Interlocutors’ Report on J&K: Reflections – Part I

By K.N. Pandita

Almost seven months after the report was submitted, and just forty-eight hours after the Parliament session was adjourned, the Home Ministry put it out to the public domain. We shall have to study and analyze it as it exists on the website. Whether any portion or portions of the report have been withheld is anybody’s guess.  

Interlocutors have titled the report as New Compact with the People of Jammu and Kashmir.  In the terminology of political science, the term “compact” when used as a noun means agreement or contract between two parties. Here the agreeing parties are not on an even keel, politically, financially or militarily. It is a compact between uneven parties.  How do we differentiate between “Compact” and “Accord”? We have had at least three Accords between the Union of India and the leadership of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the past.

The Report is extended over six chapters filling 120 printed pages besides six Annexes spread over another 50 pages. Chapter I introduces the mandate/mission, states situation on ground between October 2010 and September 2011, sums up the lessons learnt and recounts renewal of peace initiatives between August 2010 and August 2011. The sum total of conclusions drawn after ground study is (a) armed conflict has ended and public expectation of rule of law is high, and (b) word “temporary” in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution  “has added political and communal polarization”.

Intensity of armed conflict may have diminished but have the roots of armed conflict been eradiated?

Article 370 has never been an issue between the separatists-secessionists and the Indian State: it has been a subject of debate at inter or intra-party level. Polarization, political or communal, has nothing to do with Article 370. It stemmed from secessionists terming accession a fraud and thus rejecting it in letter and in spirit. In the next sentence the Report contradicts its own statement by saying that the problem stems from unresolved issues of political status and centre-state relations. The term “political status” of the state has not been clarified and left to surmise. It can be interpreted in more than one way like unfinished task of partition or vis-à-vis Greater Autonomy and Self-Rule etc.

Chapter 2 deals with recent past history and impact on Kashmiri society linking the discourse to ongoing situation. The entire chapter is laced with patent Kashmir issue related phraseology in which vagueness and semantic reign supreme.  The impression one gathers is that the authors are loath to speak the truth bluntly. They are satisfied to leave interpretation of their statement to how a reader would like it to be. For example, it says that “people are yearning for permanent end to the conflict and peaceful resolution of “root cause”. What is the root cause? What is peoples’ formula for addressing the root cause and what is the opinion of the interlocutors in regard to that formula?  These questions are not touched on at all and are left to the domain of hypothesization. This is patent antics of mollifying the secessionists/separatists to whom the root cause is “fraudulent accession” of the State in October 1947. Authors have used cliché like “miasma of fear”. “ugly practices”, “dividing line to become invisible”, “bonds of pluralism” etc. These are illusory statements essentially hollow and meaningless. What is the source of fear; who perpetrates ugly practices and what does invisibility of dividing line mean? Eveybody will have his interpretation and the interlocutors have wriggled out of their responsibility of laying down the criterion. One expected them to be brief and to the point and use as many less cliché as possible. Their jurisprudence of evaluating ground situation is vague and tenuous.

Like pedagogues, interlocutors seem to be enamoured by strange illusions like “Kashmir becoming a bridge between India, Pakistan and Central Asia with its syncretic(?) philosophical, religious and linguistic practice restored.” What do they precisely mean to say? Should J&K be made a neutral region with India, Pakistan and Central Asia guaranteeing its neutrality? Is it a subtle way of responding to the demand of azaadi in Kashmir? Where have religious practices ceased to be operative in Kashmir so that these are to be restored? Does restoration of linguistic practice mean restoring Sanskrit as the language of the people if restoration of religious practice is to be sought? This is sheer ambiguity and day dreaming. It has not been the mandate for the team. And when the authors speak of “harmony among people during the dark days of partition”, they betray their total ignorance of the history of tribal invasion of Kashmir, the course of events of the invasion,  the massacre of minority community members in the then districts of Muzaffarabad and Baramulla and the general loot and vandalism perpetrated by local goons in parts of the valley. The interlocutors had no compulsion to distort history and bail out perpetrators of genocide. They have done some disservice. What do they mean by quoting A. Vajpayee that “ J&K ko insaniyata ke daire mein dekhna hai”. Has New Delhi treated J&K out of the ambit of humanism? Has the aid of trillions of rupees given to J&K been something falling outside the ambit of humanism? Are the laws passed by the parliament and extended to the State inhuman that we need to replace with humanistic laws? The interlocutors should have been clear what they mean by bringing in a citation from former Prime Minister. Humanism was brutalized  and decimated in Kashmir when Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris took up arms, gunned down those whom they thought were obstacles in their way and derailed law and order in the State. How would the interlocutors apply the law of “insaniyat” in their case?

New Compact doctrine of the interlocutors proposes “establishing multi-layered grid of devolved institutions. These are good sounding words. Now the State government has completed Panchayat elections and is on its way to empowering them constitutionally and financially. This is in sync with the propounded formula. But the reality on ground is that some Sarpanches have been gunned down by the militants for serving the interests of the people and their government. Very recently threatening letters have been sent to a large number of Sarpanches that they should quit or face consequences. Not only that the MLA from Langet constituency in Kupwara district publicly said that Sarpanches and Panches openly participate in the rallies of separatists almost everywhere and they have developed nexus of sorts. What is the sense in proposing multi-layered grid of devolved institutions when Panchayat institution announced with fanfare is faced with dire consequences.

Authors have lamented absence of quality education in Kashmir. Incidentally UGC has recognized Kashmir University as one of the prestigious universities in the country and sanctioned special grants for further development. Secondly, they have not touched on the phenomenon of religious seminaries called darsgahs in Kashmir and run by Jamaat-e-Islami and subsidized by the government. There is no word on the curriculum and indoctrination of young students. There is no mention of their role in the ongoing turmoil. There is no mention of the Imams imparted from UP, Bihar and other parts into Kashmir and their firebrand Friday discourses in mosques. The statement that “all these factors taken together with what is seen as “mushrooming  of religious extremism of all hues” is very dangerous. Religious extremism in Kashmir has only one hue and that is focuses on “fraudulent accession” of the state. What are other religious hues and where are they? This is very unfortunate way of equating real religious extremism in Kashmir with something that is non-existent and imaginary. It is a crude attempt of doing the balancing act.
(to be continued).

Comments are closed.