J&K’s Accession: An insider’s account – Punarvasu Parekh

Pandit Ram Chandra Kak & Maharaja Hari Singh
JournalistThe failure of the Indian state to find a solution to the J&K dispute is rooted in its refusal to face the facts. – Punarvasu Parekh

“What Sheikh Abdullah was really gambling for … was an independent principality whose continued existence would be guaranteed by the Indian armed forces and whose solvency was secured by the Indian treasury. There was, however, no idea of a quid pro quo from his side. He did not expect to be called to account either in respect of the internal administration of the state or the utilization of funds supplied to him by the government of India.”

How prophetic these words penned way back in 1955 have been! As Indian soldiers shed their blood to protect J&K from troublemakers of all sorts and as the Indian treasury bleeds to keep it solvent, only to be greeted by chants of “Azadi” from stone-pelting mobs and demand for “greater autonomy” from local sundries, we realize how farsighted the author was in warning us that “Sheikh Abdullah stood only for his own aggrandizement and had no affection for India and no use for her except to the extent she sub-served his ends.” The Abdullah tribe has multiplied several times since then, but its genes and DNAs remain unchanged.

The author Pandit Ram Chandra Kak was the prime minister of princely state of Jammu & Kashmir during the period leading up to the state’s accession to India in October 1947. He left behind a document that records the devious political games played to transfer authority over this Hindu-Buddhist kingdom to Muslims, specifically to Sheikh Abdullah.

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil OnlineUnsurprisingly, the document is barely known in “secular” India; its only known public copy is in UK. In a monumental piece of investigative journalism, Radha Rajan presents this document in full, along with her analysis of the communal political game played by Congress leadership in general and Nehru and Gandhi in particular, which has converted Kashmir into a festering sore in Indian polity.

Pandit Kak’s document traverses familiar ground, though it does highlight some less known facts. Its chief merit consists in providing a clear and consistent exposition of the dilemma faced by the State of J&K over accession to India on the eve of independence, by a perceptive patriotic powerful insider who was privy to overt happenings as well as covert machinations in the state, who was in the centre of the storm facing winds blowing from all directions. It tells us why things went the way they did and how India could have averted the current impasse. From the document, Pandit Kak emerges as a man of learning and character, a sterling patriot who had the courage to suffer for his convictions.

In her comments on the selected passages from the document, Radha Rajan shows that what happened in J&K was not accidental, but a logical culmination of the attitudes and policies consciously adopted by Gandhi, Nehru and Congress towards princely states, especially those with Hindu rulers.

The question of accession to India came up before J&K twice in less than a year, though in very different circumstances. Its decision on both the occasions was the same, but for different reasons. Then again, Prime Minister Kak and Maharaja Hari Singh concurred in their conclusion, but not for identical reasons.

Late in 1946, the state was sounded out by the Government of India on the accession to India after the Cabinet Mission had completed its consultations with Government of India and Indian leaders in Delhi. At that time, partition was not on the horizon except as a remote contingency and the accession was envisaged only to the newly-to-be-created Dominion of India.

Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit Kak tells us that as regards welding India into a single unit, he was not opposed to accession pure and simple. But there was a problem: Sheikh Abdullah, Congress leaders’ (especially Nehru’s) complete identification with him and their refusal to see any other point of view than his.

Sheikh Abdullah started his political career in 1931 as one of the two protagonists of Muslim Conference, an unabashed self-professed communal body. Later he fell out with the other protagonist Ch. Ghulam Abbas and set up his own outfit National Conference. As Ghulam Abbas managed to get close to Jinnah and Muslim League, Sheikh Abdullah approached Pundit Nehru for support. This he received in ample measure and soon he found himself a leading luminary in Congress firmament and President of All India States’ Peoples Conference.

While paying lip service to Congress ideals, Abdullah never forgot his original aim and ambition: absolute control over the state. With the power and prestige of Congress behind him, he started resorting to coercion and bullying against those who disagreed with him, including dissident Muslim groups. Some residents of Srinagar were for years unable to visit other parts of the town for fear of harassment. A maulavi who favoured Muslim Conference was prevented from preaching at the mosque where he and his forefathers had preached for generations before. Hindus began to live in perpetual fear. During the so-called Quit Kashmir agitation in 1946, thousands-strong mobs would surround houses of respectable persons for hours together, terrorise inmates and hurl stones and filthy abuses not sparing women folk of the house. For this reason, he was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to three years of imprisonment by the state administration.

This was the man backed to the hilt by Congress and its leaders right from the beginning. Nehru, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and others visited Kashmir and participated in deliberations and demonstrations of National Conference, which often culminated in violence. After Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest Pundit Nehru insisted on visiting Srinagar despite being told that his visit would be most undesirable in the prevailing circumstances. Nehru was detained in the Dak Bangalow at Muzaffarabad, provided all the facilities possible and the state arranged for his return to Delhi when he so decided. Indeed, after a meeting with Sardar Patel in Mumbai where Gandhi also was present, Pandit Kak facilitated Nehru’s visit to Srinagar in July 1946. Yet, it seems, Nehru never forgave Maharaja and Pandit Kak for his detention.

Against this background, it is not surprising that the decisive factor which influenced Pandit Kak in rejecting accession was the attitude of the Indian National Congress as regards the affairs of the state.

Radha Rajan points out that in the attitude of the Indian National Congress towards princely states, there was nothing peculiar to J&K. It is strange but true that Congress under Gandhi who reached out to the likes of Ali brothers, Muslim League, Jinnah and even Britishers nurtured undisguised hostility towards princely states and sought to undermine them on every conceivable occasion. J&K is the best example to show that this hostility has cost the country dearly.

The issue of accession came up again on the eve of independence when partition had been agreed upon and princely states, which were to regain sovereignty after the lapse of the British paramountcy, were advised to join either India or Pakistan.

J&K again found itself on the horns of a dilemma. It was Jinnah or Nehru-backed Abdullah. Lord Mountbatten told Pandit Kak “you must consider your geographical position, your political situation and composition of your population and then decide.” Pandit Kak rejoined “that means you advise us to accede to Pakistan. It is not possible for us to do that. And since that is so, we cannot accede to India.”

India was divided on communal lines and the only rational course of action for any state before deciding on accession was to ascertain whether its people would support the accession. And with 76 per cent Muslim population, J&K could not be sure of the support of its people if it acceded to India. Accession to India was also hobbled by Congress’s infatuation with Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah was in prison at the time of independence. Top Congress leaders were insisting not merely that he be released forthwith, but also that a new constitution be drafted for the state with their advice and power transferred to Sheikh Abdullah. Accession to Pakistan was ruled out because Pandit Kak had no illusions about the nature of Islamic state that was coming up. In other words, Kashmir would not accede to Pakistan and could not accede to India.

Pandit Kak met Jinnah who advised him to join Pakistan and offered favourable terms. However, when Jinnah was told that J&K’s decision not to accede was final, he said so long as the state did not accede to India he would not mind if it did not accede to Pakistan. Of course, he had no intention of honouring this assurance. Less than ten weeks after its formation, Pakistan invaded J&K.

From Government of India side, V. P. Menon, secretary, Ministry of States, had a lengthy discussion with Pandit Kak in Delhi and it was decided that Menon would pay a visit to Srinagar after 15 August 1947 to discuss the future course of action. Pandit Kak, therefore, resolved that under the given circumstances, it would be ideal for all stakeholders if J&K became an independent state, maintaining good relations with India and Pakistan.

Maharaja Hari Singh came to the same conclusion, though for more grandiose, if irrational, reasons. He was dreaming not just of remaining independent, but also of ruling over a larger territory. Fuelling his ambitions was Swami Sant Dev, part of the assortment of swamis, gurus, astrologers and others claiming direct communion with the supernatural collected by Maharaja Hari Singh’s uncle and predecessor Maharaja Pratap Singh. Such was the influence acquired by the Swami on Maharaja that even Pundit Nehru paid him a visit when he came to Kashmir in 1946.

For all his supposed spirituality, the Swami did not neglect the mundane. He was keen to earn jobs, contracts and other favours for his large but non-descript followers and constantly made suggestions to the administration on behalf of his cronies. On most of the occasions, Pandit Kak found it hard to oblige him. The enraged Swami started looking for an opportunity to get rid of the “obstinate” prime minister.

The opportunity came when accession became a live issue. The Maharaja was convinced that after the departure of the British, with the potency of Swami’s supernatural powers, he would be able to extend his rule to new areas. In June 1947, he met with rulers of some adjoining princely states and planned a federation of J&K and some areas now in Himachal Pradesh. When Maharaja Hari Singh sought Pandit Kak’s opinion about his plan, the latter explained to him that it was a futile and impracticable idea; it was utterly unrealistic to imagine that forces which had compelled the British to leave India would allow the creation of a new empire in their midst.

Neither Maharaja nor Swami forgave Pandit Kak for this candid advice, the cold douche he administered to their towering aspirations. Machinations started to remove him from the office. Matters reached Sardar Patel who asked Pandit Kak to convey to the Maharaja that in those crucial days it was essential that the Maharaja and his Prime Minister pulled together, and if that was not possible the situation must be brought to an end immediately. In other words, Maharaja Hari Singh had to choose between swami and Kak. Inevitably, he chose the Swami.

From that point, it was a downhill journey. On 11 August 1947, Maharaja gave Pandit Kak “permission to retire.” It was followed by decapitation of the entire administration. Top officers including Chief Secretary, Chief of the Army Staff, the IGP, Governor of Kashmir, Director of Civil Supplies, the Chief Engineer and several other important officers were removed and replaced by people of little or no experience. Sheikh Abdullah was released in September and lost no time in spreading his tentacles. These developments disheartened and alarmed the citizenry. The result was that when Pakistan attacked the state around 22nd October, it was in no position to counter it. Its helplessness was aggravated by perfidy of the British officers and treachery of the Muslim soldiery.

Pandit Kak had to pay a heavy personal price for his love of truth and candour. Charges of trumpery were forged against him and he was denied permission to leave the state even though he feared for his safety. This enabled Sheikh Abdullah to have his revenge when he paraded Kak and his elder brother through the streets of Srinagar with their hands tied and residents asked to shower shit and filth on them. Kak was pressured to give statement against Maharaja Hari Singh rule. But he did not utter a single word against the Maharaja. Kak later migrated to Kasauli.

The Hindustan Times

With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that Pandit Kak’s idea of an independent state of J&K was not viable. Pakistan would not let it remain in peace. Given its location, onset of the Cold War and China’s ambitions, it would have been a hotbed of international intrigues and a constant source of anxiety to India.

Ideally, J&K should have been fully integrated into India, just like hundreds of other states, small and big. What we now have is a halfway house, an arrangement in which India has the worst of both the worlds. For all nationalist objectives, J&K is an alien state—the steadfast refusal of Sunni Kashmiri politicians to the return of Kashmiri Pundits, establishment of sainik colonies or even temporary facilities for Amarnath pilgrims should clinch the issue. However, India has all the obligations regarding its security and solvency.

Pandit Kak’s document tells us how we could have avoided landing in this position of no rights and all responsibilities. India could and should have insisted that accession of J&K to India would be on the same terms as that of any other state. There was no insurmountable reason why it should be on a different basis. There was no need for India either to accept Mountbatten’s suggestion to make accession conditional upon a plebiscite or transfer power to Sheikh Abdullah or agree to a separate constituent assembly for the state. The Indian army was fighting the state’s battle and the simplest thing was to set up a military administration as was done subsequently in Hyderabad. By the time the military operations ended, a lot of things would have become clear. Then again, there was no need to allow Sheikh Abdullah to oust Maharaja Hari Singh and elect a new Head of State when the issue was being debated in the UN Security Council.

The failure of the Indian state to find a solution to the J&K dispute is rooted in its refusal to face the facts. The two-nation theory was false and pernicious, but after conceding Pakistan Congress lost moral right to oppose it. The country was divided on communal lines and the logic of partition has to be accepted. The existence of a large Muslim population in India does not alter the reality that after the secession of the Muslim component, what remained was and is Hindu Rashtra.

How could India expect to retain the valley of Kashmir with a 95 per cent Muslim population contiguous to the entirely Muslim province of NWFP? Replying to this poser in 1950 by Gordon Walker, then secretary of state for commonwealth relations, Pandit Kak pointed out that it was wrong to assume that the status of the valley affects only its residents and therefore they alone could decide its future. From time immemorial, Kashmir has been cradle to a vital corpus of Hindu thought and rituals. For that reason all the Hindus in India and beyond have a stake in the fate of Kashmir. Kashmir has always been a part of the Hindu Holy Land (punyabhoomi) and the question of handing it over to those who are hell-bent on destroying its Hindu ethos does not arise.

To sum up, reading this book would be a sobering, painful experience for any patriotic Indian. It narrates a sordid tale of historical vicissitudes and human weaknesses from which no player emerges unscathed. But truth, however unpalatable, must be faced. For truth alone liberates from bondage of fear, from folly and its consequences. That is the significance of Radha Rajan’s book.

»  Punarvasu Parekh is an independent journalist in Mumbai.
» Radha Rajan is a political commentator and animal rights activist in Chennai. Pandit Kak’s original document (PDF) is available on Radha Rajan’s website Vigil Online.

Jammu and Kashmir: Dilemma of accession: A historical analysis and lesson by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak

       Published by Voice of India, New Delhi.  Pages 140, Maps 2, Price Rs 300 

Order from Voice of India or Amazon

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New Book: Jammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A Historical Analysis and Lesson – Radha Rajan

Jammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A historical analysis and lesson by Radha Rajan

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil OnlineJammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A Historical Analysis and Lesson authored by Radha Rajan analyses Prime Minister Pandit Ramchandra Kak‘s first-hand narrative of the tragic events which shook the Kingdom of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and the Tibets in the critical years of 1946-47 when Pandit Ramchandra Kak was Prime Minister of the kingdom.

Prime Minister Kak describes the role played by the Indian National Congress in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir from 1938 onwards and explains why the Kingdom could not accede to India in 1946 when the offer to accede was first made and again in 1947 when the Prime Minister came under pressure from several quarters to accede to Pakistan and to India. While V. P. Menon’s book for reasons unknown does not touch upon the critically important details which culminated in the tragedy of absolute power and total control over the entire kingdom being transferred to Sheikh Abdullah, it nevertheless provides critical insights and information which supplement Prime Minister Kak’s narrative; and read together, they provide all missing links in the official history of the tragedy.

Pandit Kak’s document is not available in India and while the original is with a family member, a copy of the original is housed in the India Office Library and Records, London. (A copy of the original is available on Radha Rajan’s website.)

Voice of India Publications through Radha Rajan’s book places this document for the first time since independence in the public domain in India.

ISBN 9789385485107, Voice of India, New Delhi,  Pages 140, Maps 2, Price Rs 300 

Order from Voice of India or Amazon

Article 370: Facts you should know – Pravin Singh

Kashmir: Article 370

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiThe Supreme Court on Tuesday (August 19) issued a notice to Centre on a plea challenging the provisions of Article 370, which provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The plea was filed by a Delhi-based NGO, asking why a law passed by the J&K Assembly “deprives people from other parts of the country from acquiring immovable assets or seek employment in the state.”

Revocation of Article 370 which contains provision for Jammu and Kashmir has been in demand for long time. The Article was added temporarily and was to be removed within a time- period but till date nothing has happened.

What is Article 370?

  • According to the Constitution of India, Article 370 is a law that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The article is drafted in Part XXI of the Constitution (in Amendment section) which relates to Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.
  • The original draft explained “the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the time being in office under the Maharaja’s Proclamation dated the fifth day of March, 1948.”
  • On November 15, 1952, it was changed to “the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly of the State as the Sadr-i-Riyasat (now Governor) of Jammu and Kashmir, acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers of the State for the time being in office.”

The special status to Jammu & Kashmir

  • Unlike other State legislative Assemblies, J&K legislature has a six-year term.
  • Jammu & Kashmir has two flags; a separate State flag along with the National Flag.
  • Insulting of national symbols is not cognizable offence in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Most of the laws except defence, foreign affairs, finance and communication, passed by Indian Parliament need to be approved by the State Government before they are made applicable in the State.
  • The citizens of J&K are governed by State-specific laws which come under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, instead of those for the rest of India.
  • Under Article 370 the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the State.
  • The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The residents of J&K enjoy dual citizenship, but they could loose the J&K citizenship if they marry residents of other States.
  • If a woman marries a man in other Indian States, she loses her citizenship. Whereas if any woman marries a Pakistani, she will be entitled to have a citizenship of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The Article also gives Pakistan’s citizens entitlement to Indian citizenship, if he marries a Kashmiri girl.
  • Majority of Indian laws including RTE, RTI and agencies like CBI, CAG are not applicable in J&K.
  • No outsider can purchase land in the State.
  • The Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the State.
  • It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression.

History of Article 370

  • Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who drafted Indian Constitution, had refused to draft Article 370.
  • In 1949, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had directed Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah to consult Ambedkar in preparation of suitable draft.
  • Article 370 was then drafted by Gopalaswami Ayyangar, former Diwan to Maharajah Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 370 and related controversy

  • J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had earlier warned that any attempt to reopen the debate on Article 370 would force the State to revisit its terms of accession to the Indian Union.
  • In its election manifesto ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had said it is in favour of abrogating Article 370, but said the issue will be discussed thoroughly before a decision is made.
  • During electioneering, Narendra Modi had suggested that it should be probed whether Article 370 has indeed benefited the people of Jammu & Kashmir. OneIndia, 19 August 2014

Kashmir Separatists

San Francisco: Activism over Human Rights-wallahs on Kashmir – Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain“In fact, the current line of the Obama Administration, on pretext of securing a favourable settlement in Afghanistan, is to separate Kashmir from India. It is a continuation of the old Mountbatten agenda, whereby the British sought to secure a military operating base for future action against China. As inheritor of the British imperial mantle, Washington has revived the independent Kashmir file.” – Sandhya Jane

Prashant BhushanCoinciding with advocate Prashant Bhushan’s explosive espousal of plebiscite-cum-azadi for Kashmir Muslims (the only section agitating for azadi being Sunni Muslim leaders of the valley, and their paid foot soldiers), comes news of a campaign to whip up support among Human Rights groups in the United States for re-instatement of suspended Professors Richard Shapiro and Angana Chatterji, also activists on Kashmir.

Although the event never made news at the time, it transpires that both Prof. Angana Chatterji and her husband and fellow activist Richard Shapiro, were suspended on July 19, 2011, by the Academic Vice President (AVP) at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), San Francisco, where they serve as full time academics at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. The charges have not been disclosed.

Profs. Angana Chatterji (centre) & Richard Shapiro (right)The duo was last in the news in November 2010 when Indian immigration authorities denied Richard Shapiro entry in New Delhi and sent him back to the US. He was accompanying Angana Chatterji to Kashmir; she was allowed to proceed. Chatterji is an Indian citizen and permanent resident in the US; she is co-convener of an NGO called the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK).

The deportation order is believed to have emanated from an article written by Shapiro in Greater Kashmir, titled, “Governing Kashmir: Critical Reflections on the Historical Present” (Sept 28, 2010).

In the impugned article, Shapiro wrote, “What is the logic of the Indian state to which Kashmiris are subjected?”

Viciously disregarding the truth that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to citizens in the Indian Constitution do not extend to Jammu and Kashmir because the State Constitution and Assembly have refused to extend them to state citizens, Shapiro declaims:

“The people of Kashmir must be denied the rights guaranteed to citizens of India because every Kashmiri is considered a real or potential threat to India… Law and order demands the denial of democratic rights to the people of Kashmir. Freedom of assembly and movement, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of press, freedom of religion are the basic rights that make India a legitimate state, and it is precisely these rights that must be denied all Kashmiris because when Kashmiris exercise these rights it is considered evidence of the anti-national sentiment of Kashmiris.”

There is not even a trace of recognition that the miniscule Kashmiri Pandit community was denied the very right to life and liberty, much less freedom Kashmiri Pandits protest their exile from Kashmir.of religion, when it was genocided and ethnic-cleansed out of the valley a little over two decades ago.

Undaunted by his crude lies, Shapiro thunders, “If Kashmiris want to prove their loyalty they must sacrifice their human rights and civil liberties for the protection of ‘Greater India’. The Kashmiri cannot be loyal in the same way that a citizen of India is expected to be loyal, which includes the lawful right to organize to express dissent, to demand accountability on the part of government, to protest injustice and oppression in the streets, in the press, in institutions and organizations created to enable a vibrant civil society empowered to articulate its needs and concerns.”

Kashmir Pandits: Exiles in their own land.Shapiro hectors on laboriously, without regard to fact or legal position. Thus, he proclaims, “To focus on the unfortunate expression of anger and frustration through stone pelting by young men as evidence of a law and order problem and the violence of protestors is quite simply an affront to critical intelligence.” When young officers are critically wounded or passersby die in stone pelting, is it to be taken as an expression of peace and amity in the valley?

But Shapiro is not bothered by trifles like Truth. He plods on,

“Responsibility for violence rests firmly on the shoulders of the Indian state, evidenced in the unprecedented militarization of daily life in Kashmir, the long history of brutality with impunity, the systemic exploitation of the people and resources of Kashmir, surveillance, humiliation, the suppression of civil liberties and the innumerable atrocities against a civilian population understood to be ‘integral’ to India.”

Excuse me, the people of India feel Kashmir is the biggest drain on the exchequer and would like to know the extent to which the State contributes to the national kitty, as opposed to the doles it routinely receives. It is more than likely that a number of states are underdeveloped in proportion to the extent that Kashmir is pampered. A dose of fiscal discipline would give manufactured discontent a reality bite.

And in a manner startlingly similar to the private and later public fulminations of Sheikh Abdullah, Shapiro accuses the Indian State of ‘communalism’ and “systematic oppression of the approximately 140 million Muslims in India whose mistreatment does not disappear through incantations of Bollywood stars or recent Presidents of nation.”

His solution is on the familiar lines already touted by the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, and now (allegedly) the Home Ministry appointed interlocutors – remove the military and paramilitary forces from Kashmir; draw back and reduce troops to police the borders.

Finally, very much like Team Anna crusader with a personal agenda, Prashant Bhushan, by “allowing civil society to express itself without fear of reprisal toward determination of its own future… The obstacle to law and order in Kashmir is the same as the obstacle to justice, freedom, and cultural survival. That obstacle is Indian rule. The first step in removing this obstacle is immediate demilitarization of Kashmiri society” (emphasis ours).

It is for such great activists in academic garb – one an American, another an Indian citizen with permanent residency in the US and an American husband – that righteous indignation is being whipped up in US Human Rights circles. Their respective “work” in Kashmir is cited as reason to agitate on their behalf – though it seems likely that the suspension by the institution has nothing to do with India or their work to delink Kashmir from India.

Lord Mountbatten, Nehru & Edwina MountbattenIn fact, the current line of the Obama Administration, on pretext of securing a favourable settlement in Afghanistan, is to separate Kashmir from India. It is a continuation of the old Mountbatten agenda, whereby the British sought to secure a military operating base for future action against China. As inheritor of the British imperial mantle, Washington has revived the independent Kashmir file. It is part of the dogma surrounding the Clash of Civilisations Part 2.

Angana Chatterji is among the Indian intellectuals (sic) who embraced the seminar circuit of the notorious ISI-funded Kashmiri Islamist Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was recently arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Interlocutors Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar were also guests at anti-India seminars abroad. – Vijayvaani, New Delhi, Oct. 18, 2011

» Sandhya Jain is a senior journalist and editor of the Vijayvaani Opinions Forum

Kashmir: Status quo or pre-1953 status? – Sandhya Jain

Sandhya JainA major national daily earlier this month hinted a tectonic shift was underway as the interlocutors may recommend that barring defence, foreign affairs, and communications, J&K should be exempt from Central oversight in all matters.” – Sandhya Jain

Omar AbdullahSeveral events have conspired to create apprehensions about the report the Union Home Ministry-appointed interlocutors will submit regarding Jammu and Kashmir. As some dangerous formulations can be argued to fall within the purview of the constitution, and the valley is excited over the recent ‘private’ visit of a former executive of Occupied Kashmir (whom chief minister Omar Abdullah reputedly addressed as ‘former prime minister of Azad Kashmir’), the nationalist anxiety is legitimate.

But even the arrogant Omar Abdullah must have been taken aback when the ‘guest’ blurted, “I do not recognize mainstream politicians like Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as elected representatives of the people of Kashmir… Officially Pakistan and PoK Governments does not recognize Jammu and Kashmir Government and the election process. But Omar Abdullah and other leaders of the mainstream political parties are no doubt stakeholders…”

Syed Ali Shah Geelani with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Barrister Sultan Mehmood ChaudharyWhat was the UPA thinking of, granting this man a visa? Though barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary (Pakistan People’s Party) visited Srinagar to attend a wedding, the timing of his visit was unfortunate. Exploiting his celebrity status, he proposed free travel across the Line of Control; an intra-Kashmir conference to solve the Kashmir issue; and said the international community must realise that peace in Afghanistan requires a solution in Kashmir. He met separatist and mainstream leaders, and interlocutor Radha Kumar. He had the audacity to ask New Delhi not to hang Afzal Guru, convicted in the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.

Maharaja Hari Singh 1920There are other disturbing voices. A major national daily earlier this month hinted a tectonic shift was underway as the interlocutors may recommend that barring defence, foreign affairs, and communications, J&K should be exempt from Central oversight in all matters.

This indicates a virtual return to the situation that prevailed prior to 1953, which caused deep anxiety to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues, particularly Home Minister Sardar Patel. Although the Instrument of Accession signed by the princes who acceded to the Indian Union, including Maharaja Hari Singh, was exactly on these lines, all States followed the nationalist momentum towards full integration in the new nation.

But Sheikh Abdullah created problems from the start, exploiting India’s vulnerability in the Security Council where Britain and America showed unexpected hostility towards India. The Sheikh projected himself as sole spokesman of the people of the erstwhile kingdom (much as Jinnah did for the subcontinent’s Muslims when demanding Pakistan), but acted on behalf of Muslims alone. He had the Maharaja booted out of the State and dealt a series of cruel blows to the Dogras of Jammu, and was exceedingly harsh on Hindu and Sikh refugees from Occupied Kashmir. Indeed, they have been denied state citizenship to this day.

Sheikh Mohammed AbdullahThough Sheikh Abdullah promised Nehru that “Kashmir will be a part of India,” he all along toyed with the idea of independence. In this spirit, he called for a Constituent Assembly without discussing the matter with Nehru (a step that annoyed the Security Council, to New Delhi’s embarrassment), and ensured unanimous election of National Conference delegates by getting all opposition nominations rejected! Sheikh then used the state Constituent Assembly to abolish the rule of the Maharaja and replaced him with a Sadar-e-Riyasat (Governor) to be elected by the Kashmir Legislative Assembly. For political expediency, he got Yuvraj Karan Singh elected as the first Sadar-e-Riyasat in November 1952. This Constituent Assembly also approved a separate flag for the state for all normal occasions, with the Indian flag restricted to formal functions. At the same time, he ensured that the national Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 which gave J&K special status.

The state Constituent Assembly was a stratagem towards Sheikh’s ultimate objective of an independent, Switzerland-like tourist paradise. Though leaders like Bakshi Ghulam Mohd, G.M. Sadiq, D.P. Dhar, and others tried to ensure some integration with India, the Sheikh group fought to keep Kashmir as autonomous as possible, with only a tenuous bond with India via accession on defence, communications and foreign affairs. Hence he resented the Centre’s attempts for financial integration and extending the jurisdiction of the Comptroller and Auditor General to the state, insisting that “Kashmir’s accession to India will have to be of a restricted nature”. His growing recalcitrance compelled Maulana Azad and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai to urge Nehru to dismiss him.

Bakshi Ghulam MohamedIn July 1953, Sheikh Abdullah suddenly went to Tanmarg, near Gulmarg, to meet an emissary from Pakistan, leaving Nehru with no choice but to order his dismissal and arrest. Thereafter, Bakshi Ghulam Mohd was sworn in as state prime minister. He led J&K ably and achieved considerable progress in all spheres. Bakshi took the initiative to integrate the top level administration and police with the all-India services, and brought the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to J&K. Several other measures of integration were concluded by the time he resigned in 1963 under the Kamraj Plan. This is the crux of the pre- and post-1953 position.

Obviously, any attempt to undo these linkages and restore the pre-1953 position would trigger off secessionism in the Muslim-majority valley and Muslim-majority districts. This is what London and Washington sought to achieve through UN auspices via Dixon and others. President Barack Obama may re-ignite Kashmir via Farooq Kathwari, member of his Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Recently, Kathwari visited Srinagar to attend a wedding.

Nizam-ud-Din BhatThen, People’s Democratic Party MLA Nizam-ud-din Bhat moved a private member’s bill in the J&K Assembly, seeking deletion of sub-clause (b) of Section 147 in the state constitution, which bars legislation challenging J&K’s status as an integral part of India. The Speaker rejected the bill on Sept 16. Formally, the PDP repudiated Bhat’s move, but its October 2008 document, “The Self-Rule Framework for Kashmir Resolution,” had proposed shared sovereignty with Pakistan, economic integration between the two parts of Kashmir, dual currency, demilitarization, and abolition of Article 356 (imposition of President’s Rule) to J&K.

Michael MullenSimultaneously, the British House of Commons’ debate on alleged human rights violations in Kashmir fizzled out for poor attendance. But, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at the end of his term at the Carnegie Endowment, said events in Iran, Pakistan, India and China and other neighbouring countries cannot be separated from US strategy in Afghanistan, and solving the complicated issue of Kashmir would also unlock many issues between India and Pakistan… An ominous trend. – Vijayvaani, New Delhi, Sept. 27, 2011

» Sandhya Jain is editor of www.vijayvaani.com

J&K: Rendering democratic space into a subversive space – Ajay Chrungoo

Ajay Chrungoo

“Democratic process can only neutralize secessionism if it contests it and does not cohabit with it. Democracy wins if it does not offer itself as an accomplice in creating a false consciousness based on historical distortions and falsehoods.” – Ajay Chrungoo

Developments in the Middle East have created an impact in Jammu and Kashmir which witnessed a disturbed last summer. Events in Egypt and elsewhere have almost evaporated the public demoralization in Kashmir valley that had set in after the failed ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign, and once again created a hope amongst the rank and file of the separatists that their tactics on the street may bear fruit in the near future.

The ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign relied on violent mass mobilization, resorting to sustained stone-pelting assaults on police and paramilitary forces, hartals and protest demonstrations to bring public life and government functioning to a standstill. The campaigners were driven by a hope that the sustained mobilizations would galvanize international opinion in their favour. They believed the public outcry would force President Obama who was scheduled to visit India to exert more pressure on the Government of India to come to terms with the separatists and Pakistan. They hoped Indian political consensus on Kashmir would be further weakened to resist pressures for change of status quo in Kashmir in favour of the separatists.

After the happenings in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, the Indian Prime Minister tried to assure the nation that, “whatever happens in the Gulf or in West Asia including the countries mentioned (Egypt) is a matter of concern to us… replication of such events is not possible in India, because India is a functioning democracy… There is no question that things that have happened in Egypt and other Arab countries can be replicated in India.” Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement could not hide the nervousness which has beset his government in the Centre and the ruling alliance in Jammu and Kashmir. “I hope summer this year will be peaceful… I have no power to predict the future. I can only say that there are continuous efforts on our part to ensure that there is no repeat of summer unrest in 2011,” has been the refrain of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. More conspicuous is the disconnect between the perceptions of the Prime Minister and that of the people in the Kashmir valley.

Perceptions in the valley

Merely a day after Dr Manmohan Singh said political developments in Egypt cannot be replicated in J&K, Hurriyat (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani said an Egypt-like revolution is possible in the state. He said, “This is a blatant lie. By muzzling voice of Kashmiris through brute force, India can’t claim victory. World will see one day there will be a bigger revolution in Kashmir than Egypt and other uprisings.” Geelani’s moralizing notwithstanding, separatists in the valley have over the years demonstrated the capability of mobilizing public in the streets and creating a siege on the local government. Mobilizations during summer 2011 were not as huge as during the Amaranth land row or various marches conducted earlier to Charar-i-Sharief or United Nations Military Observers office in the outskirts of Srinagar city.

Mehbooba Mufti & I.K. GujralPDP leader Ms Mehbooba Mufti, whose political party has received more than generous support from both the Vajpayee-led NDA and the Manmohan Singh-led UPA, commented on the uprising in Egypt, “We congratulate the people of Egypt on their success and for achieving the goal in peaceful manner… It is necessary to mention Egypt because they were fighting for democracy and we are fighting a war in spite of democracy.” She did not hesitate to compare last summer’s unrest in Kashmir valley with the uprising in Egypt, “Lakhs of people had thronged the roads in Cairo, but nobody leveled allegations on them. Our people are being dubbed as LeT militants, paid agents and now recently as drug addicts by the state government only for raising the voice for resolution of Kashmir issue…”

The sections of separatists, whom Government of India never hesitates to call ‘moderates’, also drew parallels between the situation in Egypt and Kashmir. All of them hoped Egypt can be replicated in Kashmir.

How the ferment inside is shaping can be gauged from the following two sample responses. One, from a former terrorist, now a self-professed moderate whom many in Kashmir believe to be close to Government of India, Mr. Firdous Sayed, one of the first of the initial band of young men who took to arms, and also one of the first to renounce them. Second, Mr. Hassan Zainagiree, who has been a pro-Jamaat and pro-Geelani columnist and writes regularly for local English dailies.

Mr Firdous Sayed compared the situation in Kashmir with Egypt thus, “On February 11, when Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign and Tahrir Square burst in impromptu jubilations, people in Tehran were observing the thirteenth year of Iranian revolution. Iran’s and Egypt’s revolution share a date, February 11. The comparison does not end here, February 11 in Kashmir is remembered as a day when Maqbool Bhat kissed the rope and kindled the flame of Azadi with his blood.”

ZainagireeMr. Zainagiree wrote, “No political manipulation or military might can stop simmering lava of rebellion from accumulating a critical mass and then blowing up citadels of hubris into smithereens… If today Al-Tehrir Square sent twenty first century Pharaoh of Egypt in the dark dungeons of History, some other squares are waiting and gearing up for replicating Al-Tehrir.” On the role of Islamic organizations in Egypt, Zainagiree notes, “The Islamist Organization (in Egypt) remaining invisibly visible behind the scenes used its organizational strength and mobilized large number of its supporters for the protest that was mainly non-religious and spontaneous in character. Despite being banned from political activity it accepted the invitation for discussion on political transition… Projecting a more pragmatic image of itself to domestic and international audience, Ikhwan declared it as an ‘Egyptian Revolution’, and not an Islamic revolution. With one stroke of political acumen and dexterity it blunted many arrows aimed at it from Washington, Brussels and Tel Aviv.”

Zainagiree virtually revealed the mindset of the cadre-based Jamaat, as also the core content of the processes which are making the radical and more popular separatist leader behave the way he has. Geelani, by engaging with the governments at the state and central level, and cohabiting with the likes of Arundhati Roy, once in a while extending a hand of patronage to hapless Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs in the valley, is exhibiting a dexterity which many describe as a change of heart of the ailing and aged leader. When he chose to be one of the first leaders in the entire Islamic world to condemn the killing of the dreaded Osama bin Laden, he demonstrated a ruthless commitment to pan-Islamism for which Osama is an undisputed icon. By declaring bin Laden a martyr in the cause of Islam, Geelani also mocked at those within the government and outside who were claiming a change of heart in him.

The issue in Kashmir valley is not whether an Egypt-like uprising can be replicated. The separatist regimes have the confidence and expertise of mobilizing people, and the maturity to ignore multiplying fractures within their rank and file. The stone-pelting campaign last year amply demonstrated this. So only on many occasions in the past, be it marches to UN Military Observers Posts on the outskirts of Srinagar, or march to Charar-i-Sharief and similar mobilizations during the Amarnath Land row. The issue they are addressing is how such mobilizations can be used to wreck the status quo on Kashmir. When the Prime minister talks about the value of ‘functioning democracy’ he ignores the fact that the political class across the spectrum in the valley recognizes it as a ‘managed democracy’ and believes that the world at large is just a very small distance from recognizing it so. He is blissfully unaware that his own government has allowed the democratic process to be undermined with impunity.

Radha KumarUndermining of the Democratic process

The ‘functioning democracy’ argument as a counterweight to the mass upsurges in Kashmir valley guided by regressive political ideologies certainly has great value. But if government has a policy structure which undermines and delegitimizes the ‘democratic process’ which it has established in an extremely stressful environment of terrorist intimidation, then the ‘functioning democracy’ argument loses its value and cannot be harnessed as a protective shield.

Only recently, the New Delhi appointed Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir said that the participation of people in Panchayat polls and the Kashmir problem were two different issues. “Polls and Kashmir issue are far away from each other. People are participating in elections to address their basic issues,” said Dileep Padgaonkar at a two day ‘Peace Conference’ organized by J&K Peace Foundation in Srinagar on May 16, 2011. In an earlier interview on Doordarshan, Radha Kumar described the elected government in Jammu and Kashmir as almost non-representative because, she argued, a large public constituency fell outside the boundaries of the democratic sphere.

These are not the isolated views of persons who might have been nominated as interlocutors by the Government of India for reasons other than their views on the democratic experiment in Jammu and Kashmir. A significant section of Kashmir experts and Track II actors employed by the Government of India profess the same views.

When the Centre allowed Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Omar Abdullah to advocate publicly, as Chief Ministers of the state, that their elected governments were just a day-to-day arrangement to handle routine problems of the people and have no locus standi to decide larger political issues, it renders the entire functioning democracy in the state to a stature worse than that of a ‘managed democracy’ which the educated middle class in Kashmir valley calls it. If the elected government in Jammu and Kashmir is accorded the status of a mere interface between the governments of Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir, by the governments in the state and the Centre, then the democratic legitimacy automatically shifts outside the democratic sphere to the regimes orchestrating secessionist public mobilizations, but which have stubbornly opposed the democratic process in the state over the years. The international opinion which the secessionist mind in Kashmir is targeting cannot be expected to ignore this reality.

Why will international opinion not take cognizance of the fact that New Delhi itself does not accord the respect of a functioning democracy to the democratic process it established under the nose of a terrorist gun? Can Americans afford to call the elected governments in Afghanistan and Iraq ‘non-representative’ and as ‘day to day arrangements’?

The strategic fraternity in India and an overwhelming section of the Indian political class advocated initiation of democratic process in the state in 1996 to restore the democratic rights of the people. This served two other major strategic objectives. First, to mobilize opinion against terrorism and separatism and isolate the armed separatist regimes in the state. Second, to use the democratic interface as a legitimate moral shield while conducting counter-terrorist operations on the ground. Democratic interface acts as a constant deterrent against Human Rights violations and does not allow terrorists to use the argument of Human Rights violations, which inevitably happen once in a while as collateral damage when security forces confront violence organized from within the sanctuary of society itself.

The decision to initiate democratic process then was a critical decision as the terrorist regimes in the state were far from being vanquished, though falling into disarray under counter-insurgent operations. More critically, subversive entrenchment in the organs of the state administration had remained untouched and there was every possibility that restoration of democratic process might lead to widening and deepening of subversive entrenchment. But as New Delhi’s policy unfolded, the democratic process in the state far from becoming an antidote to secessionism got transformed into a process where separatists were accorded an extra-constitutional veto over all political interventions devised by the elected government itself.

All three Round Table Conferences on Jammu and Kashmir were primarily devised to ensure participation of separatist leaders. The importance accorded to separatist participation in these conferences actually delegitimized the democratic process itself. The outcome of each conference and the reports of the Working Groups created during these conferences aimed primarily to further woo the separatists. With each cycle of concessions, the separatist leaders, including particularly those whom the Government of India calls moderates, further stiffened their stance and stubbornly refused to give any credibility to the democratic process. The influence and the concomitant pressures which the democratic process could have generated were neutralized by the very character of the democratic process employed on the ground.

J & K Chief Minister Omar AbdullahConversion of Democratic Process into a Subversive Space

During the stone pelting campaign last year, the Centre was exposed in ample measure to the contradictions and pitfalls of the democratic process it employed in Jammu and Kashmir. The failure of the elected government in the state was erroneously called a ‘governance deficit’ by Delhi. The unwillingness of the state government to stand up to secessionist mobilizations and often if not always acting as an accomplice of secessionists cannot be explained as a ‘governance deficit’.

At the peak of ‘stone pelting’ campaign the Chief Minister said, “the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir cannot be assuaged only by development, good governance and economic packages but needs a political solution… We must work together to find a solution that can lead to a lasting peace in Jammu & Kashmir as per the aspirations of the people of this great land.” This was exactly the separatist line. How many times have we heard Ali Shah Geelani say that development, unemployment, mis-governance were non-issues and the real solution was settlement of Kashmir issue as per the wishes and aspirations of the people?

The attitude of the State Government during last year’s so called ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign was of political unwillingness to stand up to the secessionists because of a definite overlap between the objectives of the secessionists and the main party of the ruling alliance and helplessness because all organs of society seem to be on the other side. They are in fact two poles of a vicious cycle which feed each other. Unwillingness generates helplessness and the helplessness feeds the unwillingness.

Omar Abdullah, responding to criticism of his handling of the situation made a very revealing statement. “By focusing on my style of governance, you are distracting from the main issue. In which protest did you see slogans against my government? The slogans were ‘Hame chahiye Azadi, Go India Go’. What has that to do with my style of governance?” he said. “There are lessons to be learnt from this crisis – lessons I have to learn, lessons the state has to learn and important lessons the Government of India has to learn. Don’t underplay the complexity of the issue that if I change my style of governance, miraculously, everything will get better. Till June, you hadn’t a problem with my style,” Abdullah observed. The real paradox is that the people on the streets raise brazen secessionist slogans and the Chief Minister does not consider them as against his government. The ruling party finds a resonance in the secessionist din raised in the streets.

One thing which has been overlooked for years by the think tanks of mainstream political parties and experts on strategic affairs is the consensus within the separatist constituency in the valley that they have to control the ‘space of governance’. This consensus reflected for the first time after the defeat of Pakistan in the 1971 war. Sheikh Abdullah agreed to rejoin electoral politics because he was aware that the separatist class in the valley wanted to deny the pro-India politics in J&K the space to survive in the aftermath of Pakistan’s humiliating defeat. Control of the state government emerged as an imperative strategic necessity for the separatist elite in the valley.

That Sheikh Abdullah rejoined the power politics in the state not because of any ideological transformation but to meet the exigencies of the times was clear when he responded to the statement of then President of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, that the fight for Kashmir’s right of self-determination was lost in 1948. Sheikh’s response revealed his ideological disposition and urge for an alternative strategic paradigm, “Mr. Bhutto’s statement as reported in the Indian Press is not clear to me… It is a historical truth which had been amply proved that any country which has depended on other powers for achievement of its objectives has always met with disaster… It is very difficult to understand that the fight for the right of self-determination was virtually lost in 1948.”

Sheikh assumed the helm of affairs and assiduously ensured that the cadres of Plebiscite Front and even Al Fatah were accommodated within the new power structure. The pro-Pak Islamist formation, Jamaat-i-Islami, was first to realize the import of capturing the legislative space to sustain secessionism in the valley. The then Jamaat supremo, Ali Shah Geelani, contested elections to the Assembly and won in 1972, 1977, and 1997. He had the endorsement of his party and also Pakistan. One young participant in the 2010 stone-pelting campaign explained Geelani’s participation in the electoral process, “…And there are some people who say Geelani contested elections earlier, yes he did, but why? At that time the entire pro-freedom groups contested elections, they all wanted to raise Kashmir issue through Indian Parliament.” Geelani himself describes his participation in the Assembly elections brazenly, “Yes that was a compulsion; when National Conference, Congress and other parties fight elections, they raise slogans of socialism, secular democracy and the accession of India, and these slogans are anti-Islam. We people are for Islam, so whenever these principles and ideological systems are being forced to the Muslims, we must fight against these anti-Islamic theories. That was the main objective for which we were fighting the elections.”

The transformation of democratic space into subversive space started with earnestness after Sheikh Abdullah returned to power in 1975. Indira Gandhi realized it soon and said as much to Syed Mir Qasim who was instrumental in persuading her to bring back Sheikh Abdullah to power, “… For the present it is sufficient to recall that you misled me and the Congress party about the nature of your talks with Sheikh Sahib… For me the accord was, and remains a method of fruitful cooperation among all secular and patriotic forces in the state. It certainly did not mean that Congress should fade into oblivion. I did not and cannot accept this interpretation of the accord…. At this critical juncture in our history, when international forces are working for the destabilization of India… and you admit that you are not unaware of these facts – was it not incumbent on all Congress workers to work selflessly to fight all forces that are against the secular and democratic unity of our country. Would we have carried any credibility had we done what you prompted us to do i.e., abandon the battle in the valley?”

The difference between the methodologies adopted by the terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the separatist regimes in Jammu and Kashmir must be recognized with clarity. In Afghanistan and Pakistan terrorist regimes seek creation of ungoverned spaces. In J&K armed separatism views control of governed space as a key component of strategy. That is why we see symbiotic relations between regional Muslim parties promoting religion-based identity politics, who participate in elections, and the frank secessionist formations who oppose elections.

When Indira Gandhi harnessed the democratic process to neutralize the secessionist tendencies of National conference by voluntarily vacating space for Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, she was basically committed to join the battle with secessionists and visualized a critical role for national political formations in the state. The present Congress regime has abandoned the battle in Kashmir. When Azad became Chief Minister of the Congress-PDP coalition, Congress allowed PDP to nominate candidates for the assembly bye-elections in constituencies which as per coalition sharing formula belonged to it. Abandoning Kashmir to political parties espousing Muslim sub-nationalism has in recent years been advocated by top security experts who have served Government of India at the highest level. Former director RAW, A.S. Dulat, has on record advocated such a line for Kashmir many times in the past.

Indira Gandhi visualized the role of Congress to preserve the ‘secular democratic unity of India’ in J&K. The present Congress regime is considering the Musharraf formula as a solution of the Kashmir problem and conceding to carve out a separate territorial sphere of Muslim influence in the state. It has sent unambiguous signals to displaced Kashmiri Hindus to submit to the dominant politics of the valley. The present Congress regime seeks to hostage Hindus to the imperatives of Muslim Identity politics in the state to preserve its relationship with Muslim communalism there. It has used its clout in Jammu only to paralyze the growing restlessness in the state against the increased clout of Muslim identity politics in the state.

Under A.B. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, we have seen a perverted democratic attitude being allowed and promoted in the state, which operates beyond the Constitution of India. We have seen many times the Legislative Assembly taking up issues which do not constitutionally belong to it. The Greater Autonomy resolution by the National Conference or the Women’s Permanent Residents Bill, are glaring examples. When the Chief Minister used the podium of the Assembly to comment on the Accession of the state to the Union of India, we witnessed the crossing of sacrosanct lines being allowed by the Centre in the name of conflict resolution.

The conferring of almost a veto to the separatist leadership operating outside the democratic process by the Government of India has undermined the democratic process itself. In this situation, extra-constitutional importance accorded to Geelani or Omar Farooq is an expression of government policy to shift democratic legitimacy outside the democratic sphere. Democracy in J&K is mutating into a subversive space.

Prime MInister Manmohan SinghConclusion

We cannot overlook the core content of the democratic process employed in the state even if we choose to have faith in Government of India and assume it has allowed soft secessionism in the democratic space only to purge the secessionist sentiment. A peach fruit graft on an apple tree grows peaches, not apples. A secessionist graft on a sovereign democratic body grows only secessionism. In fact secessionist political grafts assume a malignant tendency to throw up metastasis elsewhere on the body polity. The interplay of Maoists and Islamists in Kashmir is an expression of this phenomenon.

Democratic process can only neutralize secessionism if it contests it and does not cohabit with it. Democracy wins if it does not offer itself as an accomplice in creating a false consciousness based on historical distortions and falsehoods. The Prime Minister’s hope that ‘functioning democracy’ can act as a critical deterrent against one more secessionist upsurge in the valley may be misplaced because international actors know very well that Dr Singh has shown a proclivity not to defend what is sacrosanct in J&K. These players have ample experience that Government of India undermines its own leverages in the state. They must be baffled that in a worsening situation for separatists in Jammu and Kashmir, the Government of India is more than willing to lose. – Vijayvaani, New Delhi

» Ajay Chrungoo is chairman of Panun Kashmir

RSS-BJP prepare ground for Kashmir autonomy – Hari Om

Prof Hari Om“The Kashmiri student separatists were delighted…. Hailing Sushma Swaraj for the platform and kind hearing given to them on the subject of Azadi, they told a national audience via television – “Why doesn’t New Delhi follow Sushma Swaraj?” They gave this generous certificate because … Sushma Swaraj encouraged them to speak freely of Azadi – so what if it amounted to secession and treason?” – Prof Hari Om

BJP LogoDon’t trust the respective leadership of the RSS and the BJP when they aver that they are committed to the national cause in Jammu & Kashmir. They are not committed to anything they say publicly. The overt and covert activities suggest that the Parivar is contemplating a major mischief to hit the Indian nation below the belt and negate all that the nation has done in Jammu & Kashmir all these 63 years to integrate it into India.

The RSS-BJP has not only given up its original agenda and the ideology it appeared to profess until 1998 when it formed a rag-tag conglomerate to execute a political coup in Delhi, but has decided to tread a path leading inevitably to the separation of Kashmir from India. In fact, it is preparing the ground for Kashmir Autonomy – a small step short of complete independence – to facilitate the Congress-led regime’s desire to strike a deal with the Kashmiri separatists, whose single-point agenda is to dismember India and establish in the state what Syed Ali Shah Geelani calls “Nizam-e-Mustafa” (Islamic rule).

Under American pressure to which its leadership is particularly susceptible, the BJP-RSS seems to have agreed to help out the Congress to push through the highly controversial Nuclear Liability Bill in the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament. The objective is to keep the American administration in good humour for reasons not difficult to fathom. It will also enable the under-American-pressure Congress-led UPA Government to grant what the Kashmiri separatists want, so that the Obama administration is able to help Pakistan establish its control over turbulent Afghanistan, the legendary ‘graveyard of empires.’

Congress=BJP LogoThe BJP and the Congress are now working in tandem and complementing each others’ efforts. Clearly, these efforts are calculated to (1) befriend US President Barrack Hussain Obama and promote American interests in the region, (2) facilitate a truce with Pakistan over Indian Jammu & Kashmir, (3) create conditions to ease tensions on the international border and Line of Actual Control between India and Pakistan, and (4) enable Islamabad to send more Islamic warriors – Taliban and Al-Qaeda style – to its western border to play nefarious games in Afghanistan and force India to quit this country though it is vital to Indian geo-political interests and national safety and security.

That BJP is contemplating a major mischief is a statement of fact, easily verifiable. And for this there is no need to revisit Colombo, March 1999, when then Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, right hand man to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, met his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz and agreed to grant “maximum possible autonomy to Kashmir and its adjoining areas”, divide Jammu province along Chenab River on communal lines, and render the Line of Actual Control irrelevant for all practical purposes. This was more than eleven years ago. It was the immediate fall-out of the growing and baneful American influence.

Tarun VijayNow look at what BJP has been doing since January this year, from the platform of the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Foundation (DSPMF). The party seems to have charged Tarun Vijay, a “great” RSS ideologue and former editor of Panchjanya, and now a Rajya Sabha MP, with the responsibility to prepare the ground for Kashmir’s independence/autonomy without any regard to the vital interests of the non-Muslim minorities in the State, including Hindus, Buddhists, Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs, who comprise a population of nearly 4.5 million.

Tarun Vijay launched his pro-Kashmir Autonomy crusade on January 19, 2010, a day that is annually observed by Kashmiri Hindus as Holocaust Day. This year, on that significant date, he organized a discussion on Jammu & Kashmir on the platform of the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Foundation, and invited as a speaker, Ms Madhu Kishwar, editor of the defunct Manushi and fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Kishwar is a well-known protagonist of self-rule for the state. Tarun Vijay invited her because she had previously invited him to a seminar she organised in Teen Murti Bhavan on November 7, 2009, where the famed terrorist Yasin Malik participated! She later sent a detailed report to the Government of India suggesting self-rule (semi-independence) for Kashmir as the only viable solution to the “Kashmir problem.”

As the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Foundation is RSS-controlled, and Tarun Vijay is its Director – and was even then a contender for the Rajya Sabha from Uttarakhand, as attested by the fact that the Chief Minister attended this function though he was not listed among the invitees – the invitation to Kishwar sent a clear message that the supposedly pro-Hindu fraternity was willing to help the fundamentalist and regressive forces in Kashmir achieve what they could not in all these years since the State’s accession to India. Kishwar was allowed to speak despite hectic behind the scenes efforts to dis-invite her, and a noisy protest when she rose to speak. Such is the state of nationalism in the Parivar today.

Shyama Prasad Mookerjee

Not content with the body blow to the national cause in Jammu & Kashmir on January 19, Tarun Vijay went ahead and organised a seminar in Srinagar on June 23, ostensibly to recall the contribution of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder president of the Jana Sangh, who laid down his life for the national cause in Kashmir on June 23, 1953. It may appear ludicrous and unbelievable, but it is a fact that none of the seminarians, including Tarun Vijay, talked about Mookerjee and Kashmir!

Everyone talked about China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. That Kashmir and Mookerjee were ignored was another clear indication that the BJP was slowly but surely creating conditions conducive to the segregation of Jammu & Kashmir from India. The message from the seminar was that China, not Pakistan, was India’s number one enemy (a George Fernandes plant that has been brought hook, line and sinker, by the Parivar).

It is hardly necessary to reflect on the implications of what the seminarians said about China, which, of course, is a powerful rival, but not necessarily an enemy nation. The idea was to promote the American-inspired propaganda that India faces a two-front situation and that New Delhi should divert its attention from Islamabad and towards Beijing, though it is Pakistan that has been bleeding India and seeking its dismemberment since October 1947.

Gadkari-Sushma lead anti-India crusade

On August 17-18, the RSS-BJP combine surpassed itself when the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Foundation organised a discussion at the India International Centre (venue of the infamous Aman ki Asha initiative openly derided by the Armed forces) to virtually identify themselves with the extremists and protagonists of independence for Jammu & Kashmir.

Organised by the indefatigable Tarun Vijay, the programme began with a minute’s silence in the memory of all the “innocent people, including the security personnel, killed in Kashmir.” Tarun Vijay thus made it loud and clear at the very outset that those killed in Kashmir in the recent clashes with security personnel were all “innocents.” He sweetened this bitter pill by also acknowledging the deaths of security personnel at the hands of these vicious, rented, and unrelenting mobs.

And who were the participants? Mainly rabidly anti-India Kashmiri separatists; including Siddiq Wahid, Vice-Chancellor of the Islamic University, Kashmir. Tarun Vijay rigorously excluded Jammu and Ladakh; perhaps he felt that the representatives from these regions would defeat his evil designs.

We learn that the participants included representatives of the youthful stone-throwers of the Valley, and the BJP was represented by its national president Nitin Gadkari, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, so-called think-tank director Balbir Punj, and the new glamour-intellectual poster girl Smriti Irani.

With some effort, BJP managed to get four to five displaced Kashmiri Hindu boys and girls to attend. But these were those who on August 7 participated in the Kashmiri separatist-sponsored anti-India dharna at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, where pro-independence slogans were raised. One of the slogans was: “We want Azadi; Azadi means Islamic rule.” In other words, they were ‘rented’ Hindus.

It is reported that Tarun Vijay shamelessly described the seminar “as a historic ice-breaking moment” and hailed the participants from Kashmir, mostly from the Islamic University, as “brilliant, power-packed with views, pursuing their Master’s and PhDs in various subjects, including journalism, engineering, MBA and science.”

Siddiq Wahid, who, along with Amitabh Mattoo, has been openly pouring venom on India and participating in the anti-India PUGWASH-sponsored seminars and conferences, described the IIC interaction between Kashmiri separatists and BJP leaders as “unprecedented and the most useful interaction ever held.” And why not? After all, he and his team of Kashmiri separatists, who are part and parcel of the ongoing “Go India Go” movement in Kashmir, had found in Gadkari, Sushma, Punj, Vijay and Irani, patrons who could help them achieve freedom from the “fearful and terrorist India;” while DSPMF was a good platform from which to conduct anti-India operations.

Apparently, Smriti Irani, who knows nothing about Jammu & Kashmir, assured the Kashmiri separatists of BJP’s unstinted support. She gave a categorical commitment that she and others of her ilk would reach out to the Kashmiri youth (read dreaded separatists) in a manner no one had reached out to them so far. And all this on the platform named after Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who gave his life for one country, one flag, one constitution. Can there be a greater irony, a greater historical injustice?

Amitabh Mattoo, Vice-Chancellor of Jammu UniversityAs for the Kashmiri separatists, 56 in number, most of them students, they condemned India and the security forces and demanded independence saying “India in Kashmir represents fear and terror; when the word India comes to a Kashmiri’s mind, a common Kashmiri, what comes in his mind is a soldier with a gun in his hand; (and) fear and terror is all what a common Kashmiri feels.” In an interesting if unintended self-exposure, Tarun Vijay, in a blog he writes for the Times of India (Aug. 18), revealed that some participants – Rakhshanda, Lubna, Afsana, Nazeer, had “just returned from a 20-year stint in the US.” Obviously, these were the real controllers and agent provocateurs in the meeting, and they had come straight from Uncle Sam’s Cabin!!!

In this vein, the Stone Pelters Inc. poured venom on India in the presence of Nitin Gadkari. And this venerable, instead of walking out of the hall and expelling Tarun Vijay from the party for organising such a patently anti-national activity, asked the separatists “why don’t they speak what they want to speak in a free and frank atmosphere?” He, like Tarun Vijay, appeared very pleased with the interventions of these Kashmiri fanatics. No one from the BJP told the fanatics that they their demand for secession was high treason, and that whatever was happening in Kashmir was nothing but a naked manifestation of their communal approach to Jammu & Kashmir.

Sushma SwarajThe Kashmiri student separatists were delighted at this captive audience. Hailing Sushma Swaraj for the platform and kind hearing given to them on the subject of Azadi, they told a national audience via television – “Why doesn’t New Delhi follow Sushma Swaraj?” They gave this generous certificate because Home Minister P. Chidambaram had told them to stop the stone pelting before he would listen to their grievances; but Sushma Swaraj encouraged them to speak freely of Azadi – so what if it amounted to secession and treason?

It would be premature to say how far the stone pelters will go with their agenda. But BJP has come a long way from the days when its leaders would give up their lives in the service of the nation.

» Prof Hari Om is Chair Professor, Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University, Jammu.