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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 43, October 16, 2010

From Killing of Innocents to Eight-point Formula

Tuesday 19 October 2010, by Balraj Puri

What impact would the eight-point formula, announced by the Government of India on Kashmir, have on the turmoil that has gripped the Valley since June 11 when an innocent teenager was killed by a teargas shell? Why has it happened during this time of the year when tourism was showing the promise of a new record—when all house boats and hotel rooms were fully booked?

This year also set a new record when 40,000 Kashmiri Pandits, mostly from outside the Valley where they had migrated in 1990, attended
their annual religious fair at Khir Bhawani and received unusually warm hospitality from local Muslims.

Again, throughout May there were spont-aneous celebrations across the Valley when
a local boy, Shah Faesal, topped the list of successful candidates in the test for the Indian Administrative Service. Shah Faesal promised to be an icon for the Kashmiri youth. The separatists could neither join the popular mood nor oppose it and appeared to be irrelevant. Why could not that situation be consolidated? Finally in May militancy was at its lowest ebb.

The killing of 17-year-old Tuffail Ahmad Mattoo was followed by firing on his funeral procession killing another youth. A vicious circle of protests and killings then started. Why was the situation not tackled at that stage? Why was no inquiry ordered into the causes of the first killing and suitable action taken against the guilty policemen? And why were youth leaders not invited for talks? Instead speculations started about the real culprits who incited the youth. The Union Home Minister blamed the Lashkar-e-Taiba for the trouble. When the youth burnt the effigies of Salahuddin, the chief of the United Jehad Council of which the Lashkar is a part, for his unwanted advice, the suspicion about its role should have been dispelled. Then the blame shifted to the separatist leaders.

The reality was that it was a revolt not
only against the government but also against the traditional separatist leaders. The masked teenagers at an early stage had in their address to the media expressed their disillusionment with the leaders and made certain charges against them.

I apprised the Prime Minister of this fact, and he, in his address to the All Party Conference on Kashmir, had “empathised with the anger and frustration of those who have been in the fore-front of the stone-pelting youth”. Sonia Gandhi stressed that “everyone should ask why the Kashmiri youth are in anger” and suggested that “all should be magnanimous to respect their legitimate aspirations”.

The Prime Minister, on my suggestion, also advised a conference of Inspectors General of Police of the State to use non-lethal methods of crowd control. In Kashmir not only lethal methods were used but, according to the Director, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, “most people were injured due to beating and deaths were also due to beating by the police and CRPF”.

The government sent some persons to Geelani in jail and offered to release him if he used peaceful methods. He agreed to this condition. He did appeal to the youth to stop stone pelting and resort to peaceful methods. Which was not responded too. But as an experienced leader he was able to give a sense of direction to the movement, present a calendar of protest and offer a new slogan “Quit Jammu and Kashmir”. However, when he indicated his preference for the State’s accession to Pakistan, the youth group categorically rejected his views.

Later the government tried his rival, Mirwiaz Umar Farooq, and removed all restrictions on his movement on an assurance by, as per the Chief Minister, one of his confidants. He was allowed to lead the Id prayers and address the congregation while restrictions were put on Geelani. Mirwaiz also addressed a joint public meeting at All Chowk. But he could not discipline the crowd which became violent and burnt some government buildings.

Instead of blaming Geelani or Mirwiaz, the government should have by now realised that the youth were not under their control, nor any other leader. Thus due to wrong diagnosis and wrong methods of dealing with it, the teenagers’ revolt acquired the form of a mass upsurge. At that stage Army was called. It staged a flag march. At some places its camps were also attacked and it came in clash with the protesters.

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In this context the eight-point proposal lost some of its appeal. However, the Centre’s directive to the State Government to “review all cases of PSA detenus and withdraw orders in appropriate cases and grant ex-gratia relief to the families of persons killed since June 11”, is an undue interference in the affairs of the State. These suggestions could be given by the Congress party to the State’s ruling coalition of which the Congress is a partner. Similarly on the advice to open educational institutions, it is already being implemented and, in any case, should depend upon the assessment of the local situation by the State Government and not the Centre.

The suggestion regarding the appointment of two Special Task Forces, each for the Jammu region and Ladakh, to examine their development needs begs the question: why not such a task force for Kashmir? This has caused strong reaction in all the regions. Kashmiris resent against special attention to other regions since the impression given is that these two regions are not an equal partner of Kashmir. Moreover, it is not develop-ment alone that the people need. They have equally strong urge for a share in power. Why not implement the promise of regional autonomy made by Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah under the Delhi Agreement in 1952 and recommended by, inter alia, the All Parties People’s Convention convened by Sheikh Abdullah as leader of the Plebiscite Front, the leading separatist party at the that time, and attended by Mirwaiz Umar’s father Mirwaiz Farooq and Jamaat-e-Islami, of which Geelani was a member? The Sheikh reiterated this commitment when he returned to power in 1975 to implement regional autonomy which was incorporated in the National Conference manifesto called ‘New Kashmir’.

As far the development needs are concerned, I had suggested, as head of the Regional Autonomy Committee appointed by the State Government, an eight-point formula for equitable and objective criteria for allocation of funds. It included area, population, road connectivity in proportion to area, share in government services, share in admission to higher and technical institutions, infant mortality, female literacy and contribution to the State exchequer. The formula can be further discussed and, in whatever form it is adopted, can be computed to determine the share of each region and district instead of it being decided, as at present, on subjective and political considerations or left to be by experts of the task force.

Inter-regional relations in Jammu and Kashmir are too complex a problem to be dealt with summarily by a Task Force. It is at the root of what is called the Kashmir problem.

Finally, the Cabinet Committee on Security has recommended to “appoint a group of inter-locutors under the chairmanship of an eminent person to begin a sustained dialogue with all sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, including political parties, groups, youth and students organisations, civil society organisations and other stake holders”.

Who are the persons qualified for the job, have an elementary knowledge about all ethnic diversities of the State, their cultural, social, economic needs and political urges, and who can inspire confidence of all sections? What would be their terms of reference? Obviously the pre-condition would be that the solution should be within the framework of the Indian Constitution. No separatist party, in that case, will cooperate. On Centre-State relations also, there are divergent opinions, including within the Congress party, a coalition partner in the State Government.

The author is the Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu.

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