The context for the current widespread discussion on Kashmir throughout the country and in international circles is the interlocutors’ report on J&K. The Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted a three-member committee to suggest means of de-escalating and eventually resolving, the Kashmir crisis. The committee, after interacting with various ‘stakeholders’ from different regions of the state, submitted its report on May 24, 2012. Seven months after its submission, the 170-page report comprising six chapters with six annexures, titled ‘New Compact with the people of Jammu & Kashmir’, has been put in the public domain by the Government of India.

 

The Government has not, significantly, made its own view public; it has neither accepted nor disowned the report.

An analysis of there port and its recommendations leads to the inescapable conclusion that it must be rejected by all right-thinking people. It is important, however, to understand the mindset behind the document.

 

Nationhood concept & Kashmir

 

“Kashmir is not merely a piece of land for us in India, nor is it important to us from only a strategic point of view. Rather Kashmir is one of the proud symbols of India’s ancient civilisation and modern nationhood,” observed former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Accession of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir to the union of India is the strongest refutation of the communal basis for the two-nation theory. The problem that we have been facing in Kashmir ever since its accession on October 26, 1947, is the continuation of the contest between (a) the concept of an exclusivist two-nation theory based on religion (Islam) as the core of the nation and (b) the idea of a nation based on inclusive geo-cultural unity along with linguistic-religious plurality and cultural diversity.

For those who want Islam as the core of Kashmir (both stated and unstated) are unable to accept the accession as a settled fact. They term this as a fraudulent accession. Both categories of people – those who feel J&K should have become part of Pakistan and those who believe it should be an independent country surrounded by China, Pakistan, India and the Central Asian states, subscribe to this conjecture.

 

Both refuse to accept historic experiences repeatedly giving the lie to the utopian concept of nationhood.

Pakistan itself is a classic example of the failure of Islam as a basis for nationhood. The ‘Objectives Resolution’ adopted on March 12, 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan proclaimed that the future constitution would be modeled on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam. It further proclaimed that ‘sovereignty rests with Allah’.

 

But all these measures failed to put an end to sectarian as well as intra-sect differences that are being increasingly resolved through violence. Subsequently, conflicts erupted over the fundamental question of who or what constitutes a Muslim.

The Munir Kayani Commission designated to go into the matter after widespread disturbances in 1953 (when the Qadiani Ahmadis were not declared a non-Muslim minority) failed to get any two groups of Ulema to agree on what determined the identity of a Muslim.

The emergence of Bangladesh, the disowning of the Muhajirs who migrated to Pakistan from India and the intensified sectarian divide indicate the fundamental defects in the divisive two-nation theory.

 

India, on the other hand, despite challenges and provocations, has emerged as a successful model for the entire world. Any dilution therefore, of India’s position on Kashmir, i.e. Kashmir as an integral part of India, has serious implications for 1) the unity and integrity of the country, 2) the very concept of our nationhood.

 

Secularism under threat

 

Though Muslims form the majority in J&K, they constitute a minority at the national level. The politics of J&K will have an impact on the well-being of Muslims all over the country. Therefore, it is vital that we do not convey the impression that Muslim-majority area poses a threat to our concept of nationhood based on geo-cultural unity.

 

The insurgency movement in the late 80s, which culminated in the expunging of the minority communities (Kashmiri Pandits) from the valley – termed by the Indian government as the ethnic cleansing of 1989-90 -demonstrates the amplified form of the intolerant, theocratic and secessionist attitude adopted by certain sections. More than 3 lakh people were displaced. These radicalized sectarian forces are not only challenging the unity and integrity of our country but actively engaged in a war with the ideological framework of secularism.

 

Parliament defied

 

The Indian government has committed itself to implementing the unanimous resolution of 1994 by making Pakistan vacate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) so as to restore it to J&K. Jawahar Lal Nehru’s remark about the temporary character of Article 370, “Ghiste ghisteghis jayegi”, reminds us that task of integrating undivided Kashmir with the nation remains incomplete. It was Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s martyrdom that forced the Indian government to embark on a path of progressive integration. Any retraction would seriously undermine the sacrifices made by Dr Mukherjee and others of his ilk.

 

In this regard we have to also consider the generational change from 1947 and 2012. The young India of 2012 is more resourceful, confident and better exposed and integrated with the global community. They will not readily compromise on issues of national importance, including dilution of the concept of nationhood.

 

The interlocutor’s report fails to take any of the above issues into account. The limitations of the report are manifold:

 

  • The credentials of two of the interlocutors, Shri. Dileep Padgaonkar and Smt. Radha Kumar, were in doubt as they reportedly attended seminars organized by Ghulam Fai, an ISI agent who posed as a Kashmiri activist. Obviously, they cannot be regarded as being above suspicion.
  • The interlocutors have suggested replacing the prefix “temporary” to Article 370 of Indian constitution, which does not gel with the Nehruvian idea of a gradual integration. Such a proposal makes a mockery of the 1994 Parliamentary resolution and strengthens the hands of secessionists.
  • The report is supportive of both regional and sub-regional autonomy but silent on the issue of sub-regional autonomy for the religious minorities of the Kashmir Valley. It speaks at length about the sub-regional autonomy of minorities in Ladakh and Jammu, however. The interlocutors have sought to portray the population of Kashmir valley region as a single homogenous identity, which is a gross injustice to communities like the Gujjars, Bakharwals, Paharis etc. who have been ignored for the last six decades.
  • While the interlocutors, especially Shri Dilip Padgaonkar, have claimed the sentiments of the Kashmiri Pandits were not ignored, the issue has been addressed only peripherally. The Indian government in its report to the International Committee of Jurists in Geneva has stated that ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kashmiri Pandits occurred in the early 1990s and thousands were been killed and expatriated. But the report does not recommend means of upholding their rights, ensuring their political participation, or resolving their problems.
  • The report presents a skewed picture. For instance, employing expressions like “mushrooming of religious extremism of all hues” is absurd and clearly motivated, given that extremism in Kashmir has only one colour!
  • Also, terming Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) as Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) is questionable in the first instance. The UN has accepted that POK is an illegal occupation of areas of India by Pakistan. It is also a deliberate subversion of the 1994 Parliament resolution on Kashmir.
  • By characterising Kashmir as a bridge between India, Pakistan and Central Asia and treating it as an independent region, the interlocutors appear to have forgotten that they represent India and give the impression they are promoting the idea of Azad Kashmir.
  • The Jammu region is not accorded just representation in the report. While this region has suffered a lot, the report makes no suggestions on the betterment of its economic and social conditions.