Home > 2017 > Enhancing Kashmiri Alienation

Mainstream, VOL LV No 46 New Delhi November 4, 2017

Enhancing Kashmiri Alienation

Monday 6 November 2017, by SC

EDITORIAL

As was only to be expected, the Hurriyat Conference has rejected any dialogue with the Centre’s interlocutor.

A week after the Centre appointed an interlocutor to engage all Kashmiris, especially the youth and separatists, the Hurriyat Conference yesterday described the Centre’s move (to appoint Dineshwar Sharma as the interlocutor in J&K as an “eyewash” and said in a statement: “The Centre refuses to accept the ground reality in Kashmir. Sharma’s assertion that he is coming to the Valley with the directive from the government to restore peace rather than addressing the dispute limits the scope of any agreement with him and makes it an exercise in futility.”

In a joint statement, Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik termed the appointment of Sharma as a “time-buying tactic” and said it was “adopted under international pressure and regional compulsions”. Engaging with Sharma, they felt, would “undermine their freedom struggle, which has been nourished by the blood of their people”.

If this is the reaction of the Hurriyat, how does one judge the approach of the ruling dispensation at the Centre, especially the PM? Former Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had called for greater autonomy for J&K; at an interaction with the media in Rajkot, PC had observed: “When they ask for azaadi, most people—I am not saying all—an overwhelming majority want autonomy.”

It is such an observation which triggered a violent reaction from PM Modi. Whipping jingoism cloaked as ultra-nationalism, he told BJP workers in Bengaluru last Sunday (October 29) that the Congress was “speaking the language used in Pakistan” thereby belittling the sacrifices of countless martyrs who had laid down their lives to defend, protect and preserve Kashmir.

This was patently disingenuous. And in a sharp rebuff Chidambaram himself said: “The PM is imagining a ghost and attacking it.”

Indeed Chidambaram had spelt out the need for granting greater autonomy for J&K. “The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect in letter and spirit Article 370. And that means that they want greater autonomy... Therefore, I think we should seriously examine that question and consider on what areas we can give autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.”

Regardless of whether the Congress has officially distanced itself from Chidambaram’s position, what the latter has stated is fully in tune with what every secular democrat feels on Kashmir.

As Karan Thapar writes in The Hindu today, highlighting the views of Chidambaram and CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on the subject,

The core of the Chidambaram-Yechury proposal is the belief there are many ways of being Indian. If 12 States, including Himachal, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra and in the Northeast, can have special constitutional provisions, why not Jammu & Kashmir? This can only add to the rich texture of being Indian, not strain the national fabric. Indeed, this was the foundation on which the much admired Manmohan Singh-Pervez Musharraf back-channel agreements were built.

Now, this is not azaadi. Far from it. But it is a very different concept of India to that of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. No doubt this is why the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister chose to attack rather than understand and explore it. But, then, what did Mr. Modi mean when he said the solution was to “embrace” Kashmiris? Surely, in practical terms, that means meeting them half-way. Or is he like Humpty Dumpty who famously said, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less”?

In fact the stand taken by PC and SY is the only way to bring back J&K from the brink. On the other hand, the Modi dispensation’s ultra-nationalist chauvinist course would queer the pitch and strengthen the Hurriyat’s apprehensions as spelt out by the organisation in its statement on the appointment of the interlocutor and his analogy of the situation in Kashmir with that of Syria (which was totally ill-conceived and most unfortunate).

It is time secular India rises to the occasion and opposes Narendra Modi’s ulterior move in Kashmir. Because if the PM’s utterances in Bengaluru are any indication, the latter’s attitude will far from help resolving the Kashmir problem, enhance the alienation of the Kashmiri populace, notably the youth, in the days ahead thereby further complicating the longstanding issue.

November 1 s.c.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62