J&K Interlocutors’ report

J&K Interlocutors’ report :

A ‘compact’ to strengthen or weaken the bonds?

By Ramesh Manvati

June 2012

“…I will not let the Kashmiri Pandit community down. It is a shame that the community has been forced to live as refugees in their own country…”replied Dr. Dileep Padgaonkar in response to “..Sir, we have a lot of expectations from you…”during a brief phone call from this writer, congratulating him immediately after being appointed by GOI as chief interlocutor for J&K on October 13, 2010. This writer had previously met him twice along with other Panun Kashmir colleagues including Dr. Agnishekhar, and Sh.Moti Kaul (then an active member of PK and now President, AIKS) as Padgaonkar was a member of well known Kashmir Committee headed by Ram Jethmalani, a leading legal luminary and former Law Minister of the country. All the members of Kashmir Committee had echoed similar sentiments when Panun Kashmir members had met with them previously. Hence the ‘courtesy’ call to Padgaonkar from this writer. And, since Dileep’s participation in Dr. G.N. Fai’s Pakistan-ISI backed Kashmir centric seminars in USA, was unknown at that point of time, this writer had felt a little bit assured by the chief interlocutor’s promise. As is known, almost similar assurances were subsequently given to various Kashmiri Pandit delegations, including Panun Kashmir, which had met the team of interlocutors comprising of Prof. Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari besides Dileep Padgaonkar.

Brief analysis of the proposed “Compact” :

Before presenting the ‘final’ report last year on October 12, the team had a meeting with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, on September 29, 2011.The report was made public by the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 24, 2012, through its website, after more than seven months of having been presented to Indian Home Minister. And, the government also chose to make it public only after the budget session of Parliament that ended on May 22. As is known, Indian Home Secretary, R. K. Singh, after his two day ‘preparatory’ visit to Kashmir,  (May15-17, where besides his other official engagements, he also met both CM Omar Abdullah and Governor N.N.Vohra-a previous interlocutor), left for Pakistan on May 23, to represent the country at Secretary level talks between the two countries. One can draw individual interpretations of the brief chronology given here before proceeding further.

The interlocutors have received “over 700 delegations of community representatives” but gives a list of only 357 in the report (Annexure ‘E’- page 153 to 169; wrongly mentioned as ‘D’ in the report). Another Pandit organization, AIKS, is also supposed to have met the team, but, finds no mention in the list. Similarly, there is no mention of the teleconference, arranged by US based KP Diaspora and attended by various Pandit representatives (from different parts of the world including USA, UK, New Zealand etc.) besides many parts of India with the chief interlocutor in New Delhi on February 5, 2011 where he had assured the community with these words:“The end result must be one which fulfills the dreams of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits to live a life of honor and dignity in their own homeland.”

It is also baffling to note that “verbal” consultations have been the “mainstay” and written memoranda have formed “only one of the inputs” of their work while framing solutions to the vexed issue. No wonder, the issue of the rise and spread of Islamic terrorisms in the valley and its subsequent expansion to rest of India has once again been virtually pushed under the carpet and consigned to the dustbins of history.

The issue of return and rehabilitation of “Internally Displaced” Kashmiri Pandits, presently in their 23rd year of forced exodus (seventh in the history) because of rise of Islamic terrorism in the Valley in 1986, has been dealt in a very insensitive manner. It is ironic to find them having been clubbed with the issue of Kashmiri militants wanting to return from POK etc. The exiled Pandit community’s prime demand to set up a ‘commission of enquiry’, to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, that would establish the real causes responsible for their gross human rights violation and genocide (termed as “akin to genocide” by the then Chairman, NHRC of India) and their forced displacement from their roots, has been totally ignored. It may be noted the demand has been repeatedly raised by their representatives, including, Dr.Agnishekhat and Dr.Ajay Chrangoo of Panun Kashmir, at various forums including before many Presidents of India and also during three Round Table Conferences, convened and chaired by current P.M. Dr. Manmohan Singh himself in 2006. PM’s RTCs find a mention in the report, but sadly, minus the Pandits’ key demand. It may not be out of place to emphasize here that Kashmiri Pandits, being earliest inhabitants of the valley, having a rich and recorded socio-cultural history of over 5000 years, are the principal victims and stakeholders in the entire issue and as such their legitimate urges and aspirations cannot be taken lightly. And, it should not leave anybody in doubt that return of exiled Pandit community to their place of origin symbolizes return of ‘India’ in Kashmir.

Likewise, the report lays no clear cut emphasis for implementation of the Parliament resolution of 1994. The proposals recommend reopening of Sharada Mata Temple presently in POK, not as an inalienable right, but, only as an overall part of Indo-Pakistan policy to facilitate religious pilgrimages between the two countries.

The report talks of preservation and promotion of all “spoken” languages but is silent about necessity of the revival of Sanskrit, the great language of “gods and higher learning”. It may be noted that Kashmir’s contribution to Sanskrit literature from ancient times, particularly predating the advent of Islam in the valley in early part of 14th Century, has been monumental and is well recognized the world over. Unfortunately, the sacred language, a symbol of great heritage and culture, has been rendered almost defunct now by centuries’ old Islamic hegemony and persecution in the state. The apathy of democratically elected state and central governments in the modern times, towards Sanskrit is equally shameful.

Although the proposed “compact” rightly mentions that the “clock cannot be set back” (  to pre ’53 situation), but how come it  recommends a “case by case review of all the Central laws and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to the state after the July 1952 Delhi Agreement”? Similarly, why the “temporary” Article 370 of the Indian constitution is suggested to be treated as “special” when the majority voice of the three regions of the state, including that of Jammu and Ladakh, wants its total repeal to help further integrate the state with rest of the country? The suggestion of “gradual” rolling back of Article 312 (All India Services and All-India Services Act-1951 that intends to “enhance” the State’s Administrative Services from present 50% (as against 33% in other States of the country) is also beyond ones comprehension.The crafty language / words used leave no one in doubt about the interlocutors’ compulsions that only smack of a big conspiracy to weaken India’s position on Kashmir.

In general public perceptions, the secessionists- APHC (both Geelani and Mirwaiz factions), JKLF, etc have boycotted the interlocutors. But, on close scrutiny of the final report “informal discussions” have taken place “with some of them”, including member organizations, “such as former APHC Chairman, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, and/or their supporters, and  district branches of such organizations as the Bar Association” – who have provided them “ illuminating ” inputs “especially for key CBMs, political elements and roadmap issues”.

It may be borne in mind that PDP, the well known political face of secessionist elements in the state, has welcomed the report with remarks: “Some of the suggestions made by interlocutors have been proposed by our party in self-rule document”. As is well known, the so-called “Self-Rule” is a proposal initiated by Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf during his presidency. He, as the then Pak Army Chief, was also behind 1999 Kargil intrusion that saw 527 Indian security forces martyred besides 1,363 wounded. The ruling NC, which has stuck to its “Autonomy” and pre-53 stand, thinks: “we had an ideal opportunity when we were dealing with Pervez Musharraf at the height of his power”. However, BJP has rejected the report and Panthers Party has termed “the three musketeers’” reportedly Rs. fifty crore exercise a “fraud”.

The legitimate demand for a separate statehood for Jammu, UT Status for Ladakh and a separate Homeland for KPs within the valley, stands sadly ignored by the interlocutors. And, what emerges in the end, is that the govt. is essentially trying to “build on commonalities” between NC’s ‘Greater Autonomy’; PDP’s ‘Self-Rule’ and Peoples’ Conference’s ‘Achievable Nationhood’ proposals and force down the so-called “new compact” through the throat of the patriotic and majority voice of the state i.e. the combined voice of Kashmiri Pandits, Jammuites, Ladakhies, Gijjar-Bakkarwals,Sikhs and other patriotic forces.

Not only is the apparently orchestrated report self contradictory, but lacks clear insight into the ground realities including the psyche of the large section of ‘majority’ community of the state. One may tend to agree with the suggestion, if India was to consider devolution of more powers, purely on equality basis, to various states of the country, including, Jammu and Kashmir. But, one must understand, the context and contours of such a demand from valley based politicians has a different connotation altogether. Thanks to its weak-kneed policies, Indian state has been grappling with political gimmickry in J&K, particularly in the valley, for more than six decades now. And, the just released 176 page report has only added to the prevailing confusing and capricious situation. Therefore, the interlocutors’ highly expensive exercise is nothing but one more attempt to appease the separatists and their cohorts, both within the state and across the border that leaves ample scope for dilution of India’s overall sovereignty and integrity in the state – which can’t be allowed at any cost. Besides, the supreme sacrifice of thousands of security forces who have laid down their precious lives to protect and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the country in the state, particularly in the valley during last over six decades, cannot be allowed to go in vain just to please anti-national elements – who only deserve to be tried for treason and/or treated as per appropriate law of the Nation.

Dileep Padgaonkar and his team may have played to the gallery. But, have certainly not lived up to their promise made to exiled Pandits – now reduced to a “reverse minority” in the state. Therefore, the community has rightly rejected and burnt the report titled: “A new compact with the people of Jammu & Kashmir”. The compact may contain some new phrases and words but there is nothing fresh in it that could help strengthen further the millennia old bonds between Bharat Mata and her ‘crown’. Hence, the question arises: can the Indian patriotic forces in general, and the exiled Kashmiri Pandit community in particular, see the writing on the wall and help consolidate its only potent political voice-Panun Kashmir – to meet the challenges ahead? Yes, We Can !

*(The writer, a senior political analyst and activist of Panun Kashmir, can be reached through e-mail :- paannyaar@rediffmail.com    rameshmanvati@yahoo.co.in