Wednesday, Aug 28, 2002
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By Kuldip Nayar
With due deference to the Kashmir Committee, the exercise it is doing has been gone over many a time before. There is little use in repeating it. The Hurriyat stand is well-known and so is that of Shabir Shah and others. I have not seen anything which suggests that they have resiled from their position. By covering the same ground, the committee has unnecessarily evoked hope which has no basis.
The problem is with New Delhi. At one time it said that the sky was the limit. On another occasion it gave the impression as if it would consider a status within India which need not be within the Constitution. Then there was the talk of going back to the status which the State enjoyed before Sheikh Abdullah's arrest. Now the word is "devolution" of power. This is applicable to the rest of India where, after the Sarkaria Commission's report on Centre-State relations, power should have been decentralised from the Centre to the States and from the States to the districts and villages. But the BJP has always favoured a strong Centre.
Therefore, it is not possible for the States to get more powers till the Vajpayee Government is at the Centre.
The case of Kashmir is, however, different. The appropriate word is autonomy. It joined the Union on the understanding that its integration to India was confined to three subjects defence, external affairs and communications. Article 370 of the Constitution recognises that fact. What more subjects the State should transfer to the Union is the prerogative of Jammu and Kashmir. Its Assembly is the authority. After his release, Sheikh Abdullah conceded some more territory to New Delhi. The rest is encroachment.
During the last session of Parliament, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, said there was no going back to the original status. That is not for the Union to decide. It will be reneging on its promise to the State at the time of integration if the State's autonomy is chipped away without its consent. In fact, New Delhi is mainly responsible for today's state of things, first having its own nominees at Srinagar and encroaching on the State's rights to choose the Government and then not creating the democratic climate which the other States in the country enjoy.
The threat by Omar Abdullah that New Delhi should either accept the 1953 status or face the Hurriyat's independence demand does not create any ripples. If he can reconcile himself to his presence in the BJP-led Government even after the Gujarat carnage, he can also water down his demands. He should learn from his father that riding two horses at the same time is politically possible, but not morally.
The 1953 autonomy is certainly a possibility. But it cannot happen until the rest of India is convinced that after the 1953 autonomy status there will be no problem called Kashmir. Both the Hurriyat and Pakistan have to understand this. They have to be brought round may be the United States and the United Kingdom can do so.
My fear is that the RSS, whose Parivar includes the BJP, has already made up its mind. It has proposed the trifurcation of the State because it has come to believe that the 1953 status will not be the final solution, acceptable either to the Muslim-majority valley of Kashmir or Pakistan. It is a communal approach. But the RSS is not associated with anything else. It thinks that the Hindu-majority Jammu and the Buddhist-majority Ladakh must be "saved".
Unfortunately Kashmiriyat, a secular pull, has weakened in the State over the years. Terrorists have played havoc with it. They have communalised the movement which once stood for a democratic, secular State. Their planned killing of Hindus and Sikhs has contaminated Kashmir. Whether it was Qasim Nagar a few days earlier or Kaluchak two months ago, their target was one religious community. Jammu is a Hindu majority region which has largely stayed away from the movements in the valley. Its problems with Srinagar are many but it has been part and parcel of the secular democratic structure. The exit of Kashmiri Pandits gave the State a jolt but it was able to hold together.
The climate is changing now. The killings by the terrorists and the propaganda for trifurcation are too much for Kashmiriyat. On top of it, some in the Hurriyat do not believe in the concept of pluralism. And the Pakistan establishment has seldom shirked from playing a communal card.
Islamabad may have lessened infiltration but the damage it has done to itself and India in supporting religious and jehadi elements is irreparable. A new mood has come to prevail, that of fundamentalism. It is a Frankenstein's monster and it is now eating up Pakistan. It also has an adverse effect on India's pluralistic society. Muslims are bearing the brunt. This suits the Hindutva forces. They can spread their "hate Muslim" policy more effectively.
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