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Thursday, June 9, 2011
Giving away Kashmir – Part 3 BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
BY CT – MARCH 1, 2010
POSTED IN: POLITICS
This is the last post of a three-part series on how successive recent Indian governments have plotted to give away Kashmir. It is written by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organization of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.
BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
The Working Group on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) never discussed anti-terrorism measures as an important confidence building measure for the return of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. It did not at all debate the relevance of anti-terrorism laws in the state in the light of the ongoing terrorist campaign. It did not even cursorily address the human rights violation in the state due to terrorism. The Working Group focused primarily on the state specific aspects of human rights violations just as Amnesty International and Asia Watch used to do in 1990’s.
The mindset employed can be understood by the written admission of the Working Group on CBMs while dealing with the question of internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, “the Working Group concerns itself with the rehabilitation and improvement of conditions of the militancy victims and did not go deeper into the causes or the genesis of the militancy in the state.” The Working Groups followed a clear cut direction to ignore all issues which would bring into focus the issues of ideologically motivated violence in the state and bring the ugly side of armed Muslim separatism in the state to light. Their recommendations were meticulously in line with the separatist demands.
The Working Group on CBMs recommended abrogation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), relief not only to the victims of terrorism but the families of the killed terrorists, create conditions for the return of persons to Jammu and Kashmir who had gone to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan for training and organizing support for armed separatism etc. Only lip service was rendered to all other issues, including the problems faced by refugees, who had come from West Pakistan, while the PoK refugees of 1947 were not even mentioned in the report. The political motivation at work from behind can also be clearly understood by reading some recommendations of the same Working Group. The recommendations state, “To start unconditional dialogue process with militant groups for finding sustainable solutions to the problems of militancy….To examine the role of media in generating an image of the people of the state so as to lessen the indignity and suspicion that the people face outside the state”. The group on strengthening Relations across LoC never even considered the issue of illegal economy in the state and impact on it by cross LoC trade. It never discussed the issue of Middle East based business mafia seeking to suck up Jammu and Kashmir into its lap even when the leaders of the business committee in Kashmir have been openly canvassing with their fraternity that cross LoC trade would integrate Kashmir Valley with the economy of Middle East, not Pakistan.
Using the separatists
The Working Group recommendations strengthened the processes already unleashed to bring about economic and political integration of the Muslim majority areas of Jammu with the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir valley. Construction of Mughal Road (connecting Poonch-Rajouri with Kashmir through Shopian-Pulwama), and Sinthan Top Road (connecting mountainous Kishtwar district with Anantnag) were given further impetus. The handing over of the national power projects to J&K government assumed new stridency during the RTCs and WG meetings and the subsequent recommendations have already created an agenda for developing the infrastructure (economic, legal and political) for the Greater Muslim Kashmir.
During the deliberations of the third RTC, the Muslim representatives from Kargil vehemently opposed the concept of demilitarization and brought to light the humane role played by Indian security establishment for the people living in Kargil, Drass and other remote areas. The entire exposition eventually was ignored and never allowed to be known in the rest of the country primarily because GoI had already embarked upon the process of demilitarization. In the same RTC, the then MLA from Bandipore addressed the PM and said, “Sir, why was the All Party Hurriyat Conference Chief Syed Ali Shah Gilani released from jail before this conference. What was the assessment of Govt of India? If he was released why was he allowed to address a public rally at the airport itself? What was the assessment of GoI about this? Do you know Sir that Lashkar-e-Taiba flags were flaunted in this rally? Do you know Sir what were the slogans raised in the rally? Sir, they raised the slogans – Lashkar Aayi, Lashkar Aayi, Manmohan ki Maut Aayi, Azad ki maut Aayi.” The release of the radical pro-Pakistan Hurriyat leader retrospectively seems to have a purpose. Gilani was perhaps released to raise the din of radical demands outside so that the proposals of Self Rule, Greater Autonomy raised by Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference within RTC appear to be moderate options and could be endorsed.
The attitude of Government of India to Jamaat, Ali Shah Gilani and Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) appears to have a purpose when we see that it is the GoI which is investing in pushing through the Kathwari/Dixon plan as a solution. While all other separatist leaders have lost their credibility and potential to mobilize public, it is only Syed Ali Shah Gilani, DeM and Jamaat-e-Islami which can keep the pot boiling in the public and provide the required pressure and momentum to the Indian government for giving concessions. It is well known that whenever the government acted firmly on the ground, the Intifada never took off. And it assumed the proportions of an uprising when the Indian government publicly declared retraction of its authority from the ground. Omar Abdullah asked the Prime Minister in one of the RTCs as to why has been Government of India always befriending and encouraging such elements in J&K who have a manifest anti-India stand on Kashmir.
Giving away of Kashmir is basically a process of recasting the concepts of sovereignty of Indian Nation, its frontiers and its secular vision. The Self Rule document of PDP, which many believe has been prepared by Government of India, openly talks about redefining the concepts of nation, sovereignty, ethnicity, regions etc. When the Indian government talks about porous borders, rendering borders irrelevant, settlement between stakeholders, it is talking about a fundamental ideological shift in the nation building vision. To qualify them as tactical interventions or strategic imperatives, right or wrong, will be a gross misjudgment.
Bogey of US pressure
To those who pose serious questions about the gradual process of capitulation in Jammu and Kashmir conducted and calibrated by sections of the State, the argument put forward to silence them in the back channels is the intense international pressure brought about by USA and China on India. It is not incidental that one of the first public expressions of a ‘Two Front’ situation for India has been given by none other than Brijesh Mishra, the National Security Advisor to Vajpayee Government and one of the brains which set the peace process with Pakistan rolling. Prodded and patronized by the State, a voluntary censorship seems to be in vogue not to discuss the content and quality of this pressure. It is true that even after 9/11 the United States has not given any indication that it has changed its policy on Kashmir or Pakistan vis-a-vis India. But it is also true that at a time when it is being parroted from within India that GoI has been forced to enter into a dialogue with Pakistan under US pressure, American government has publicly released the information about terrorists arrested in the US which link the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai directly to serving officers in Pakistani Army. The statement of Robert Gates that India may loose its reserves of restrain in case of one more terrorist attack on Indian soil was less a prodding in favour of a dialogue and concession to separatists and more a warning to Pakistan.
This is not to say that the US is not seeking such cooperation from India which addresses its concern more than Indian concerns. The fact is that the US has a lesser leverage to exert pressures on India than it had before 9/11. Before the terror attacks on twin towers in New York, US government had its relations intact with Pakistan and rest of the radical Muslim countries around the Middle East. It had not entered Iraq and was exploring a relationship with Taliban. Now the situation is different. The US, by the admission of its own experts, is over stretched and needs India more in an atmosphere of global recession than any time in history. Why is Government of India more than willing to accommodate American view now than it has been ever before? Not only that, why are propaganda campaigns like the suspension of aid to Jammu and Kashmir by World Bank (because it has suddenly woken up to recognize Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute) left uncontested? That too when the representative of the bank has clarified that they are continuing to finance many projects in India including Jammu and Kashmir.
The bogey of increasing international pressure is being crafted from within to target Indian public opinion at a time when dialogue with separatists is going on and Pakistan is unraveling from within. A section from within the government and the political establishment wants to present a compromise in Jammu and Kashmir as a deliverance to the nation from a perpetual confrontation, even if it means abandoning its frontiers, its people in the state, its civilisational responsibility, central features of its eco-heritage, secularism and everything which India stands for.
I participated in the first SAFMA conference in New Delhi immediately after a group of Pakistani Journalists had for the first time visited Jammu and Kashmir. During the lunch session of the conference I overheard a conversation between the visiting Pakistani journalist and an official of the Pakistani embassy in India. The journalist was telling the official in Urdu that Indians, while talking about settlement of Kashmir issue, always say that they cannot allow second Partition of India. The Pakistani official retorted back that Gandhi and Nehru also used to say like this before the partition. (Concluded)
Posted by Free Thinker at 7:03 AM
Giving away Kashmir – Part 2 BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
BY CT – FEBRUARY 28, 2010
POSTED IN: POLITICS
This is the second post of a three-part series on how successive recent Indian governments have plotted to give away Kashmir. It is written by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organization of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.
BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
When Kathwari was invited to India along with his proposals ‘Kashmir: A Way Forward’, it marked a major change in the strategic perspectives of Indian State. Kathwari’s plan was a rechristened Dixon Formula. It envisaged a quasi-independent or eventually independent Greater Muslim Kashmir. To Dixon, doing this was completing the ‘unfinished agenda’ of Partition of India.
Nehru from the inception was opposed to an Independent Kashmir. He had outrightly communicated to Muslim leaders of Kashmir that, “he would prefer to hand over the State to Pakistan on a platter rather than support its independence and allow it to be turned into a centre of international intrigue and danger to both India and Pakistan.” It is not to say that Nehru and his successors till Vajpayee considered independence or quasi-independence for Jammu and Kashmir as a political blasphemy. There is a lot of evidence available to suggest that Nehru and his successors in Congress flirted with these options but predominantly from a tactical perspective. For strategic planners in India, counterpoising independence or autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir to counter pro-Pak sentiment in the State has always been a very attractive option. They always believed that keeping these options alive, and also nourishing them would provide India leverage to wrong foot Pakistan. Bereft of the profound understanding of the issues involved and oblivious of the implications they flaunted this maneuver more often than less as a strategic necessity. By accepting independence or quasi-independence options as possible concepts for clinching a deal with Pakistan, India has virtually checkmated itself. Pakistanis now publicly claim that they are actually agreeing to India’s position and so there should be no delay in a final settlement.
The formulation that two-nation theory can be countered only by a three-nation theory is turning out to be a fatal self goal. Both theories are ideologically one and the same. Cutting the two-nation politics into regional or ethnic denominators does not resolve its basic incompatibility with a state based on recognition of plural diversity on the principle of equality. Breaking away of Bangladesh from Pakistan only solved the problem of power sharing within the frame work of the bigger Pakistan. It did not resolve the conflict with an inclusive secular nation because it defined its separation from India on the same principle of two-nation theory.
The symbiotic relation which Pakistan evolved between pro-Pak and pro-independence/autonomy politics in Jammu and Kashmir could not be properly comprehended within the framework of the strategic perspective of India. This perspective visualized harnessing of Muslim identity politics and constitutionally fortifying Muslim sub-nationalism in the State as not only an antidote to Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir but also an effective device to mobilize Muslim vote bank in rest of India. It considered Muslim communalism in India as merely a reaction to the tyranny of Hindu majority. The entire approach over the years has become not only a device to circumvent the issue of Muslim communalism in India but to protect and nourish it.
Despite all this, till Kathwari’s visit, Indian State had not totally closed its eyes to the incompatibility of an autonomous sphere of Muslim interests in Jammu and Kashmir with the secular nation building. That explains why over the years the process of erosion of article 370 remained alive. Extension of jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India, CAG, fundamental rights and many other central laws was an expression to dissolve this incompatibility. A dominant section of Indian State and the political establishment never agreed to elevate Article 370 from a transitory provision to a permanent feature of Indian constitution. The strategic paradigm of fortifying Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India to negate the appeal of two-nation theory has lead to the creation of broadly two sections within Indian State and the political establishment.
One such section has been that always had a subversive motivation and visualized recognition to Muslim Sub-nationalism in Jammu and Kashmir as a space to build a Greater Muslim Kashmir and use this to impair the indivisible unity of Indian Republic from within. This section always wanted Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir to be alive and kicking to use it as a cardinal insult to balkanize India along its sub-national diversity.
The second segment constitutes of those who gave more credence to the tactical value of harnessing Muslim sub-nationalism, but only to weaken the appeal of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. While keeping the affront to Muslim identity politics to the minimum this section however did try to neutralize the disruptive potential of special status of Jammu and Kashmir to the unity of India. This group nourished a misplaced wish that eventually Indian democracy will prove to be a stronger force and Muslim identity politics in the state will loose its relevance. This group has premised their approach on the line that Muslim communalism has not to be contested; it has to be given minimum affront and the best choice is to circumvent it.
Over the years there has been a ping pong battle between these two mindsets; one seeking to delegitimise the religious identity politics, the other doing everything to consolidate Greater Muslim Kashmir. When Muslim majority Doda was carved out of the Hindu majority Jammu province in 1948, followed by carving out of Shia Muslim majority Kargil out of Buddhist majority Ladakh, we were witnessing the counter responses to the process of fuller integration of Jammu and Kashmir unleashed not from Pakistan but from within. Nehruvian strategic paradigm kept this internal conflict in the nation building process alive.
The promotion of Kathwari plan by Vajpayee government marked the demise of this strategic perspective. The new paradigm recognizes the three nation proposals of independence or semi-independence of Kashmir as a solution to Indo-Pak conflict rather than a tactical antidote to the two-nation vision. Recognizing Pakistan as a partner in settling the future of the only Muslim majority state of India has not only made the settlement on Jammu and Kashmir as the unfinished agenda of partition but opened afresh the Muslim question in India. The support extended by eminent Muslims like AG Noorani or Shabana Azmi or Wajahat Habibullah to the separatist cause in Kashmir have the sinister forebodings of the new confidence of a section of Indian Muslim elite to question the very unity of the nation. Vajpayee’s strategic vision underlined that the frontline Muslim state of Pakistan can live in harmony with a secular and Hindu majority India. This shift in India’s strategic perspective is of the nature of a mutation. From visualizing the creation of an Independent Greater Muslim Kashmir as more dangerous than its secession to Pakistan and a potential hot bed of international intrigue, the new perspective seems to view the creation of the same as a bridge of peace between Pakistan (a confessional ideological State) and India (a secular state).
Giving away Kashmir
Manmohan Singh’s tenure has carried the strategic shift further away from the Nehru-Gandhi era. The peace with Pakistan at any price seems to be getting internalized in a way that it has become more than a strategic necessity — an ideological imperative. The subversive entrenchment within, emboldened by its increasing reach and sway, is gradually succeeding in harnessing the might and wherewithal of the State itself to mount a concerted attack on the Nation.
The three Round Table Conferences and the meetings of the various Working Groups and the conclusions thereof are manifest examples of how Indian State is made to invest in creating a Greater Muslim Kashmir.
A section of pro-India participants, invited to the first Round Table Conference (RTC), did debate the wisdom of participating in it. They had legitimate apprehensions that the conduct of such a conference was in fact an exercise to accord democratic legitimacy to certain concessions that Government of India was ready to make to Pakistan and the separatists in the Valley. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already had series of very high profile meetings with a section of separatist leadership. These meetings, lasting for hours, along with the top most officers of Government of India had catapulted the separatist leadership into the national and international limelight once again at a time when their credibility on the ground was at the lowest. The Chenab Solution, which had prominently come to the public realm after Vajpayee invited Kathwari and sent his special emissary Sh. R K Mishra to start a dialogue process with Pakistan, had attained the stature of a possible solution considered more by the Government of India than by Pakistan. Was the participation of pro-India leadership in Jammu and Kashmir in the Round Table Conference along with the separatist leadership sought to give an impression of involving everyone so that the compromise already worked out could be presented as a fate accompli to the wider national opinion? Retrospectively, this apprehension seems to have been well founded. At that time however the opinion that Round Table Conference accorded legitimacy to the diversity of political opinion in the State and presented an opportunity to show the separatists their position in over all political environment of the state clinched the argument against dissociating from the RTC.
Through the three RTC’s and the Working Groups, GOI pushed through all such proposals, which have critically strengthened the processes for the creation of Greater Muslim Kashmir. A process of reconciliation with separatism on their terms has by now been firmly grounded through a series of administrative, quasi-legal and political maneuvers. These measures are such that they do not need a legislative sanction of the Indian Parliament and as such are not dependent upon the political consensus.
The deliberations in RTC’s and Working Groups amply reflect a deliberation in implementing an agenda which had already been unleashed. The very architecture of the RTC’s was developed in a way were Government of India was placed as a neutral arbitrator between pro-India opinion and those who wanted to change the status quo of the relation between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India. Many times Government of India seemed to facilitate the separatist agenda by maintaining stoic silence even when the Muslim leadership of the valley put forward misplaced constitutional arguments or historically unfounded and false propositions undermining the very accession of the state with India and attacking its sovereignty. When none other than Omar Abdullah said in the very first RTC that, “we have signed only instrument of accession and not instrument of merger,” the statement had profound implications needing a proper response from the highest in the Government of India. In the same meeting the leader of PDP and then Cabinet Minister in the state government, Sh Muzaffar Beigh said, “Article 370 had a treaty status”. He opined that this treaty had developed after an understanding between Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and Constituent Assembly of India, both of which as per him were sovereign bodies. This blatant falsehood and sinister twist was never contested by Government of India.
A section of Indian State and political establishment seem to be allowing blatant falsehoods aimed at wrecking the sovereignty of the nation in Jammu and Kashmir in such a way so that public at large, not only in J&K but in rest of India as well as internationally, is convinced that India has no case in J&K. The deliberations in the Working Groups were also conducted in a manner to undermine all legitimate imperatives of national interests. Government of India is mirroring the attitudes which the British Government adopted in the build up to the partition of India.
Posted by Free Thinker at 7:00 AM
Giving away Kashmir – Part 1 BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
BY CT – FEBRUARY 27, 2010
POSTED IN: POLITICS
This is a three-part series on how successive recent Indian governments have plotted to give away Kashmir. It is written by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organization of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.
BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
For so many years we have concerned ourselves primarily with how Pakistan seeks to take away Jammu and Kashmir. We are perhaps getting too late to intensely involve ourselves with how a section of Indian State and the political class have been, over the years, crafting the giving away of Jammu and Kashmir. The unilateral submission of the report of the Working Group on Centre-State Relations by its Chairman Justice Sagir Ahmad to the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is only a reflection on the relentless campaign to keep the Muslim Question in India alive and transform the vision of secularism into an albatross around the neck of Indian nation, fixing its limbs into inaction, so that the Muslim Power continues to inch eastwards through successive partitions of India.
A sinister course correction
The report, submitted by Justice Sagir in the name of Working Group on Centre-State Relations, was done without completing the agenda of the Working Group; without taking most of the members of the Working Group into confidence; without seeking the opinion of the members on the draft of the report; and last but not the least, without formally winding up the proceedings of the Working Group. It seems that the entire exercise is aimed at some sort of a course correction crafted by those who have prefixed the direction and the outcome of the internal dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir. There are pertinent reasons to think so.
The delay in submission of the report by Justice Sagir was certainly causing worry which found expression once in a while in the public sphere. On March 10, 2008 a prominent local daily in Jammu and Kashmir reported National Conference (NC) patron Dr Farooq Abdullah blaming New Delhi for not being serious towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and quoted him making direct and almost indicatory references about the Working Group on Centre-State Relations. He said, “appointment of a Muslim Judge to give report on the contentious issue of centre state relations reflects their whimsical approach…. The report could have catastrophic consequences for Justice Sagir.” As per the report of Kashmir Times, Dr Abdullah maintained that reluctance of Justice Sagir in convening another round of meeting of the Working Group reflects his understanding of “how the contents of the report could impact his career prospects.” The newspaper further quotes Dr Abdullah as having said, “…in a country where the minorities are under suspicion all the time, expecting Justice Sagir to give a report which could maintain his image of being a nationalist would be a little irrational.” In his expressions, Dr Abdullah referred to the population dynamics in the country, “If the centre would have been serious, Justice Sachar would have been the best choice”. He openly confessed about his resentment on the appointment of Justice Sagir at the time when the heads of the working groups were being chosen and frankly said, “I resisted his name, since I knew the repercussions of (his) heading this crucial Working Group on centre-state relationships…”
The statement clearly brings out that a person of the stature of Dr Farooq Abdullah had a clear-cut expectation from the Working Group on Centre-State Relations and an apprehension whether the person like Justice Sagir would be able to deliver the same.
It is relevant to quote what Prof Amitabh Mattoo was saying months before Justice Sagir submitted his report given the fact that he has been one of the more visible backchannel actors in the engagement between Pakistan, India, separatists and the so called moderates in Kashmir. He wrote in early October: “An important working group of the Prime Minister on J&K dealt with centre state relations but it was unable to arrive at a breakthrough. This doesn’t mean that we have a cul-de-sac. There are many proposals on the table including those on autonomy, self rule, self governance and achievable nationhood….These internal discussions must flow into the backchannel which can then attempt to work out a non-territorial India-Pakistan settlement on J&K based on providing a similar political architecture on both sides of the line of control working towards converting the LoC into Line of Peace, that allows free movement of people, goods, services and ideas.”
The way Justice Sagir submitted his report has some resonance in the way National Conference submitted the Greater and Regional Autonomy Reports. Like the constitution of Working Group on Centre and State Relations the Dr Abdullah government constituted the Committees on Greater Autonomy and Regional Autonomy after coming to power in 1996; giving an impression of adopting a non-partisan and inclusive process. He made Dr Karan Singh the Chairman of the Greater Autonomy Committee and made another non-Muslim — Balraj Puri — to function as Working Chairman of the Regional Autonomy Committee. Sooner than later Dr Karan Singh resigned and Balraj Puri was forced out. The reports of the State Autonomy Committee was suddenly finalized, submitted to the government and then pushed into the State assembly for adoption.
The Regional Autonomy report of NC envisaged the division of the state along the same lines as former Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff did later on. It put the division of Jammu province into Muslim and Hindu majority domains firmly on the agenda for the settlement of the Kashmir issue. Balraj Puri later wrote about the proposed breaking of the existing regions in the State: “Though re-demarcation or creation of a region or a district was not included in the terms of reference of the committee, I still sought a clarification from the chief minister who categorically ruled out consideration of any such demand….. I sent my report to all members and the chief minister in all humility for favour of their kind consideration, scrutiny and comments. Despite a reminder, I did not receive any comment……. I received a letter from the Chief Secretary on 21 January 1999 that my term had expired on 31 December 1998. Through another order dated 4 March1999, the term of the Committee minus me was extended in a similar retrospective way w.e.f 31 December 1998 till 31 March….It seems an alternate 28 page report was hastily got drafted and signed by three out of six original members which was tabled in the legislative assembly when it was about to adjourn sine die on 16 April.” What made the then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah to suddenly abandon the pretensions of accommodation and legitimate consultation, and like Justice Sagir did recently, push through the reports having a bearing on the future of the state?
The entire peace engagement, internal as well as external, has a pre-fixed objective for a well entrenched lobby and every process employed by the Government of India is being judged on the yardstick of this objective. When PDP released its Self Rule document, not in front of the Working Group on Centre-State relations, but in Pakistan, NC President Omar Abdullah openly blamed the Indian High Commission in Pakistan of having facilitated the entire process. The Indian foreign ministry chose not to contradict the allegation. There are many Kashmiri analysts who privately believe that the Self Rule document is the creation of some section of PMO. In the recent past, we have many instances where the Indian government acted almost in tandem with the Muslim leadership of the Kashmir Valley (mainstream and the separatist).
During former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime, a USA based Kashmiri secessionist leader, lobbyist and fund-raiser, Farooq Kathwari, arrived in India. He came with the full knowledge of the Indian government in March 1999, carrying a series of proposals for the creation of an independent Kashmiri State. At that time, both USA and the Indian government underplayed his jihadi connections. His son had died in Chechnya while fighting the Russians. He met very important persons belonging to Indian intelligence service and the ruling BJP. On March 8, Kathwari had a closed door meeting with Dr Farooq Abdullah and a group of his top Cabinet colleagues on the premises of Secretariat in Jammu. This meeting induced the urgency into the Dr Abdullah Government to come out with its reports on greater and regional autonomy in the state. During his visit, Kathwari seemed ‘encouraged enough to push ahead with a new version of his blue print for the solution of Kashmir’. The blue print — Kashmir: A Way Forward — later became commonly known as Kathwari Proposals. The National Conference reports had ‘striking similarities’ with Kathwari proposals as the later had with Dixon’s proposals. Noted columnist Praveen Swami, while commenting about this convergence wrote, “As significant, Abdullah’s maximalist demands for autonomy dovetail with the KSG’s (Kashmir Study Group) formulations of a quasi Sovereign State.”
It was not a coincidence that almost simultaneously the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers would meet in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo in March 1999 and reach an agreement envisaging ‘plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir on regional/district basis’, ‘maximum possible autonomy to Kashmir and its adjoining areas’, division of Jammu province along the Chenab River and so on. Significantly, the BJP-lead NDA was in power at that time.
The Regional Autonomy report of NC advocated dividing the State into its Muslim and non-Muslim domains, exactly the same way Kathwari envisaged. Pushing Balraj Puri, the Working Chairman of the regional Autonomy Committee, out of the decision-making loop was a course correction applied to see the endorsement of the Greater Muslim Kashmir to which he probably would not have agreed.
It is highly improbable to conceive that Dr Farooq Abdullah, who was also the Chief Minister, was not adequately briefed by Government of India about the purpose of Kathwari’s visit to India. Even if he was not, it is more improbable to think that Americans didn’t educate him. Kathwari’s closeness to the US State Department and his presence in India with his “way forward’ proposals on Jammu and Kashmir was more than a hint for NC to move fast enough to finalize the reports of his government on greater and regional autonomy and push it through the state assembly where NC had a two third majority.
To be fair to Justice Sagir, he refused to take into consideration definite signals from the interested quarters in the Government of India to fall in line and took his time. He in fact took undue time, in the view of those, who are in a haste to strike a deal with the separatists and Pakistan. In the very first meeting of the Working Group, to the clarification of a query posed by this author as to whether decisions will be taken in the Working Group by a majority vote or total consensus, Justice Sagir had assured that report of the WG will be finalized only if there was a total consensus. During the deliberations of the Working Group, this author, while making his expositions on the Greater Autonomy report of NC attracted the intense attention of the Chairman while making the following comment, “Sir, While coming to participate in this Working Group I was acutely conscious of the fact that I have the responsibility of the very survival of my community on my shoulders, during the deliberations which have taken place here I have come to realize that I have the responsibility of the minorities of the State on my shoulders. After listening to the expositions of NC, PDP and even Congress I feel I have the responsibility of the minorities of the entire country on my shoulders. Sir I am sure that you will agree with me that you also have the responsibility of the minorities of this nation on your shoulders while conducting this Working Group.”
Justice Sagir could not have submitted the report, which he eventually did, if he would have followed the due process of first completing the remaining agenda of the Working Group, then submitting the draft report for acceptance by the members, seeking a total consensus on it as he had promised and then duly winding up the proceedings of the Working Group. When he changed midway the agenda for the fourth meeting of the Working Group and incorporated the presentation of Wajahat Habibullah, he left no one in doubt about his helplessness by offering no answers when the members asked him the reasons for doing so. He looked with embarrassment towards his secretary in the Group, Sh. Ajit Kumar, perhaps telling us that someone else had taken this decision. Justice Sagir could not have submitted the report if he would have listened to his conscience, which he did for sometime. He eventually neither disappointed Dr Farooq Abdullah nor that section in Government of India for whom the unfinished work of the Working Group was becoming a major hurdle. Submission of a report, which at least will not come in the way of the pre-fixed objectives of the so called search for peace with Pakistan, had perhaps become an imperative necessity.
Posted by Free Thinker at 6:55 AM
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