Chidambaram would do well to remember that Kashmir has been the most powerful, pampered and prosperous region in the country since October 1947.
On December 14, 2018, P Chidambaram, Congress leader and former Union Finance and Home Minister bemoaned that the Congress-led UPA Government didn’t act on the interlocutors’ report on J&K and underscored that talks were the “only way forward to resolve Kashmir’s problems”. He expressed his regret and put forth his suggestion while speaking at Lokmat National Conclave in New Delhi.
“At the heart of all these dirges, however, is the sentiment that the woes of Kashmir are due to the emasculation of the substance of its distinctive status enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India”.
The Manmohan Singh Government had on October 10, 2010, appointed three interlocutors with a mandate to suggest the contours of a political settlement to the J&K problems. The three interlocutors were journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, academic-cum-activist Radha Kumar and a little known MM Ansari, former Information Commissioner. They were asked by the government to submit their report within a period of one year, which they did. They submitted their report to the then Home Minister P Chidambaram on October 12, 2011, at the North Block. The report was made public on May 24, 2012, more than seven months later.
It was perhaps for the first time that persons appointed by New Delhi to study the situation in J&K and suggest measures which could end the unrest there diagnosed what had been ailing Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh since decades.
What did the interlocutors say in their report? About Kashmir, they said: “The sense of victimhood is articulated in the most intense emotional terms in the Kashmir Valley. The reasons are all too compelling. Here, for over six decades, people have experienced what, in their eyes, constitutes a systematic denial of their democratic rights. They have been witness to rigged elections, the dismissal of elected governments and installation of pliant ones, the arrests of their popular leaders, the choking of dissenting voices through harsh laws, the detention of political prisoners without the due process of law; the failure to bring to book those guilty of violating human rights; and, not least, violence perpetrated by militants and by the security forces.”
“That these alleged violations of human rights – including the deaths of 104 youth in the summer of 2010 – did not adequately figure either in the Indian media or was seen in Parliament, rightly, as India’s lack of concern for the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. Add to this the widespread allegations of mis-governance, pervasive corruption among the political and bureaucratic elites, lack of quality education and public health services; poor physical infrastructure and woefully inadequate job opportunities, especially for skilled and educated youth.
“All these factors, taken together with what is seen as a mushroom growth of religious extremism of all hues, have brutalized Kashmiri society to such an extent that today it fears for the very survival of its religious and cultural identity. This accounts for political demands ranging from ‘Azadi’ and the establishment of an Islamic State to autonomy, self-rule, achievable nationhood and such other alternatives. At the heart of all these dirges, however, is the sentiment that the woes of Kashmir are due to the emasculation of the substance of its distinctive status enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India”.
The immediate grievance in Ladakh is financial, that the principle of State budgetary allocations on a population basis is by its nature biased in a region which is territorially large but sparsely populated.
As for Jammu, the interlocutors said: “The concerns, interests, grievances and aspirations of Jammu and Ladakh are of another order. People in these regions strongly believe that the Valley politicians have given them a raw deal largely due to an iniquitous delimitation of constituencies. Indeed, there is a strong sentiment in both regions that the Centre has neglected their grievances because of their robust pro-India inclinations. “It has taken the people of Jammu and Ladakh for granted and, to make matters worse, consistently chosen to ‘pamper’ the political and bureaucratic elites of the Valley. Such ‘pampering’, they allege, accounts for the sentiments of rage and frustration, particularly among the youth of the two regions. The youth have expressed their sentiments in a peaceful manner so far. But it is only a matter of time before the protests take an ugly turn – as they have in the Valley – unless the grievances are addressed on an urgent and sustained basis.”
“The anti-Valley feelings have widened the regional divide in the State, particularly between Kashmir and Jammu. On certain issues – such as the establishment of facilities for the Amarnath pilgrims – polarization has taken place along communal lines. Some sections of Jammu opinion, therefore, clamour for a separate State”.
The interlocutors had something specific to say about Ladakh: “The demand for Union Territory (UT) status is near unanimous in Leh, cutting across not only party but also community lines (including the small Muslim community, for whom however UT was the least bad of options). There is also a demand for Ladakh to be made a province, on the grounds of its considerable territorial size. Indeed, territorial size is a hot issue in Leh”.
“The immediate grievance is financial, that the principle of State budgetary allocations on a population basis is by its nature biased in a region which is territorially large but sparsely populated. The development of infrastructure suffers severely as a result, and there is little doubt that for infrastructure development allocations need to be made on territorial requirements rather than on the basis of the population”.
All in all, it can be said that P Chidambaram is playing with national security by endorsing the interlocutors’ solution to Kashmir, which has been gripped by jihadi forces since 1339.
As for a solution to the unrest in Kashmir, the interlocutors had suggested a review of all the central laws extended to J&K after the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah on August 9, 1953, from the position of J&K Wazir-e-Azam. These laws or legislation also include the authority of the Supreme Court of India, the control of Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the jurisdiction of Election Commission of India. Besides, the interlocutors suggested that Article 370 should be made a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution without realizing that this Article was a temporary provision as intended by BR Ambedkar, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.
Making Article 370 permanent would mean virtual secession of J&K from India. It would also mean that the Parliament of India shall have no control over the affairs of J&K and the constitutional status of J&K shall revert back to the pre-1947 status. Indeed, their suggestion was dangerous. It constituted a negation of the very institution of the Indian state and it also accorded dangerous respectability to the politics of separatism based on religious fanaticism.
However, the only one good thing that Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari did was their candid acknowledgement that the causes of unrest in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh were different. They can also be complimented for the suggestion that it will be desirable “if three Regional Councils invested with certain legislative, financial and administrative powers are established in the State, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”.
All in all, it can be said that P Chidambaram is playing with national security by endorsing the interlocutors’ solution to Kashmir, which has been gripped by jihadi forces since 1339. Chidambaram would do well to remember that Kashmir has been the most powerful, pampered and prosperous region in the country since October 1947 and Muslims in Kashmir (especially Sunnis who are involved in the ongoing separatist movement in the Valley) the richest people in the world. The nation’s answer to P Chidambaram’s atrocious J&K solution must be a big NO.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.