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Mainstream, VOL LV No 47 New Delhi November 11, 2017

Targeting Chidambaram a Political Ploy

Saturday 11 November 2017, by Badri Raina


So what has Shri Chidambaram said that is so new or offensive? In saying that most Kashmiris who speak of Azaadi are, in his estimation, seeking greater autonomy for the State, Chidambaramji has only voiced a common enough perception—one that has been expressed by sundry commentators scores of times during the recent past. And, further, in expressing his support for exploring such autnomy as was promised to the State during the Constitution-making years, he has only lent support to what “mainstream” political formations in the State have often reiterated as being a minimal condition for obtaining a lasting political modus vivendi between the State and the Union.

The question must be asked as to why such a course that will leave the Accession of the State to the Republic of India in place while not rescinding the “Special Status” constitu-tionally guaranteed to Jammu and Kashmir and reassuring Kashmiris of a genuinely democratic future is such a bad thing to talk about. Especially when a coercively integrationist approach pushed by military muscle has failed yet again to persuade Kashmiris that they had better climb the “nationalist” bandwagon, or else... Let it be recalled that the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution in 2001 seeking parliamentary reiteration of Autonomy for the State. Clearly, if Shri Chidambaram is heinously culpable for having expressed his view in favour of exploring this course, the whole Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, a duly elected body we may remind ourselves, may also be held culpable on the same grounds. It is to be doubted that Shri Modi would call the J and K Assembly “shameless” as he has chosen to call Shri Chidambram. The conclusion must be inevitable that the loss of confidence of the ruling BJP in regard to the forthcoming elections to the Gujarat Assembly has been causing some pretty nervous and intemperate articulation from the scions of the party, since there is nothing new or offensive about what Shri Chidambaram has said. His statement most clearly includes the phrase that “Jammu and Kashmir will remain an integral part of India”.

The sad fact is that the establishment in Delhi is pretty clueless about what to do in Kashmir, appointment of the Special Representative notwithstanding. Its war cries to the contrary, the phase of strong-arm tactics initiated with the famous “surgical strike” has clearly petered out to a stalemate, even as there have been more militant attacks and greater firing from across the Line of Control. However much the State unit of the BJP might seek to force the issue on Article 370, the Modi Government knows that rescinding this Article is easier said than done, both constitu-tionally and politically. Nor is it likely that the Supreme Court, which is due to hear the petition against the continuance of Article 35 A as we write, will order a sudden and decisive cancellation of this provision, opening the flood-gates for a demographic infusion into the Valley; or that, even if the Court were to make some observation conducive to Delhi, this would not lead to further turmoil in the State.

These convoluted contexts render the task of the Special Representative, Shri Dineshwar Sharma, unenviable indeed. What new ideas may he come up with beyond the known positions of various stakeholders to the issue? Indeed, if there is one course that has the promise of offering a start, it is an all-stakeholder Round Table that may jointly explore acceptable democratic options of which Autonomy is a prime idea, given that the Delhi Agreement of 1952 had clearly recorded the mutually agreed upon contours of the axes of relationship between Centre and the State.

If Shri Chidambaram has articulated such a possibility he has done so in the best interests of national unity. Only a very perverse and self-regarding politics could view his initiative as inimical to such unity.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012. Thereafter he wrote two more books, Idea of India Hard to Beat: Republic Resilient and Kashmir: A Noble Tryst in Tatters.

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