K B Jandial
The Kashmir’s key takeaway from the path-breaking All Party Meeting on 24th June, 2021 was the commitment from PM Modi to end ‘Dilli ki doori’ and ‘Dil ki doori’ with ‘Kashmir’. Since there has never been any “doori” with Jammu, so when PM said it for ‘J&K’, he actually meant ‘Kashmir’. Otherwise also, for all Central Govts including Modi Govt, Jammu sadly had accorded significance in totality of the problem and hence, no takeaway for it.
To be fair to PM Modi, all previous PMs too had only Kashmir in their mind when they made commitments or coined catchy political slogans. One can argue that the real problem actually exists in Kashmir only and why drag Jammu in it. But Jammu in no case deserves neglect. All PMs had been reaching out to Kashmiris but with little success. Indira Gandhi accepted the advice of her Kashmiri advisors to reach out to Sheikh Abdullah and tasked her Foreign Secretary T N Kaul, who had known the Sheikh for nearly four decades, for it in October, 1967. After Pakistan lost its eastern part in 1971, Indira’s Principal Secretary P.N. Haskar advocated “quite dialogue” with the Sheikh that culminated into his return to power on Congress ‘crutches’ in Feb 1975.
When Pak abetted cross border terrorism overtook J&K in late 1989, Govt of India was clueless to deal with it. To bring ‘fled mainstream politicians’ back to Kashmir, successive PMs did their bit. Narasimha Rao was the first PM to hold out on November4, 1995 a huge offer, short of azadi, saying that “sky is the limit” to give face saving to Kashmiri leadership to restart political process. PM Manmohan Singh too held out the same promise to his Pakistani counterpart, in late September 2013, “Mian Saheb, no Indian Prime Minister can sign away Kashmir, and nor can I. Subject to that, the sky is the limit”, (Salman Khurshid’s book: “The other side of the mountain”). PM Vajpayee scripted his vision to break the Kashmir impasse in a somewhat poetic way “Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat”.
Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, he had been using Vajpayee’s slogan of “Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat” to reassure Kashmiris who had great regard for sincerity of Vajpayee. Modi had been sharing his thoughts on different occasions as well. Inaugurating the Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on April 2, 2017, Modi asked Kashmiri youth to “choose between tourism and terrorism”; one would take them to betterment while the other to destruction. His first outreach to Kashmiri population was in his I-Day address from the ramparts of Red Ford in 2017 in which he had eloquently said that the Kashmir problem would be addressed “na gaali se na goli se par Kashmirion ko galey laga kar.”
All these announcements reflected the concerned PM’s intentions but none of these were taken to logical end, may be non-implementable; and ultimately reduced to mere rhetoric. Could the Parliament have agreed to restore the pre-53 position in 1995 by a minority Govt at the Centre? The nation at no point of time was willing to take the arms of the clock back to 1953 as it had seen unacceptable “aspirations” of Sheikh Abdullah leading to his arrest and subsequent plot hatched by Pakistan in 1989 to force secession of Kashmir through terrorists’ guns. Despite Vajpayee’s sincerity to address Kashmir’s external and internal dimensions simultaneously, “Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat” remained rhetorical and at best a poet’s rhythmic juggling of words.
Vajpayee’s three guiding principles had been a cornerstone of India’s policy on Kashmir. When each factor is analyzed, one finds that all these things were, in fact, identifiers of a prudent policy. Kashmiriyat is the inclusivity culture of Kashmir that had reigned all through to the exclusion of culture of Jammu and Ladakh including Kargil. On Jamhooriyat, yes, democratic processes had not been credible right from the election to J&K Constituent Assembly in 1952 under Sheikh Abdullah’s rule. However, 1977 elections under Morarji Deasi rule was the turning point in electoral history of Kashmir. Elections thereafter were, by and large, fair barring 1987 “rigged” Assembly election that reportedly is one of the factors of terrorism in Kashmir. Recent Panchayat, BDC & DDC elections too were fair in Kashmir, first elections held post abrogation of Article 370. Insaniyat i.e. humanitarianism means respecting human values. The world has seen “Kashmiriyat & Insaniyat” in nineties when Kashmiri Pandit minority were targeted by selective killing forcing them to flee and never allowed to return honourably though the leaders kept parroting that “Kashmir is incomplete without KPs”. In terrorism, which is still taking a toll of security forces every day, it is indeed difficult to suspend anti-militancy operation being conducted on specific information and in the process, inconvenience and at times, some collateral damage to civilians become regrettably unavoidable unless given free run to terrorists
Modi’s call for ending ‘Dilli ki doori’ and ‘Dil ki doori’ with ‘Kashmir’ at high-profile APM is a first candid admission of the existence of ‘mistrust’ and ‘psychological distance’ between Kashmir and Delhi which is as old as Article 370. Even before its ‘abrogation’, this ‘mistrust’ and huge ‘durian’ (distance) always governed Delhi-Kashmir relationship. ‘Mistrust’ &’durian’ were reigning even when unique special status was the keystone of Kashmir’s political arrogance.
While the Kashmir leaders and political commentators had been blaming Delhi for “wrong” policies which they called anti-Kashmiris, this ‘durian’ existed mainly due to Kashmiri ruling party’s propaganda to pander to pro-Pak and anti-Delhi sentiments that helped them consolidating their vote bank. Barring the Sheikh who wanted his own fiefdom in line with Dogra rule, this strategy had always come handy to evade their financial accountability for huge central grants, only a part of which reached the common man, and political blackmailing Govt of India, Kashmir being the internationally sensitive issue.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the successive Central Govts didn’t have their share of blame for either overlooking important matters of governance or committing political blunders, one after another. To mention a few, the return of Sheikh Abdullah to power on with support of Congress which pulled a rug under his feet two years later that helped him in sweeping the assembly poll. Indira Gandhi got Farooq Abdullah’s elected Govt sacked and installed his estranged brother-in-law but Rajiv-Farooq Accord in 1986 paved way for Farooq’s return to power. The Centre’s overlooking complaints of rigging 1987 elections in Kashmir made it collaborator.
Barring national parties, the Kashmir based regional parties had been trying to ‘occupy’ the available space for separatism. Had abrogation of Article 370 been the sole factor for ‘durian’, then why did terrorism take roots in Kashmir when J&K had autonomy & special status protected by the Constitution? In fact, Hurriyat & militants had no interest in Article 370. One would attribute mistrust to “erosion” of autonomy but what they called “erosion” of special status was actually the part of mandate of Article 370 drafted by Sir Ayyangar in consultation with no other than the Sheikh. This Article had provided a mechanism to extend other provisions of the Constitution of India to J&K which were followed in true letter and spirit. To be fair to the Sheikh, he, during his second incarnation as CM of J&K, had said that Article 370 was not a ‘khudai kitab’ which cannot be amended. Moreover, how can any part of Indian Constitution or the law passed by the Parliament are good for 134 cr Indians including 20 cr Muslims but not for just 130 lakhs people of J&K! These progressive laws were not extended to J&K to the disadvantage of its people. But they had other agenda; misleading people on Article 370 which the leaders themselves did not know what exactly it was, and created a perception of J&K a separate nation where Indian laws were unacceptable. “Durian” were bound to persist with rest of India. Article 370 was made an emotive issue of life & death for Kashmiris.
While Modi-Shah duo had taken U-turn by inviting those Kashmiri leaders for reconciliation who were accused for all sorts of misdeeds, misgovernance, corruption, nepotism and even being the Pak sympathisers by BJP leaders and even Ministers, it is good for J&K that the meeting has sent positive vibes even though a few of the participating leaders did change the nuances of their speeches in the meeting, perhaps after some top TV anti-Modi names put them in dock for “softening” their stand. After all, they are political people and each one of them has his own constituency and so their post APM utterances are political compulsions. But still the narratives created are good enough given the pent up anger following long detention of almost all opposition political leaders. PM has provided an honourable forum to vent their feelings which they did gracefully without showing disrespect to PM & Home Minister.
As expected, political parties would cooperate in the Delimitation process, their reservations on its necessity before 2026 notwithstanding. No political party would boycott elections to the UT Assembly and they even can’t afford it, as they are fearful of BJP and like-minded outfits grabbing their traditional space in Kashmir in the event of their boycott. This fear ‘forced’ Gupkar Alliance to contest recent DDC elections. This, in any case, would make the contest interesting and credible.
The only regret, however, is that Jammu didn’t figure in the deliberations of all important APM. The BJP and Panthers were expected to project Jammu aspirations and seek end of perpetual discrimination through a constitutional guarantee in Article 371 but they once again let Jammu miserably down.