Re-defining Trust Deficit

By Shailendra Aima

August 2010

In an Indpendence Day-eve bonanza, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced that his government will recruit 50,000 youths in the next few months and pitched for restoration of autonomy to the state to bridge the “trust deficit” between the people and the Centre.

The Chief Minister proclaimed that people in Jammu and Kashmir have cynicism about the promises made by the Centre in the past and there is a need for the central government to initiate action to remove all doubts from the minds of the people and bridge the gap that has emerged over the last six decades.

“I think by restoring the autonomy, this trust deficit will be removed. I request the government of India to take urgent measures in this regard,” he said. In his address to the people on the eve of the Independence Day, Omar said no economic or employment packages can heal the wounds.

It was also widely being discussed in the Valley that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during his Independence Day Address to the Nation, would make some pronouncement to this effect.  Some Kashmir observers also believed that it would assuage the Azaadi-wallas, and that included all shades  – NC’s Autonomy, PDP’s Self-Rule, Omar Farooq’s Referendum and Geelani’s Self-determination. In fact some lobbyists in Delhi had exercised lot of pressure on him. But then what stopped him?

When Omar talked so vehemently about a trust deficit and the minds of the people and of bridging the gap, what was in his mind and who were the people he was talking about.  Definitely he neither talked about Jammu and Ladakh nor about that segment of Kashmiri society which has been expelled out of its homeland.  He excluded more than half of the population and more than two thirds of the state’s area from his perspective.  He created mistrust or a trust deficit with all these people, outside his immediate constituency.  And even his trust within Kashmir has become quite questionable.

In fact, the acts of omission and commission of the Kashmiri leadership have been so glaringly blatant ever since 1947 and responsible for building mistrust among the people of the state at one hand and between Indian people and Kashmiri leaders on the other.  Take for example the situation in 1953, when Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah had to be arrested.

In 1978, when Henderson Papers were made public, it appeared that in September 1950 the United States Ambassador to India, Loy Henderson had secretly visited Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh had told Henderson that majority of Kashmir leaders favored Independent state and even some Pak occupied Kashmir leaders were supporting the idea. Then in May 1953, Sheikh had talked to American Democratic leader Stevenson in Srinagar on similar lines as he had talked to Loy Henderson.  The Sheikh not only betrayed Nehru’s Trust, he created a chasm between New Delhi and Kashmir.

Even before that when in 1951, the preparations for the elections to the Constituent Assembly began the parties and candidates, seeking election to the Assembly in opposition to the official candidates of the National Conference, complained of intimidation and interference. They charged the National Conference of using force and pressure to drive them out of the elections and preventing them from filing their nomination papers. For the forty-one of the forty-three constituencies in the Kashmir Province, not a single nomination paper was filed by the candidates in the opposition. In the two, remaining constituencies of Habbakadal in the city of Srinagar and of Baramulla Township, nomination papers were filed by Pandit Shiv Narayan Fotedar and Sardar Sant Singh Tegh, an Akali Sikhs leader of the State. However, the two leaders did not remain in the fray for long and both withdrew in protest. Sant Singh Tegh complained of official interference in the elections and alleged that the color of his ballot boxes, was changed in his absence and his voters were prevented from attending his election meetings by unfair and foul means.

In the Jammu province, Praja Parishad nominated candidates for twenty-seven constit-uencies of the provinces, generally filing nomination papers of more than one candidate for each constituency. Forty-one of the forty-six nominations filed by the Parishad were rejected in twenty-seven constituencies, leaving the Parishad to contest elections in only three constituencies in the province. On 22 September 1951, the Working Committee of the Parishad adopted a resolution condemning the rejection of the nomination papers of the Parishad candidates and gave an ultimatum to the Government to reverse the rejections, failing which the Parishad threatened to boycott the elections. The President of the Praja Parishad Pandit Prem Nath Dogra issued a press statement in Delhi on 6 October 1951 in which he alleged that:

·         The elections in the two provinces of Jammu and Kashmir were scheduled to be held on different dates to provide the National Conference an advantage over the other parties;

·         The delimitation of the constituencies was undertaken in a manner, which used gerrymandering to turn many Hindu majority constituencies into Muslim majority constituencies;

·         Fortune of the forty-six nomination papers filed by the Praja Parishad candidates were rejected on false and flimsy grounds;

Official interference in the elections was widespread and the entire official machinery was geared to help the National Conference.

Trust is a container concept used in a broad variety of disciplines.  Trust and suspiciousness are often well-founded.  In potentially uncertain, dangerous and risky environment we need to know very well who we can and who we cannot trust and in which circumstances we can do what.  The essence of trust management is not to trust but to decide to what extent we can trust and how to develop and create trust relationships.  Building trust has a special meaning.

Did the Kashmiri leadership ever care to create and nurture trust which Omar Abdullah bemoans has been eroded.  On Amarnath Land Row issue, he deliberately created mistrust when he described the Agitation in the Valley as an expression of “Kashmiri Nationalism”.  In the Parliament of India, he categorically asserted, “this was an issue of our land; and we fought for our land; and shall fight to the last”.  His communal bias was at the forefront and the entire nation stood in shock over his fulminations.

On October 2, 1988, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, his statue was to be installed in the new high court complex in Srinagar and the chief justice of India was to inaugurate it. But a few anti-India lawyers objected and threatened to disrupt the function. The chief minister gave in and it was none other than an active member of the National Conference, who created this trouble.  Was Gandhi an alien in Kashmir or a symbol of imperialist India?  But who cared to explain and hence the Trust Deficit.

There are numerous other instances, but let’s look at only a few.  Why did J&K Assembly pass the controversial Resettlement Bill which was never approved by the Centre? The Bill had proposed that Muslims of J&K who had fled to Pakistan or PoK during Partition be brought back to Indian Kashmir and resettled there with honour and dignity. The land they had left behind was to be restored to them. At the same time the State Government did nothing with regard to the settlement of the Hindu Refugees of 1947 from West Pakistan who came to state of J&K.

In 1987, Farooq Abdullah announced cancellation of Darbar Move to the winter capital of the state, Jammu.  In fact he as the Chief Minister decided to do away with the century old practice.  A month long agitation in Jammu was required to annul the anti-Jammu decision of the CM.  Was Farooq aiming to build trust?

After 1996, when Dr. Farooq Abdullah reclaimed power after six years of violent operations and Governor’s Rule, he proclaimed that peace had returned.  He pronounced return plans for displaced Hindus.  These proposals were coercive in nature; and he went even to the extant of threatening of stopping relief in Jammu.  The displaced diasporas and the employees unions, besides staging hartals and demonstrations, were forced to seek court’s intervention.  Farooq Abdullah’s Government opposed the case of exiled Kashmiris for granting IDP status before NHRC.  And even after the Displaced Employees won the case against Government for grant of House Rent Allowance in the High Court and now in the Supreme Court of India, the state government is still procrastinating impleme-ntation of the same.

The attrition on exiles has assumed the legal form guided by the perpetrators and collaborators of genocide within the government and the political establishment. The phenomenon is manifest glaringly in the return policy of the government. The policy is being used to force the victim to conform and submit, or face the spectre of abject destitution and perish. The recruitment drive for ‘Kashmiri migrants’ is basically a process to strip them of their right to live with dignity and honour.

What the government is doing is brazen.  Its methods are goebbelion. Joseph Goebbels once talked about his methods in a confidential meeting with the German Journalists, “Up to now we have succeeded in leaving the enemy in the dark concerning Germany’s real goals… just 1932 our domestic foes never saw where we were going or that our oath of legality was just a trick… we wanted to come to power legally, but we did not use power legally… they could have suppressed us….. They could have arrested a couple of us in 1925 and that would have been that, the end. No they let us through the danger zone…. They let us alone and let us slip through the risky zone and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs.”  Kashmiri Hindus are being subjected to a new phase of genocidal attrition by an enemy (read J&K Government)  who is thinking that it has crossed the ‘danger zone’ and can now wage the war with more confidence.
On March 8, 2010, a PDP legislator, Murtaza Khan introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the State Legislative Council, seeking to deprive the daughters of J&K of their natural right to marry persons of their choice outside the state, and thereby snatch their right to own immovable property or inherit ancestral property in J&K, or obtain jobs with the State Government in case they marry persons other than State Subjects. The Bill sought to restore the pre-October 7, 2002 position that had been challenged in J&K High Court and reversed on the Court’s Orders. In fact, the government should not have allowed introduction of the Bill in view of the storm that the similar official Bill had created across the country in 2004.  But as it is the Kashmir centric Government hardly cared for the alienation of Jammu or else and hence the suspicion and lack of trust.

It shall be too exhaustive and since is well known how the State Assembly passed the Greater Autonomy Bill, we shall spare discussion on the subject in this paper. But it shall not be out of place to mention that the State Legislative representation is skewed and heavily in favour of Kashmiris, and that too a particular section of the Valley due to gerrymandering and biased delimitation. Again, National Conference through deceit and chicanery obtained a highly biased Justice Sagir Ahmad Report on Centre-state Relations.  The Justice Sagir Ahmad Committee was constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of his Round-Table initiative. I refer to these two instances since Jammu and Ladakh have time and again out rightly rejected these proposals and want full integration of J&K with the Indian Union.  Did the State government care?  It went ahead and alienated these two regions further and hence the trust deficit.

It is quite clear that the successive Governments in Jammu and Kashmir have cared little about the sensitivities of its people, be that in Jammu and Ladakh, or be that those in Kashmir who don’t stand together with the handful Azaadi-wallas.  And they have least regard for the sensitivities of Indian public and their representatives.

When someone asked why the Prime Minister of India did not mention a word about Autonomy etcetera in his Independence Day address, sharp came the reply that the Indian Prime Minister spoke what was expected of him.  It should be borne clear that the public opinion in India is ready to accommodate but is not ready to either GIVE IN or GIVE AWAY.

It is also true that a shade of public opinion in India does empathize with the Azaadi-wallas in Kashmir, but a majority of Indians don’t support their vision and misplaced priorities and sentimentality.  Indian opinion is strong on J&K being an integral part of India, and can never support any fiddling with the nation’s sovereignty.

It shall be a travesty to believe that the Indian mind is naive enough to believe that entire J&K wants to secede, because some youth are hurling stones and are ready to get killed, there.

Indians widely believe that the movement in the valley is patently communal and that besides public properties and the security forces, the Azaadi-wallas have also targeted and vandalized Hindus and other minorities of Kashmir who are living as exiles outside their Homeland; and that they must be rehabilitated back in Kashmir.

It is also a firm opinion that Pakistan which is badly embroiled in sectarian strife, international terrorism, poverty, illiteracy and bankruptcy, is the epicenter of terror, an ideological state and a dying state. By acceding to Azaadi-wallas, neither the State and nor the people of India would let Pakistan get a fillip or a breather.

Isn’t it obvious that the opinion expressed by the Kashmiri leaders of all hues on TV channels has been quite supportive of the Azaadi-wallas and that the government in power as well as other mainstream politicians of Kashmir have abdicated and left the playfield open for Hurriat faction lead by Sayyad Ali Shah Geelani.  Indian public opinion therefore is antagonized on the issue.  And hence the trust deficit.

A strong opinion is emerging that Kashmir of today is an entry point for Taliban in a big way, and that Kashmir is fast getting sucked into an AFPak kind of syndrome; and that the Azaadi-wallas have made a mockery of it and pushed their beloved land into an impending disaster.  The opinion makers as well as the observers recollect with horror what Ayotollah Khomeini did to his communist supporters. It is also believed that Islamic fundamentalism is not a banner of victim people. It is a banner of the declaration of a war on all types of freedom.

The observers as well as the security establishment understand that terror operatives will reappear as they are waiting across the border and are a call away if state government’s plea of bringing them back is accepted by Delhi. They are being branded as innocent youth who have been misled by wrong people, so to say, and have to be brought back.  What an appealing argument! The so-called healing touch policy is now being mocked at as a bleeding-touch policy.  This is the trust deficit.

Whether Sheikh really had sought any help from the United State for translating his dream of Independent and Sovereign Kashmir into reality is now a matter of history; but what is being enacted on the streets of Srinagar has only widened the gap between the communities and regions within Jammu ands Kashmir on one hand, and between New Delhi and Srinagar on the other.  The nation is watching in the hope that Kashmiris would realize the futility of their masters’ designs and come forward to bridge the trust deficit.