Across the aisle: Revisiting Jammu and Kashmir

We cannot allow ourselves to be caught between a hard place and a hard place. If we do, the losers will be the people of J&K and India will lose the opportunity to find a political solution.

Written by P Chidambaram | New Delhi | Updated: January 7, 2018 7:11 pm
J&K snowfall A Kashmiri youth jump covered with snow trees at Tangmarg in North Kashmir’s Baramulla. (Express Photo By Shuaib Masoodi)

From time to time we are rudely reminded that there is an issue concerning the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The last reminder came on the night of 30-31 December 2017, when militants attacked the CRPF Training Centre at Lethpora in Pulwama district killing five CRPF personnel and injuring three.

Different sections of the people — and the polity — have different views on the issue of J&K. At one extreme is the position of the Hurriyat: secession. They know their goal of seceding from the Indian Union is impossible and can never be achieved. At the other extreme is the hard, muscular, militaristic position of the BJP. They know that will never lead to a political solution.

We cannot allow ourselves to be caught between a hard place and a hard place. If we do, the losers will be the people of J&K and India will lose the opportunity to find a political solution. Fortunately, that need not be so, and there are many initiatives that can be taken that will pave the way to a political solution of the Kashmir issue.

I have written extensively on J&K. Please read the five columns that appeared between April 17 and September 18, 2016, and the two columns that appeared on April 16, 2017 and July 16, 2017.

A Pre-election Gimmick

On the eve of the election in Gujarat, the government appointed Mr Dineshwar Sharma as Special Representative (SR), but his mandate was not clear. Subsequently, it was indicated that the SR will talk to anyone who was willing to meet him, and therein lies the catch.

The government — and the BJP — had branded the Hurriyat as secessionists and asserted that there will be no talks with them, ever.

The government — and the BJP — had branded the demand for azadi as no different from the demand for secession and asserted that there will be no talks with those who demand azadi.

The government — and the BJP — had branded the stone-pelters as anti-nationals and cracked down on them using the army, the paramilitary and the police.

The government — and the BJP — had after the attack on the Pathankot Air Force Base in January 2016 ruled out talks with Pakistan.

‘No talks’ was presented as if it were a policy. In support of the policy, more jawans (Army and para-military) were deployed in the Kashmir Valley. It was claimed that the hard, muscular, militaristic approach will put an end to infiltration and militancy. Has it? Look at the Table containing the numbers of persons killed in the last four years:

Infiltration and militancy, supported by Pakistan, have caused turmoil in J&K. But it would be wrong to think that the issue is infiltration and militancy. Infiltration and militancy are the consequences of the issue. The issue is the long-pending dispute concerning the accession of Kashmir. The state of J&K was forcibly divided following the first war between India and Pakistan in 1947, and remains divided until this day. Four wars have been fought over the issue. No purpose will be served by pretending that there is no issue or there is no dispute between India and Pakistan.

Vajpayee vs Narendra Modi

Wisdom lies in actively working to find a political solution to the issue of J&K. Both Mr A B Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh will be remembered for their diligent efforts to find a solution to the issue. On several occasions, a solution seemed to be within our grasp, but the solution — if there was one — slipped out of our hands. The fault of the present government is that it does not seem to want a solution; it is not making a diligent effort to seek a solution; and by shutting the door on talks with all the stakeholders, it has foreclosed a solution in the near future.
The way forward is to invite all stakeholders for talks.

Unfortunately, the stakeholders have perceived the appointment of the SR as a pre-election gimmick and have totally rebuffed the good fellow. Without diminishing the importance of those who met him (from a fruit growers’ association to a football association), take a look at the list of stakeholders who did not meet him: Congress, National Conference, CPI (M), as a party; Hurriyat Conference; Recognized Students Unions; Trade Unions; Politically active youth groups

The policy of ‘no talks’ with the Hurriyat or those who demand ‘azadi’ or those who were arrested for stone pelting (all citizens of India) had doomed the mission to failure.

Try Alternative Approach

Still, all is not lost. I support the idea of interlocutors, but that step has to be part of a set of measures. Here are the measures that I had outlined in my column of April 16, 2017:

Promulgate Governor’s Rule in the state;

Announce that the Central government will hold talks with all stakeholders;

Appoint interlocutors to pave the way for talks;

Reduce the presence of the Army and para-military in the Kashmir Valley and hand over the task of maintaining law and order to the state police; and

Strengthen the defence of the border with Pakistan and take deterrent action against infiltrators and militants.

I stand by every word. If you are one of those who had thought that the hard, muscular, militaristic approach of the government should be given a chance, please look at the table once again. You may change your view.

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  1. Bozdar Mustafa
    Jan 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm
    The so-called Instrument of Accession (the request from Maharaja and acceptance by the Governor-General) is the biggest burden on the democratic authority of India promised to have a reference to the people of Kashmir for knowing their will to join either of the states of India or Pakistan. This promise daunts and taunts India since last 70 years like a burning fire. Every other person is told that Kashmir state assembly ratified accession. This is the biggest lie on earth. Why? The UN security council has categorically rejected the establishment of state assembly as it was not the right forum to assert opinion of the people of the Kashmir. People are still alive and they know well how fake and forged elections of this so-called assembly were held and how these were won by the party of Shaikh Abdullah. This blow to India is still aching like a hot iron rod. The only solution in legal an moral terms is holding free n fair plebiscite under UN monitoring and administration.
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    1. Ananda Padmanabhan
      Jan 8, 2018 at 9:04 am
      When terrorists and Pakistan are feel heating from Indian security forces and global opinion , dynasty congress pseudo secular apologists are jumping for their bail out with statements to criticize Government Kashmir policy, and so to discourage the morale of our security forces. For 65 years, dynasty congress led governments could not solve Kashmir issue politically then why they are so adamant, this must be fixed by now?
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      1. Renjith Thomas
        Jan 8, 2018 at 11:08 am
        65 years? So Vajpayee was also a congressman.. Haha..
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        1. Ananda Padmanabhan
          Jan 8, 2018 at 12:36 pm
          Why not?
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      2. Abdulhaq Syed
        Jan 8, 2018 at 8:16 am
        Only a war, and a nuclear war will decide the future of Kashmir. Let Pakistan rain her strategic nuclear weapons on the Indian cities and turn these into glass. Kashmiri's , including me, are for an all out destruction of the Indian vermin.
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        1. Socrates Santos
          Jan 8, 2018 at 8:32 am
          Thank your Allah that you are not in the hands of a regime like Syria, otherwise this non-sense Kashmir problem would have been solved long ago with all jehadi Kashmiris who think like you, gone from the face of earth with carpet bombing and poisonous gas. Your daddy Pakistan, would not have been able to do sh t to prevent it.
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        2. Abdulhaq Syed
          Jan 8, 2018 at 8:13 am
          The only solution to Kashmir is to give right of self determination to Kashmiris as promised to them by the first Congress PM Nehru and the top leader of Congress Gandhi. Let Kashmiris decide wheather they want to be part of India or Pakistan. if they want India, so be it. But , I'll bet you million to one, they will opt for Pakistan or a no India solution.
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          1. Narendra M. Apte
            Jan 8, 2018 at 7:21 am
            1. I believe we have to accept certain ground realities before we could think of a permanent a solution to Kashmir issue. Realities are: (a) Indian govt. will never discuss the Kashmir issue with either separatists or with Pakistani army. If separatists wish to live in a world of their own, one cannot do anything about it: let them do that. (b) Despite Pakistan’s repeated denial, the entire democratic world knows that terror groups like LeT, JeM, and Pakistani Taliban operate freely from Pakistan and good many of them do so because Pakistan’s intelligence wing, ISI, provides immunity to such terror groups. These terror outfits are freely used to create disturbances in India. (c) We cannot count on continuous support of USA or any other country when we deal with Pakistan. 2. If we recognise the above realities and If Pakistan accepts that Kashmir is and will remain a part of Indian Union, a solution may be found. Over to Mr. P Chidambaram!
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