By K.N. Pandita
Cabinet Sub-Committee constituted by the government to make recommendations on Justice Sagheer report cannot be wronged for asking extension in its tenure. It already has had some extensions but this time the Chairman has particularly asked for “enough time” meaning extension for a longer period, on the plea that Justice Sagheer Report is a copious one and needs time for study and analysis. Additionally, as the Chairman puts it, the report deals with some sensitive issues and has to be treated with caution and sense of responsibility. The future of the State and its people is involved. The real hindrance in fulfilling the task is the deeply divergent views held by the stakeholders in regard to future political arrangement of the State. Consensus of opinion on divergent perspectives remains elusive even if many more extensions are given to the Committee.
Justice Sagheer Working Group was one of the five Working Groups constituted by the Prime Minister in 2006. The most difficult and complicated task viz. defining political status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir within the Union of India fell to the lot of Justice Sagheer Group. The crux of a lengthy report authored by Justice Sagheer is to be met with in three important issues; greater autonomy or self rule, removing inter-regional discrimination including Union Territory status for Ladakh, and resettlement of internally displaced persons and refugees. On the issue of greater autonomy/self rule, there is divergence of opinion not only between NC and PDP but also between Congress and National Conference although both are partners in ruling coalition. But leaving this divergence of views aside, it has to be stated that the separatists and secessionists in Kashmir refused to cooperate with Justice Sagheer mission in ascertaining the wishes of the people. They made it clear that they wanted nothing short of India renouncing claim on Kashmir. Therefore the simple logic is that greater autonomy or self rule or status quo (as is desired by the Congress) makes no sense for them. What recommendations will the Cabinet Sub-Committee make in this background is anybody’s guess? In particular, NC leadership has maintained that Kashmir is a political issue and Pakistan being a party needs to be taken on board. This highlights blatant contradiction in its stand. Almost same analogy applies to PDP. What the two parties want is (a) India neutralises Pakistan for ever (b) having done that, gives J&K autonomy in which “sky is the limit”, and (c) keeps cartloads of Indian money flowing into Kashmir as usual but without an iota of accountability.
Regarding the issue of discrimination, National Conference has always stuck to the theory of denial of any discrimination against Jammu and Ladakh regions. As NC is in power, its four representatives on the Cabinet sub-committee will not be ready to concede that discrimination is made by its government either in the past or at present. Jammu and Ladakh have long been complaining of discrimination, and the right thing for the PM to do was to appoint the sixth Working Group for identifying areas of inter-regional discrimination if any. That has not been done; it is not clear what Sagheer Report says about it. Therefore the CSC would be well advised to constitute a committee to examine and report on inter-regional discrimination within shortest possible time. This is a pre-requisite that cannot be avoided because it is a sensitive issue for the people of Jammu region. A comprehensive view from all aspects of equitable justice to the regions shall have to be taken like proper enlistment of electorate, criterion for fund allocation, representative scenario in all the three organs of the state, income per capita region-wise, revenue and tax collections data, resources, industrial growth and agrarian development etc. It is also necessary to prescribe administrative arrangement and constitutional applications in case the recommendation is for regional and sub-regional identities.
Last but not the least is the question of rehabilitation of internally displaced community from Kashmir and PoK. It is no less a complicated issue notwithstanding the antics of the government to make it look simplistic just for its political interests. Taking a thousand or two families to the valley under the helpless necessity of accompanying their wards provided class three jobs under PM’s controversial rehabilitation package is no solution of the problem. The essentials of rehabilitation lie in revival of secular and non-sectarian ethos of Kashmir Valley civil society, which, for whatever reasons, remains deeply radicalised. No rehabilitation of the displaced community can be sustainable unless a strong measure of goodwill is recreated among its components. Concentrated and composite rehabilitation is the only reasonable response that should satisfy the stakeholders, and the government shall have to concede it in the larger and lasting interests of Kashmirian society and secular credentials of the Indian nation.