Living by courage and conviction

Kashmir Talks

By K.N. Pandita

For some time in recent past solution of Kashmir issue is talked about loudly in political circles. The lid was first taken off the Pandora’s box by the Indian Home Minister who reported “quiet dialogue”, “unique solution” and “unique geography and history of Kashmir” without spelling out their contours.

The fathers of Indian Constitution had the inkling of the uniqueness of the history and geography of Jammu and Kashmir. That was perhaps the reason why a specific Article (370) was incorporated into the Constitution. 

But to be fair, earlier than that it was Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the State who was fully conscious of this uniqueness, and that was the reason why he wanted a “unique” solution about its accession or not.

But history and political hawks in both countries in 1947 castigated him for what they called his “indecisiveness”.  History has proved that his detractors were wrong because after over sixty-two years of State’s accession, the Indian government is frantically trying to talk to the protagonists, antagonists, neutrals, neighbouring country and world community to help it overcome the impasse in Kashmir.

Recently, APHC chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. He did not divulge anything to the press. But his lieutenant, Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat interviewed by the correspondent of the Times of India threw some laconic hints that India and Pakistan need to retain their border areas of Ladakh and Gilgit respectively as security outposts.

Jammu Division with majority of Hindu population might not be disturbed. But Mirwaiz did pay a visit to the Muslim dominated areas of Jammu region before he met with the PM.

Mirwaiz attended the OIC meet recently where passing anti-India resolutions on Kashmir is the annual and even biannual ritual. All these activities point to a definite direction. The direction is that his faction of Hurriyat seems to have done some serious re-thinking, particularly after the spurt in armed conflict between Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Taliban first in Swat and now in Waziristan.

American political pressure is not only on Pakistan and India but also on separatist groups in Kashmir to come to negotiating table. Islamabad has made Washington believe that if Kashmir tangle is resolved, it would immensely help in containing terrorism in NWFP and Afghanistan. In Pakistan’s idiom, resolving Kashmir issue means handing over Kashmir to Pakistan.  In their political chemistry talk of “azaadi” for Kashmiris is rhetoric.

The US knows very well what the global agenda of Islamic radicals is. It also knows that Pakistan’s argument is not tenable since even if Kashmir goes to Pakistan that would not solve the malaise which has far deeper roots than what we may find on surface.

Therefore there is an air of expectation on all sides, New Delhi, Islamabad and Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar.

It would be a travesty of justice if Gilgit and Baltistan areas are left to the whims and impulses of their current occupants. The APHC will certainly lose its face if it remains content with permanent enslavement of the people in that region and secure a semblance of autonomy/confederation/joint council for the people of the Jhelum and Krishen Ganga Valleys only… It will be indeed a great betrayal of the cause.

Two regional entities are under a cloud of mystery, namely the Muslim majority areas of Jammu province and the internally displaced Kashmiri Pandits. The Home Minister states that his “unique solution” will take care of the interests of all stakeholders. This means the two aforementioned segments, too, come under the umbrella of “unique solution”.

More than the districts of Rajouri and Poonch, in Jammu province, the district of Doda is strategically vulnerable to the brainwashing venture of the radical Islamists. The only way to retain these three districts in a scenario of autonomous confederation of Kashmir Valley and Kishen Ganga Valley is granting the status of a new state to Jammu province. Constitutional safeguards could be provided to the minority pockets.

What seems to be the most ticklish part of the deal is that of displaced Kashmiri Pandits. Jagati habitat has been developed to accommodate nearly four thousand homesteads. That is ghettoization of a segment of state citizens not used to it.

It should be possible to concentrate on twin-city concept in the valley. Some time back, when PDP was in the driver’s seat, its chief had floated the idea of a new capital for the valley, and Parihasapura, the historical but ruined capital city of King Lalitaditya, (9th century Hindu ruler of Kashmir), was very much making the rounds. The idea could be developed into a workable plan with prioritized rehabilitation for the displaced persons.

But if compact rehabilitation of the displaced Pandits is part of the deal, it is important that there is not only constitutional and institutional guarantee of their safety and retention but also formal assurance from the two countries and the international community especially the US under whose initiative two warring countries are negotiating the deal.

Having said that, let us turn to the other side of the story. Territorial compromises plus compromises on fundamental principles of political and constitutional arrangement of world’s largest secular-democratic state like India, speaks loudly of the imbecility of its leadership. Our leadership is spineless to the extent that it cannot stand up and tell the world that here we are a thousand million Indians ready to make all sacrifices to the last man to safeguard our territorial integrity and national sovereignty. We are men of straw, as was pronounced by Churchill in the British Parliament on the eve of passing Indian Independence Bill. We had brave and dauntless leaders in the forefront of national struggle that steered the ship despite great obstructions created in our path. Today we are governed by minions.

Today we are left leaderless and rudderless. We will be drive down the drift by every whiff of air coming from east or west. We have lost self confidence and the power of assertion. We are leaving our motherland to be parceled out into pieces and segments either to appease somebody or to let somebody else brow-beat us. A nation’s strength lies in its steadfastness in the face of pressures and intimidation.  Let us say and believe that we will eat grass but defend out territorial integrity and national sovereignty.  Shut the door on gimmicks of vote-bank, and rise to the call of the nation. Victory and greatness are the gifts for the brave not cowards.
(The writer is the former Director of Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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