Kashmir University is not Harvard University. Moreover, the Department of Political Science of our University is no comparison to Kennedy School of Government of the Harvard University as far as academic freedom is concerned. For past many years, scholars at the CARR centre of the Kennedy School have been holding free and frank seminars and panel discussions on Kashmir dispute and hard topics relating it such as “World’s most militarized dispute”, ‘62 years of Unrest: Regional and International Ramifications of Kashmir Conflict’ and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Besides, some US based scholars and experts on Kashmir and South Asia it has been inviting experts from India and Pakistan for these discussions. Kashmir has not remained under focus only at the Harvard but equally in many other international universities. Footage available on the You Tube about these seminars provides an insight into the seriousness with which scholars have been debating this important problem.
I am conscious of the ground realties about the academic freedom in Kashmir University. Still I see the recently held two day Kashmir related seminar by the department of political science as an initiative worth mentioning.
Notwithstanding seminar had been organized on the premise that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute lies within the constitution of India, I saw a positive aspect in the conceptualization of the seminar in as much as recognizing the fact that, ‘ Kashmir is universally accepted as a problem that needs a solution.’ However, I did not agree with the idea as contained in the background note that there were still differences on what constitutes the elements of the conflict’. Such ideas border on much tried dilatory narratives that usually resonate in such straitjacketed conferences or seminars.
There is hardly a year, when a new narrative is not conjured to confound the primary people’s discourse. This year’s theme song that found echo in the presentations of some scholars from outside the state was: ‘Nothing is going to come out of remaining tethered to the history of the dispute. India of 2012 was not India of 1947.
The leadership of 1947 is dead. India has new leadership- Kashmir leaders mindset has changed- Prof. Abdul Gani Bhatt’s thinking is a representative thinking of Kashmir’. Here, I am not going to deconstruct the new narratives but focus on the main subject of the seminar. Of the six identified subjects three i.e. the autonomy, the self-rule and the achievable nationhood are manifestos of three political parties, the National Conference, the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Peoples’ Conference (Sajad). The National Conference and the People’s Conference are not disputing the finality of accession of the state with Union of India but are looking for some arrangement within the federation of India. Of the three one that is ‘achievable nationhood’ of the Peoples Conference (S) has been ostensibly authored at the bidding of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and is least discussed by powers that be. The proposal of shared sovereignty and self-rule are the latest additions to the discourses on Kashmir. Long before in this column I had debated how autonomy and self-rule were not antonyms but synonyms.
The debate over restoration of the autonomy however is as old as the birth of Kashmir dispute. The chronology of events after October 27, 1947 is relevant to the discussion on restoration of the autonomy as it is to debate on holding a the plebiscite in the state.
It is a hard reality that since 1948, two narratives that is granting of right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, holding of plebiscite under the aegis of the United Nation for deciding the future of the state and greater autonomy have been running parallel to each other. Historically, New Delhi has been author of both the narratives. If the two narratives were contradictory or complimentary to each other is yet another question that pesters our minds. Equally, what had prompted New Delhi to initiate two narratives simultaneously also is a poser that calls for an answer.
What is interesting to note that New Delhi simultaneously started going back on both the narratives that is deciding future of the state through a plebiscite and limiting relations to three areas only. In the words of former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Syed Mir Qasim, ‘Centre was following too mutually contradictory policies in Kashmir. On the one hand it was trying to apply more and more provision of the Indian Constitution to the state, while on the other it took the stand that that the question of accession would be finally decided by UNO.”( My Life and Times by Syed Mir Qasim page 54).
Jawaharlal Nehru’s reneging his commitment about the state ‘ “temporarily” acceding to Union in respect of defence, foreign affairs and communications caused Delhi agreement for quantifying the relations of the state with the Union of India. If seen in right historical perspective this agreement was in fact a manifestation of mistrust between New Delhi and Sheikh Abdullah. To quote Noorani, “Seeds of distrusts were sown on 17 November 1949. At the time of Delhi agreement, distrust between Nehru and Abdullah was palpable.”On 11 August 1952, Sheikh had administered warning to New Delhi against altering basis of relations with India. With every passing day after signing of Delhi agreement, the gulf between Sheikh and Nehru widened. Some months before Sheikh Abdullah’s deposition writes Syed Mir Qasim Nehru told Sheikh Abdullah: “He could not imagine Independent Kashmir. He would rather give Kashmir to Pakistan on a platter…”(Page62)
And ever since Abdullah deposition the autonomy discourse has been playing hide and seek with the major political narrative of the state. History amply testifies whenever self-determination narrative became louder in the state the autonomy discourse originated with equal force not from Srinagar but from New Delhi to be forgotten till next political crisis in the state. Truth is that New Delhi never ever discussed it seriously, not even after 1975 Indira-Sheikh Agreement and the National Conference only used the slogan for the electoral politics.
(Adopted from a Paper present at Kashmir University Seminar on Federalism).
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