J&K: volatile vacillation
by Sandhya Jain on 22 Dec 2009 17 Comments

Union Defence Minister A.K. Anthony’s decision to withdraw 30,000 troops from Jammu & Kashmir on grounds of an alleged improvement in law and order is fraught with risk and reflects dangerous vacillation regarding this critical border state.


The announcement coincides with renewed unrest over the CBI probe into the Shopian case, where two women alleged to have been raped and murdered on May 30, 2009, were found to have died by drowning in a stream. The situation had become volatile with the People’s Democratic Party and separatist groups alleging foul play and triggering a 47-day shutdown of the district, forcing the Chief Minister to order a one-man inquiry commission.


Unfortunately, the Commission confirmed rape and murder and claimed that four police officers were involved in destroying crucial evidence. The accused were arrested, but when matters did not improve, the CBI was asked to investigate in September. It corroborated Mr. Omar Abdullah’s first statement that the women had died by drowning. The CBI has now filed a chargesheet against six doctors, five lawyers and two witnesses for making false claims. Previous exhumation of the bodies had revealed that the unmarried girl was not raped.


As the court has yet to assess the CBI report, and habitual dissidents are trying to stoke sentiments afresh, this was probably not the best moment to reduce troop levels. Reduction was also avoidable because the Chief Minister had, while dedicating war memorial Balidan Sthambh to the nation on November 25, 2009, admitted the continued need for the armed forces to provide stability to the State.


With terrorism a continuing threat, and reports that over 800 dreaded terrorists have successfully entered the state, and increasing incidents on the line of control, troop reduction is inexplicable. Even as a cosmetic exercise for diplomatic mileage, the decision has caused dismay amongst the Hindu and other minority groups. There is also a basic contradiction in the Defence Minister asserting that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) would remain in force until the situation improved (which is hardly likely).


There is also profound unease over the reasons and objectives behind the Government’s decision to engage in secret dialogues with various separatist groups in Jammu & Kashmir. Why should a democratic country, with elected governments at the Centre and in the State, which has conducted Working Group meetings with all parties at the initiative of the Prime Minister, need secret dialogues at all? What is the content of these dialogues, what are the areas of accord and discord, and why has the process triggered discontent amongst separatist groups like the All Party Hurriyat Conference?


New Delhi’s secrecy is reminiscent of the British Raj’s backroom parleys with the Muslim League prior to Partition, in that the Centre is behaving like a ‘neutral’ arbitrator between nationalist and anti-national forces in the state, rather than as the legitimate wielder of national sovereignty. Instead of stoutly defending the nation’s territorial integrity, the Government of India itself appears to be tilting towards the separatist forces. There is no response to pointed questions whether the Centre envisions a further partition of the nation, and the loss of critical strategic territory to hostile forces.


For reasons best known to itself and a small coterie of like-minded persons, the Manmohan Singh regime repeatedly asserts that it is committed to finding a settlement between what are called ‘stake holders’ in the so-called J&K ‘dispute.’ Invisible actors determining the content and character of the ‘quiet dialogue’ started by the Government are thus perverting the post-1947 national consensus on the indivisible unity of India with Jammu & Kashmir its integral part.


As there has been no national debate, much less referendum, on whether the unanimous Parliamentary Resolution reclaiming the whole of the J&K State as it existed on August 15, 1947 can be cast aside, the Centre would do well to seek national opinion on this sensitive issue.


Chief Minister Omar Abdullah actively supports this so-called dialogue, which lends strength to the suspicion that he may be furthering his grandfather’s dream of an independent Muslim nation of Kashmir. It is therefore imperative that the Centre tell us if peace and reconciliation means surrender to Muslim communal separatism. In that case, what about the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the state’s Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist communities, who constitute over 40% of the population?


After over six decades of freedom, and several party combinations at the Centre, ordinary citizens are at a loss to understand how and why the Government of India has agreed – and under whose pressure – to treat Jammu & Kashmir as an extra-national concern. It is pertinent that after the fiasco in the United Nations Security Council in the late 1940s, New Delhi initiated a consensus that lasted decades, which asserted that J&K was an inalienable part of India.


So what considerations have compelled South Block to change course, determine an arbitrary set of ‘stake-holders’, and discuss the future of the State with them? One cannot help but notice that New Delhi’s change in policy is co-terminus with coalition government at the Centre. Each government at the Centre has been fully aware that the Muslim separatist leaders with whom they are carrying on secret parleys do not represent Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists of J&K, or even all the Muslims of the state.


Yet the government is perpetuating the post-1947 era errors by de facto accepting J&K as a separate sphere of Muslim interest in India. By promoting the sentiment of exclusion of the state from the secular polity of the country by accepting vague proposals for Greater Autonomy, Self Rule, or Musharraf Plan, New Delhi will be opening the door to an irreversible balkanisation of India. The formal creation of a Muslim State on Indian soil (as opposed to the existence of a Muslim-majority state within the country) can only rupture India’s unity.


The horrific sufferings of the Hindus of Kashmir over centuries, and particularly since independence and the forced exodus of 1989-90, do not need reiteration here. Hence, if there is to be any internal reorganisation of J&K, it should consider the Hindu and Buddhist demands for a separate Union Territory of Ladakh, a separate Jammu state, and a Union Territory of Panun Kashmir north and east of the river Jhelum.


The write is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com 

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