The report of the group of interlocutors for Jammu & Kashmir entitled, “A New Compact With The People of Jammu & Kashmir” was finally released on May 23, 2012, after months of waiting. Prepared by Mr. Dileep Padgoankar, Mr. M. M. Ansari and Professor Radha Kumar, it’s unfortunately a mess and unquestionably a diversion from the primary interests of the people, if not an outright diversionary tactic by the members of the group. In fact, that is what some members of the leadership of the resistance have charged. The report was rejected out of hand by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmed Shah, as well as other factions including the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association. None feels that it represents the will of the people and most believe that the government is simply buying time to avoid the inevitable, a real political solution to the quagmire that Kashmir has become.
The interlocutors have suggested that the solution rests within the constitution of India and treats it as a problem internal to the affairs of India, cementing further the view that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, which obviously is a non-solution. All the constitutions of the world are subject to amendment, and the Indian constitution is no exception. If India gives anything to Kashmiris within the framework of the Indian constitution, how do you guarantee that she will not take it away tomorrow? This move will not even need a debate within the Parliament of India.
The team also recommends that Article 370 should be made special within the Indian constitution. And it is quite clear that the members of the team know well that this option has been rejected by the people of Kashmir many times in the past. And they also know that Kashmiris have had autonomy within this Article, which has been abrogated due to the passage of time. The people have revolted against the status quo and status quo cannot be an answer. Therefore, talking about Article 370 is an insult to the intelligence of the Kashmiri people.
The interlocutors have read the situation in Kashmir through the old grimy lenses of policy makers in New Delhi and did not bother to recognize that it is the obduracy and stubbornness of India that fails to accept the fact that Kashmir is not a law and order issue, nor is it a center-state question; it is primarily an issue of the 17 million people of Jammu & Kashmir which under all international agreements is not an integral part of any member state of the United Nations, including India and Pakistan. If that historical fact is ignored, there cannot be any lasting solution to this tragic situation.
The report details its deliberations with over 700 delegations. However, a glaring omission is any mention that the interlocutors met with any member of the leadership of the Kashmiri resistance. It was none other than the former Prime Minster, Atel Behari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani and current Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who expressed desire time and again to meet with the leadership of the Kashmiri resistance to find the final settlement of the Jammu & Kashmir problem. The group was appointed in fact as a direct consequence of massive street demonstrations and uprisings which began in 2007 and extended through the hot summer of 2010, in which Aazadi was the clarion call. What happened? Did they not see the blood on the streets? Did they not read the newspapers? Did they not watch television? Were they in a deep slumber during these long years?
India may make a deal with any so-called leader of Kashmir, but deal making does not by itself establish legitimacy. This deal making must be acceptable to the common man on the street. He is the one who is the real stakeholder, and the legitimacy of any deal rests with his acceptance. History tells us that even the so-called ‘Lion of Kashmir,’ Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who had agreements with the founding Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and the Iron Lady, Indira Gandhi, could not sell them to his people. Therefore, it is imperative that India understands that no solution to the Kashmir problem will last if it does not have the consent of the people and their leadership, which is represented by the Kashmiri resistance, which has demonstrated time and again the ability to garner the support of the masses.
However distinguished, the partiality and bias of the members of the group of interlocutors becomes clear when the report states that it takes into account the official documents related to political and constitutional developments since Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian Union. Paradoxically, the report does not mention that the accession was subject to a referendum of the people of Kashmir. It does not mention that it was in 1948 and 1949 that India and Pakistan agreed at the United Nations Security Council to give the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination to decide the fate of their land. It does not mention the 18 UN resolutions since in support of self-determination.
Obviously, a committee buzzing around the state in a Mahindra Scorpio, with pencil and paper in hand does not constitute a referendum. The provisions of the UN resolutions were negotiated with both India and Pakistan before they was endorsed by the Security Council. This thus constitutes an international binding upon both India and Pakistan to fulfill their pledges.
The report says that the political settlement proposed takes into full account the deep sense of victimhood prevalent in the Kashmir Valley. It surely deserves to be addressed with great sensitivity.
That recommendation certainly would have called for consulting with the resistance movement. Although its leadership refused to meet with the group from the outset, they did so understanding that the group did not have a mandate to find a solution according to long standing international agreements. The report that was released in fact exonerated them, because it did not mention even a syllable of these agreements.
The report further states “our interactions revealed a widespread desire of people to lead a life of dignity and honour.” The interlocutors, however, failed to understand that that kind of “dignity and honour” desired is the right to determine the course of one’s own country and not to live under the very large fist of 700,000 occupation troops.
The report nowhere says that the dominant desire of the people of Kashmir as confirmed by the survey conducted by British-based Chatham House is “Aazadi,” or independence or freedom from occupation. The survey says that 90 to 95 % of the people of the Valley demanded Aazadi. The word Aazadi wasn’t even mentioned in the report.
The report says that a political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir must be achieved only through dialogue between all stakeholders, including those who are not part of the mainstream. Who did they have in mind? Chief Minister Omar Abdullah or Dr. Farooq Abdullah? Any discussion regarding Kashmir’s future requires not only the appearance of good will and intent bur real efforts to include those who represent the disenfranchised. This commitment to democracy and pluralism must be above board.
In addition, the report says that Jammu and Kashmir should continue to function as a single entity within the Indian Union. Mr. Padgoankar should listen to a member of his fraternity, Mr. Vir Sanghvi who wrote in Hindustan Times on August 16, 2008, “Why are we still hanging on to Kashmir if the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with us? “
Finally, I would like to remind Mr. Padgoankar, the chairman of the group, of the New York Declaration. He was a member of the draft committee, which was adopted on February 25, 2005, which says, “The Conference hopes that the leadership of both India and Pakistan recognize that there can be no settlement, negotiated or otherwise, without the active and full participation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir living on both sides of the ceasefire line as well as those belonging to the Jammu and Kashmir diaspora.”
Obviously the report fell far short of such a goal. The wishes and aspirations of the people are Aazadi, which were completely ignored in the report. The chairman wittingly or unwittingly does not want to acknowledge the true sentiments of the people, which obviously he knows are for freedom from occupation. His approach seems to have been merely bureaucratic.
Simply put, the wishes and aspirations of the people were ignored, so we are back to square one.
Dr. Fai can be reached at: email@example.com