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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ominous signs from Kashmir Valley

By Swapan Dasgupta

At a time when the Kashmir Valley has reverted to its status as a persisting trouble spot, it may seem churlish to target Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Political recriminations, it is accepted by most right-thinking Indians, can await a moment when things are relatively more settled.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the third generation Abdullah — who, like his father, has a considerable fan following outside the troubled State — doesn’t see things in the same way. In a statement from Srinagar last Friday, Omar argued that “the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir cannot be assuaged only by development, good governance and economic packages but needs a political solution”. Pleading the case for more autonomy, the Chief Minister added, “But I am not averse to move beyond it, if there is a solution other than autonomy that is acceptable to both India and Pakistan and meets the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.”

Whether Omar is hinting his tacit support for the opposition PDP’s espousal of “dual sovereignty” involving India and Pakistan is unclear. What is interesting, however, that the earlier belief, mouthed by many well-meaning Indian liberals, that a long dose of purposeful, good governance can bring an alienated Kashmir Valley back to the constitutional mainstream, has been challenged by the Chief Minister. The significance of this assertion should not be under-estimated, not least because it loosely corresponds to the position taken by some of the 'moderate' sections of the Hurriyat Conference.

Omar’s assertion is calculated to inflict a great deal of collateral damage on another, well-entrenched position. Since 1948, the Nehruvian consensus has proceeded on the assumption that Jammu & Kashmir warranted exceptional treatment which would be guaranteed by the special provisions of Article 370. Although the parameters of this regional autonomy have been diluted, first in 1953 and then following the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah understanding in 1974, the special status of Kashmir was protected by the Constitution. This meant that the State could either inch towards greater integration with the rest of India or regress into greater uniqueness. Whatever the to and fro movement of regional autonomy, it was believed that Article 370 would preserve Jammu & Kashmir as an integral part of the Indian Union. Now, Omar, a loyal ally of the Congress, has struck a hammer blow at one of the load-bearing pillars of the Nehruvian consensus.

The ‘political solution’ that the Chief Minister is alluding to is an euphemism for an understanding between India and Pakistan over the status of Jammu & Kashmir. Despite the presence of Kashmir on the dhobi list of the composite dialogue, it has been apparent for long that there is absolutely no meeting ground between New Delhi and Islamabad. India has maintained that Kashmir is an internal problem while Pakistan is equally clear that there is a liberation struggle being waged in a ‘disputed’ area whose future should be settled by a referendum.

It is conceivable that the Manmohan Singh Government has modified India’s earlier refusal to talk the internal affairs of Jammu & Kashmir with Pakistan. If so, this is something that the people of India, not to speak of Parliament, are clearly unaware of. Whatever the reality, Omar’s statement is certain to set the cat among the pigeons. Pakistan and its proxies within India have now secured an extra handle to press the case for the legitimisation of Islamabad’s ‘moral and political’ support for the azadi movement in Jammu & Kashmir.

It would be prudent to recognise that in the event the civil unrest in the Kashmir Valley is not brought under control fast and effectively, the issue of ‘dual sovereignty’ will gain currency. At an international level, Pakistan has already successfully sold the West its self-serving thesis that peace in Afghanistan (at least the termination of the Al Qaeda threat) is substantially dependant on the concessions it secures in Kashmir. India has so far managed to withstand international pressure by successfully leveraging its economic clout. However, there was also the fact that Kashmir was plodding gently along the path of democracy, development and a half-decent Government. Coupled with the greater sensitivity of the Indian security forces to ‘human rights’ issues, there was a marked disinclination of the West to draw a moral equivalence between a democratic India and a dysfunctional Pakistan.

According to the logic of Western diplomacy, Pakistan received bucketfuls of aid but India was someone you could do business with. India’s implied superior status may evaporate if the country is caught in a pincer movement of Left-wing extremism and Muslim separatism. If India isn’t to go back to the days of the first Clinton Administration when the very accession of Jammu & Kashmir was sought to be questioned, the Centre must ensure that peace returns to the State. Redeploying some of the forces is a small price to pay for preventing ‘dual sovereignty’ to make its appearance on the international agenda.

For long, India’s policy-makers have proceeded on the assumption that people are prone to rational political behaviour. In other words, it has been assumed that given a choice between a economically buoyant India and an imploding Pakistan torn between feudal decadence and Islamist lunacy, the people of Jammu & Kashmir would quietly prefer the status quo. Obviously this hasn’t happened.

The implications are disturbing. Either Omar is an inept administrator who has taken to equating personal failings with systemic failure. Alternatively, the hold of religious separatism is far more deep-rooted in the Kashmir Valley than was widely believed. For India’s sake, we can only hope that the disturbances in the Valley are all the fault of Omar Abdullah.

Sunday Pioneer, July 4, 2010


Anonymous said...

The ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims in Kashmir valley proved it was a religious problem, and not an economic one as glossed over by commentators in Indian media in the name of secularism. Wrong diagnosis means wrong medicine - no wonder the problem remains uncured.

Anonymous said...

The amusing part is that all the so called intellectuals are worried about the Kashmir Valley so much as if they understand the politics that goes on there. I can bet my life on the fact that the so called Media and the publications do not have the last clue as to what is in the minds of the politicians over there. And the fact that the aspirations of the state of J&K are actually thought to be the aspirations of the Kashmiri people only is really appalling. Did anyone with even the slightest semblance of sanity ask the people of Jammu or Ladakh if they want to be Governed under the greater autonomy or even the Article 370. No, never, not till the time this useless, Spineless, Vision-less Govt. is sitting at the center. As pointed earlier, there was an exodus of Hindu people from the Valley and till date this has never been the issue with the govt. . This is what 50 yrs+ of misrule brings you.

ravinder said...

Kashmir is a religious problem....

Tell that to M.J.Akbar, he says JuD also has a social agenda.

There is enough sand in the world for every ostrich.

Anonymous said...

Tangentially on topic Sawpanda .

( Obviously , it is your decision whether to post it or not )

Only very recently I stumbled upon rupeenews site . And started writing my comments.

The following comment of mine never appeared. Getting deleted everytime I try. Hence reposting in your blog here . Which would clear a lot of undesirable cobwebs from a lot of us Indians also be they of whatever religion / gender / caste .


" Seriously , I am not a wee bit interested in what Lajpat Rai , Sawarkar , Arya Samaj or Brahmo Samaj etc etc did or said or wrote.
Could we be in the present please ?
I am NOT anti British , anti ISRAEL , anti America , anti Christian or for that matter anti anyone. I love Mohd Rafi as much as I love TM Soundararajan , Pithukuli Murugadas , MS Subbalakshmi , Asha Bhonsle get the picture ?
Many Indians are sans cobwebs like me.
During the traumatic time in history you narrate above , a lot of British , Jews , Christians & certain Muslims ALSO were regularly hobnobbing with Ramana Bhagavan & Kaanchi Shankaracharya .
I am narrating a real incident which took place in Puri.
A hindu married woman abducted & raped by a muslim came back all covered in black to Bodhendra Swamigal ( One of The Pontiffs of Kaanchi Adhvaitha Shankarachaarya Peetham ) .

She felt "polluted" and prostrated before Sri Bodhendra Swamigal.
He instructed the lady to present herself at the Pushkarini of Sri Puri Jagannatha Swami temple,clad in the clothes of a muslim and take bath in the holy waters after uttering 'Sri Rama Nama'.
To the surprise of all,the lady came out of the waters dressed as a Hindu with 'kumkumam'(vermilion mark) on her forehead!The whole crowd then chanted 'Rama Nama'.

In another instance there was this hindu woman who against all opposition wanted to marry a muslim who she was in love with. She came to Ramana Bhagavan ( the video recording of her narration is very much there) asking for His Blessings & approval.
Everytime she ventured to open her mouth driving home the point " he is muslim I am hindu " Ramana Bhagavan silenced her with :-
" Does not matter belong to God..."
And thus she married a muslim living happily.
A Catholic Christian boy orphaned & ostracised by Indian mainstream society received Blessings & Initiation into Gayathri Mantra by the Maha Tapasvi Sri. Kaavyakantha Ganapathi Muni Himself.
These few potent telling incidents have been written by me so that you read & ruminate for a few days.
And stop whingeing quoting good for nothing , ill informed romila thapars ".

The discussion with the rest of the comments can be found in the link below.

Anonymous said...


So many formulae have been tried in the J&K and yet nothing seems to work as finally the seperatists and the Pakistanis start creating problems and violence.

Why don't you seriously take up the proposal for tri-furcating J&K. This makes sense seeing the history and the violence which has almost killed 50,000 people.

This will strengthen the secularism of India. If we can have seperate states of Ladakh and Jammu, and Kashmir is reduced to 2500 sq km, things will be easily managable.

The salient features.

a) Kashmir should be divided in such a manner that the river flow to the rest of India is unhampered.

b)Terrorist violence basically happens in 2500 sq km. Once J&K is trifurcated, it would be easy for the army and the civil administration to control 2500sq km

c)A plebiscite will never happen as we are too strong to let the world force us. However in case of a hypothetical situation that it does, then India has the right of taking the vote of Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir.

d) Pakistan has already integrated Baltistan as a seperate state, so we have to see what others are doing. In fact they have changed the demographic pattern of Muzzafarabad and occupied Kashmir so that Punjabis are in a majority.

e) Once kashmir is reduced to 2500 sq km, it will make the seperatists realise that their dream of a small landlocked independent country is futile.

f) We can revoke section 370 for Jammu and Ladakh immediately after trifurcation so that patriotic Indians from all over the country can buy land and settle there.

g)Ladakh has Lakes, mountains, and calmness as well as Buddhist tourist spots. A huge potential exists. While Jammu attracts lakhs for the Vaishno Devi Yatra.
Once they shine, Kashmiris will be inpired to give up the gun and join the mainstream

At the end of the day all people from the J&K region would be proud to be Indian. Currently we are holding the people of Jammu and of Leh-Ladakh hostage to the political machinations of a few outsiders.

Swapan, since you are erudite and can see both sides of any issue, can you not give this idea a serious thought and project it?