Jammu & Kashmir in the words of Padgaonkar

By Rustam

January 2012

Inter-Regional Relations 

Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir DileepPadgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari submitted their report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on October 12, 2011. The report has not been made public so far. Hence, one cannot say what exactly the report contains. However, one can say with some authority about what Padgaonkar thinks about Jammu & Kashmir and the nature of the problem the nation has been facing in the state since decades. It would be appropriate to quote him verbatim to put things in perspective.

What he says about Jammu & Kashmir reads like this: “Our experience was that the people across the state were not satisfied. They had suffered and the reasons were different in different regions. One of the main reasons for the unrest among the youth was the acute employment problem. Youth were not getting jobs. That was the reason they were turning towards militants”.

“When we tried to find what the people’s political aspirations were, we found the people inhabiting different regions of the state had different and mutually exclusive political perceptions and aspirations. The people of the Valley had different political perceptions, whereas the people of Jammu and Ladakh had altogether different political perceptions. Their standpoints were altogether different. Not just this, the people of Kargil had political perceptions different from those of the people of Leh. Similarly, the political thinking of the people of the Muslim-majority districts in Jammu province was different from those of the people of Jammu city. How should one tackle all these diversities and satisfy all the interests? This was the fundamental issue before us. I think a way could be found out of the report we had submitted”.

“I view the issues facing the state from three angles. One is the relations between the centre and the state. We know that the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh had restricted the jurisdiction of New Delhi to just three subjects (read defence, foreign affairs and communication) as far as Jammu & Kashmir was concerned and the rest of the subjects were under the ambit of the state government. But in course of time New Delhi eroded the internal autonomy the state enjoyed under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and brought the state under the ambit of several central laws. The Government of India also applied various schedules of the Indian Constitution to the state. Article 370 had envisaged for the state a very special status and the purpose was to enable the state to preserve and promote its distinct identity. The application of the central laws and the various schedules of the Indian constitution caused dissatisfaction among the people of the Valley (read Kashmiri Muslims), they got alienated from India. But the people of Jammu and Ladakh felt jubilant. They accepted the central laws and central institutions very cheerfully because they were for their full integration into India”.

“The other was that there were inter-regional tensions and animosities. For example, the people of Jammu and Ladakh hate the people of Kashmir (read Kashmiri Muslims) from the core of their heart. They complained that Kashmir and the people of Kashmir (read Kashmiri ruling elite) had consistently followed a policy of discrimination with them. If the people of Jammu elected one MLA at the rate of one per 100,000 voters, the people of Kashmir elected one MLA at the rate of one per 85,000 voters. It meant that the people of Kashmir had seven seats more in the assembly as compared to the people of Jammu province, although the population of this province was almost equal to that of the Valley. They also complained that it was the people of Kashmir who had occupied the bulk of positions in the vital service sector. The share of the people of Jammu province and Ladakh region in the public services was very inadequate and negligible. Not just this, it was the Kashmir province which always got more funds for developmental activities and creating infrastructure. The people of Jammu and Ladakh always got only crumbs. The people of Jammu and Ladakh were extremely angry with Kashmir. There existed in Jammu and Ladakh anti-Kashmiri sentiment. This was the internal situation in the state. It was said again and again that the inter-regional bitterness would continue to dot the state’s political scene unless there was decentralization of the state power”.

Diversity, Kashmiriat, Corruption, Weak Govt

“The third angle relates to the Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir. The Line of Control has divided many families. Both sides have mountains. Gujjars inhabit these areas. Take, for example, Gilgit. The relatives and ancestors of the people of Gilgit lived, and continue to live, in Baluchistan. POJK, which people on other side call Azad Kashmir, doesn’t house Kashmiri-speaking people. The population of ethnic Kashmiris in POJK is not even one per cent. We have to take cognizance of this demographic profile of the region also. Because in 1994 the Indian Parliament had adopted a resolution which said the only issue that still remained to be resolved between India and Pakistan was the merger of POJK with India. Thus, according to me, the Kashmir problem has three dimensions – Centre-State relations, internal dimension/empowerment and Jammu & Kashmir and POJK”.

“We have been committing a grave mistake since six decades and the mistake is that we are looking at the Kashmir issue the way the people of the Valley want. I agree that the Valley has witnessed more terror-related incidents. Many people have lost their lives there. But it is also true that all the chief ministers of the state, barring GhulamNabi Azad, have been from the Valley. The militant outfits are also Kashmir based. That is why the media and other people focused their attention on the Valley alone. The result of this approach was the neglect of Ladakh and Jammu province. So, when we talk of diversity we talk of the various aspects of the state’s diversity and complexity. We talk of diversity in terms of language. At least eight languages are spoken in the state. There is cultural diversity. There is one more important thing. People say that Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state. It’s true in a sense. But this doesn’t mean that the Muslim population is homogeneous. It is not. The first difference is that the state houses Sunnis and Shiite Muslims. The Muslims who inhabit the areas adjoining the Line of Control are ethnically different. They are Gujjars, Bakerwals, Paharis and so on. They speak different languages. Their culture is different from that of the Muslims who inhabit the Valley proper. They are like Dogras. They have rich literature. They are culturally very rich. They live and co-exist peacefully because they are Dogras who do not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. They call themselves Rajputs. Besides, they feel proud of this fact. The people of the country do not know all this. We have discussed in detail this aspect of the state’s demographic profile and diversity in our report because I believe that each and every socio-cultural group in the state must get the right to preserve its identity, culture and heritage”.

“Yes, we also focused our attention on Kashmiriat. Once upon a time it meant something great; people professing different faiths and belonging to different cultures lived together. But I have come to believe that it has become a story of the past. The Kashmiriat stands considerably eroded. It is now confined to only a few pockets in the Valley. All this happened because Islam in the Valley has become reactionary. The number of Wahabis and the Salafis has increased in the Valley manifold. This has resulted in the erosion of Kashmiriat and rise of extremism and fundamentalism. Hence, I do not consider Kashmiriat as an important factor that could be considered while devising a solution to the Kashmir issue”.

“The Government of Jammu & Kashmir is very weak. We all know that Jammu & Kashmir gets 90 per cent money from the Centre for developmental and other activities. But it cannot utilize these funds on time. This happens because the government doesn’t have the required system and administrative apparatus. As for corruption, it is everywhere in the country. But in Jammu & Kashmir corruption is deep-rooted and is of different type. There is Dal Lake. We have never seen such houses in the country as we saw near and around Dal Lake. The question arises from where the money came? There is no industry in the valley. There are no big factories in Kashmir. Yes, there is carpet industry, dry fruit there. There are also people who are engaged in the business of furniture. But almost all the things are imported from outside Kashmir. So, how is it that the people of Kashmir have such purchasing capacity? The shops and malls are full of costly goods. This means only one thing – rampant corruption. We know that the people of Kerala have a tremendous purchasing capacity. At the same time, we know the reasons for this. The reason is that the people of Kerala go to the Gulf countries, work their and send money to their families. But this is not true of Kashmir Valley and yet the people of Kashmir have become so rich that they can buy highly costly goods. It is clear that the state government is weak and corruption at its zenith. This has led to dissatisfaction among the people of Kashmir in a sense. They say that India does pump into Kashmir money but it doesn’t ensure that the money reaches the right people. It is the misuse of the Indian money which has led to the alienation from New Delhi”.

Autonomy, Separatists, Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmiri Hindus

“I had said during my first visit to Kashmir that we would want to meet separatists. We would want to talk with them. They should tell when and where we should we meet and with what conditions? But they didn’t respond, despite our repeated suggestions to this effect. Then, they told us to invite them formally. We sent letters to each and every separatist leader, but none of them replied. Now when people say that we didn’t meet them my response would be that they should ask the separatists, and not us. We tried our level best but with no result. I also know why didn’t the separatists talk to us? In my view they didn’t come forward for discussions because whatever they do they do it as per the wishes of Pakistan. Those who came forward for negotiations without the concurrence of or at the behest of Pakistan they were murdered. Last year, Abdul GaniBhat candidly acknowledged that we had leveled serious charges against the Indian army, including the charge of murder, but those were false charges. The Kashmiris had killed them (separatists). Then the brother of Bhat Sahib was shot dead. Lone brothers’ father was shot dead. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s father was shot dead. They were shot dead because they were willing to talk with India. So, there exists fear in the valley. That’s the reason the Kashmiri separatists didn’t talk with us. They will not talk unless they are asked by Pakistan to do so”.

“There is no truth in it. We have nowhere used the term autonomy in our report. Only four persons know what lays embodied in our report. I, my two colleagues and Home Minister P Chidambaram know what is there in the report. I once again repeat that we have nowhere used the term autonomy in our report. Look we have not talked of three regional councils, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It was Sheikh Abdullah who had talked of something like this with Jawaharlal Nehru. Thereafter, this issue was discussed thrice. Reports were also produced on the issue, but no decision was taken on any of the reports. BalrajPuri has worked extensively on this subject. We met with him in Jammu a number of times and I can share with you that we were deeply influenced by him”.

“I will tell you that Jammu and Kashmir is a very difficult problem. If this problem is to be surmounted, then the solution has to such as is based on the three principles of dignity, justice and insaniyat. Such an approach can help find a workable, durable and acceptable solution. The people who inhabit different regions like Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh need to be given these three things. We have dealt with this aspect in great details in our report”.

“You would find that the most serious problem in the state is the problem of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits. I do not want to use strong words, but it is highly regrettable that New Delhi and the media have totally ignored them. They are very sad and disappointed. They are feeling abandoned. They were forced to flee from the Valley. Their new generation is born in unlivable tenements and this new generation doesn’t know anything about Kashmir. This is a sad reflection on the situation. Not even a single political party ever raised the issue of Kashmiri Pandits in the Parliament because they constitute a microscopic minority, which has no vote-bank.”

“We have said that our report should be brought in the public domain as soon as possible. We have been told that it would be done soon. First the Home Minister would meet the Prime Minister and discuss with him the report. Thereafter, there would be an all-party meeting, where the report would be discussed. Their views would be ascertained. Thereafter the government would proceed further after taking into account the views of the various political parties. Our job is over”.

Article 370, Candid Reflections & Unsettling Suggestions

“Yes, I can say something about Article 370. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had said that Jammu and Kashmir is a unique state. On the one hand, it is an integral part of India and, on the other hand, it enjoys a special status within the Indian Union. It is under Article 370 that it enjoys a special status. Besides, Jammu and Kashmir has its own constitution which declares Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India. So, Jammu and Kashmir has two identities. The people of the state have two identities. One is that they are Indian nationals. The other is that they are state subjects. There is no region in the country which houses people having two identities. It is very important to understand this double identity of the people of the state. We have also to see how this double identity could be preserved and promoted. It is very important. We have dealt with this aspect in our report”.

One would agree with most of the Padgaonkar’s formulations on Jammu and Kashmir, as well as his views on Pakistan, on Kashmiri separatists, on displaced Kashmiri Hindus, on the attitude of Jammu and Ladakh towards the Central laws, on the Kashmir’s demography, on the plight of Jammu and Ladakh, on the attitude of New Delhi towards Jammu and Ladakh and on the attitude of the India media towards Kashmir. He is absolutely right when he says that the Wahabis and Salafis have given a radical orientation to Islam in Kashmir, thus creating an environment in the Valley where liberals could not live. Indeed, it was the rise of radical Islam that led to the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, thousands of Sikhs and a few Muslims from the Valley. There is no doubt whatever that a particular section of Kashmiri Muslim society has become intolerant and exclusivist over the period. Padgaonkar is also right when he holds Pakistan responsible for their failure to engage with the Kashmiri separatists and opines that the Kashmiri separatists are mortally afraid of Pakistan and that they just cannot afford to ignore Islamabad, which has established their stranglehold over them. He is also to the point when he says that the Kashmiri Society is highly heterogeneous and that while the Kashmiris dislike the central laws, the people of Jammu and Ladakh accept the same most cheerfully.

Equally appreciable are his suggestions on the miserable plight of the displaced Kashmiri Hindus and the people of Jammu and Ladakh who, according to him, never received their due share in the political and economic processes in the state. No less significant is his negative observation that New Delhi and the Indian media have always ignored Jammu and Ladakh and looked things the way the Kashmiri leadership wanted and wants. It would also be a crime against man and god if his observation on the empowerment of people inhabiting different regions is overlooked. Indeed, his’ are candid reflections on Jammu and Kashmir.

However, to say all this is not to suggest that there is nothing controversial in what he has said about the state. There is much that creates serious doubts in the minds of the people about his real intentions. Take, for example, his formulations on Article 370, on double identity of the people of the state, on the need to preserve and promote this double identity, on the special status of the state and on the Instrument of Accession. His formulations clearly suggest that he wants the retention of Article 370; that he doesn’t consider the people of the state an integral part of India to the same extent as other Indian nations, that he supports the concept of double nationality, that he emphasizes the fact that the Instrument of Accession had restricted the jurisdiction of New Delhi over the state to just defence, foreign affairs and communication, that New Delhi over the period diluted the state’s special status by bringing it under the jurisdiction of several central laws and institutions, that the state enjoys a special status that needs to protected, and that we have depended largely upon BalrajPuri while dealing with the issue of regional empowerment. (BalrajPuri wants autonomy for the state and within that autonomous state some semblance of autonomy for Jammu and Ladakh, which is utterly unacceptable.)

Besides, the various reports clearly suggest that the interlocutors have suggested withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, demilitarization of certain areas, rehabilitation of militants, general amnesty and many such things. The fact that Padgaoknar did not reveal as to what exactly the report contains as far as the solution part is concerned does suggest that he has put forth suggestions, which, if accepted, would hasten the process of disintegration or unsettle the settled in Jammu and Kashmir. One must keep one’s fingers crossed. The interlocutors are not really dependable.

–(Courtesy: The Early Times)