution in a desperate bid to placate those whose single-point agenda is to ensure segregation of the state from the political and constitutional organization of India, create in the state a system of government as it exists in Islamic countries, and enslave the unwilling people of Jammu province and Ladakh region.


Padgaonkar and Radha would like to take into account the 1975 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord while preparing a roadmap for Jammu & Kashmir – one that would settle the so-called Kashmir issue on a permanent basis.


Obviously they know nothing about the implementation of the said Accord. The accord inter alia envisaged transfer of power from the Congress to Sheikh Abdullah and empowered the Sheikh to review the Central laws extended to the state after August 9, 1953 to find if any Central law had eroded the autonomy granted to the state under Article 370, subject to certain conditions, including the condition that the process of constitutional integration with India initiated between 1953 and 1974 shall not be reversed and that the nomenclature of the head of state (Governor) and head of government (Chief Minister) shall not be changed. The conditions were unambiguous. The Sheikh, who was dying for power, accepted all conditions, without any exception.


As the Accord envisaged transfer of power from Congress to Sheikh Abdullah, Indira Gandhi made the Sheikh chief minister in February 1975. He was not a member of the legislative assembly or legislative council at that time. Moreover, his dissolved Plebiscite Front did not have a single legislator in the state legislature. The Sheikh had dissolved his Plebiscite Front and revived the National Conference for the sake of personal power and profit.


After recapturing power to the chagrin of the local Congress leadership, Sheikh appointed a three-member high power cabinet sub-committee to examine the Central laws and suggest withdrawal of laws which the committee may consider harmful for the state and its people. Initially the committee was headed by his close associate and then revenue minister Afzal Beg. But as relations between Sheikh and Beg, who was the main architect of the Accord, became strained, Sheikh threw Beg out of the party and the government. Beg was replaced by then Deputy Chief Minister D.D. Thakur. Other members of the committee were cabinet ministers G.M Shah, who also happened to be Sheikh’s son-in-law, and G.M. Kochak.


The three-member cabinet sub-committee produced two contradictory reports. One from Thakur said “the needles of the clock could not be turned back as the extension of the Central laws had benefited the state and its people.” The other report was from Shah and Kochak. It suggested wholesale withdrawal of Central laws saying, “extension of the Central laws had eroded the autonomy the state used to enjoy before August 1953”.


The interlocutors would be shocked to know that Sheikh had accepted the Thakur report in full and rejected outright the second report. Sheikh Abdullah not only accepted Thakur’s recommendations, but allowed New Delhi to bring the state under the ambit of more Central laws.


When his son, Dr Farooq Abdullah, became Chief Minister in 1982, he too allowed New Delhi to extend more Central laws to the state. And Farooq Abdullah was the first Chief Minister to adopt and ruthlessly implement TADA. At least 18 new Central laws were implemented in the state during the regimes of the Sheikh and his son.


This is the story of the 1975 Accord – it was implemented in letter and spirit in 1975. Do the interlocutors want to re-implement the already implemented Accord?


The real question is: How could the interlocutors suggest a revisit to 1975? Don’t they know that the National Conference is already in the driver’s seat in Jammu & Kashmir with Congress content with its eternal role as B-team of the former? The interlocutors must understand that Congress has no role to play in the state except to religiously follow the NC diktat.


Still, the insistence of Padgaonkar and Kumar to study and take into account the basics of the Instrument of Accession, the so-called Delhi Agreement and the 1975 Accord, can be explained as background study. But one feels aghast when they announce they would also study Kashmiri separatist Sajjad Gani Lone’s book Achievable Nationhood. This is an out-and-out anti-India book. This crosses all limits by giving legitimacy to Lone and what he advocated in his book of December 2006; the interlocutors have exposed themselves and their credentials, which were already doubtful.


It may be appropriate to quote from page No. 147 of the book, to inform concerned citizens about what Lone stands for:


-       “The word sentiment and aspirations have become a byword to define the concept of eternal political salvation for the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Sentiment embodies the concept of right to self-determination and the aspirations for an independent homeland (read independence from India). The average psyche in Jammu & Kashmir is obsessed with a sentiment wherein the political aspirations are not in consonance with their present political arrangement (read Accession of the State to India). The mindset seems to be conditioned to refuse the finality of the present political arrangement”.


-       “Sentiment is not a unanimous concept in Jammu & Kashmir. There is a variance. The majority (read Kashmiri Sunnis who constitute only 22 per cent of the state’s population as all others, barring few disgruntled and communal elements, are for India) sentiment in Jammu & Kashmir is for an independent homeland. Adherents of ideology of accession to Pakistan and accession to India represent the minority strands of the sentiment.”


-       “Despite the apparent lack of scope for the realization of the majority sentiment, it is essential to explicitly state the prevalent majority sentiment of independent homeland. The majority sentiment should be the reference point for the solution (read imposition of the separatist and communal will of the all-powerful, exceptionally prosperous and well entrenched Kashmiri Sunnis on the unwilling people of Jammu and Ladakh and other communities like the displaced Kashmiri Hindus, Shiite Muslims, Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims and several other religious and ethnic minorities in the state). If we want to cater to the sentiment partly or wholly, acknowledging the majority sentiment and reflecting the variance in the sentiment would be a part of the process. It is important to understand that the success of the solution lies not only in solution reflecting the majority sentiment but also how explicitly the solution is perceived as reflecting the majority sentiment.”


It is hardly necessary to explain the implications of what Sajjad has written. Suffice it to say that Sajjad is as communal as any other Kashmiri leader, and he wants another communal partition to satisfy his communal urges. His whole concept is based on the pernicious two-nation theory and his only wish is to create a homeland in which Kashmiri Sunnis would be the chief determinants and all others irrelevant and unworthy of any consideration whatever.


Do the interlocutors really wish to take into account these outrageous, divisive and communal suggestions? If one goes by what they told The Hindustan Times a week ago, then, yes, one can say that the interlocutors might go beyond the Indian Constitution to satisfy the Kashmiri leaders and their separatist urges.


One thing is certain. The interlocutors would provoke explosions in Jammu and Ladakh if they come out with a report suggesting weakening of ties between the State and New Delhi and imposing the will of Kashmiri Sunnis on other groups.


The interlocutors would do well to take these realities into account and abandon the path they are currently treading. This is the best course for them. This should also be conveyed to Dr Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues who are also muddying the waters in the state by entrusting the discredited Dilip Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar with the responsibility of finding a solution to the so-called Kashmir problem.


The problem is only in the imagination of those who refuse to settle down as good citizens. There should be on Open Door Exit Policy for them.


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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