Repeating 75 The Scope and the Limitations

Dear Friend: Some within Hurriyat(M) are thinking arriving at an arrangement like 1975 Indira- Sheikh Accord  is that possible- I have tried to analyse.

Three newspaper headlines:

• Ready to sit with NC, PDP: Hurriyat

• Congress to clear the decks: Soz

• Won’t dissolve House: Omar Abdullah;

that got banner slots in this newspaper past week continue  to resonate in the hinterland of my mind. The newspaper issues that carried these headlines have found their way into the trashcan in my study- perhaps never to be retrieved.  But the headlines continue to engage my attention: if they need to be read between the lines or dismissed as of no consequences.
The three headlines build a perspective that makes one to think that if the situation in the state was building up for having an agreement or pact on the lines of the 1975- Indira-Sheikh Accord. This accord had seen end of the movement for right to self-determination led by the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front for twenty two years. It had brought Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah back   into power after having been deposed, imprisoned and banished from the state for about fifteen years. Having been a close witness to the happenings in the seventies that led to the Accord, I did find some similarity in the statements recently made by three leaders belonging to the National Conference, Congress and the Hurriyat Conference (M) and the then leadership in New Delhi and Srinagar. The three leaders obviously had a mandate to make these statements. The statements not only speak about the stand of their parties but also can be seen as casting of a die for the future political developments in the state.

Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, who was nominated by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference executive council to represents its point of view at a seminar titled Multiparty Dialogue on the Political Future of Jammu and Kashmir organized by the PDP at New Delhi  made a significant statement:

 “His party was willing to work with the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party for evolving a consensus for evolving a consensus and move together for a better and prosperous tomorrow. We have to take a step forward. We shall have to have to live together, sink and swim together for future of Kashmir. Politics is about reconciliation and balancing of opinion of common people of Jammu and Kashmir.”  I may not join the debate, if the statement made by the top Hurriyat (M) leader was his personal opinion or it had the stamp of the executive council of his party. Since no disciplinary action has been taken against him for departing from the party position on relations with the political parties believing in the finality of accession of the state with the Union of India or “violation” of the conglomerate constitution, one can without fear of contradiction construe that his statement needs to be seen as a paradigm shift of the multi-party combine.

The statement made by Hurriyat (M) bears closer affinity to the statements made Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his lieutenant Miriza Muhammad Afzal Beg after the 1968 State Peoples Convention failed to evolve a consensus amongst various political parties for finding an alternative solution outside the UN resolution for the Kashmir problem. The statements made by the Plebiscite Front leadership after the 1968 convention indicated some changes in the mood of the leadership. Though  the demand for holding of a plebiscite as in the state under the aegis of the United Nations persisted in these statement   but they  also mentioned  about the suffering of people because of bad governance and lack of development. The statements were a prelude to the Front deciding to contest the coming elections for the Parliament and the Assembly that it had been boycotting since 1957. But the New Delhi did not show positive response towards the new posture. It despite having convinced some of the organizations demanding plebiscite to participate directly or field proxy candidates was apprehensive about the Front contesting the elections. The Congress leadership in power in the state lobbied against the participation of the Front in the elections at New Delhi. It succeeded in convincing the power centers that Sheikh Abdullah was planning trouble inside the Assembly that could embarrass GoI at the international level.

The leadership at   New Delhi was not averse to the Front contesting the election but it wanted it on its own terms and conditions. Sheikh Abdullah wanted to contest elections in the name of the Plebiscite Front but leaders like Ghulam Muhammad Shah had toyed with the idea of reviving the National Conference for contesting the elections. In July 1970, Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi made it abundantly clear: “the accession of the state was a part of history and history could not be reversed or changed. Kashmir question was settled for ever.” Taking an alibi of the activities of an underground organization some members of which were   believed to have closer link with the Plebiscite Front founder the organization was banned under the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and most of leaders of the organization were put behind the bars. Most of the newspaper in New Delhi had decried the ban and victory of the Congress in the state elections. It may not be possible to recount all the developments that took place in the state and the subcontinent during 1971 and 1972 in this column, but many factors including Pakistan’s ever humiliating defeat in the then the East Pakistan worked as a catalyst for the Front leadership making an about turn and announcing that there was no difference between New Delhi and Kashmir leadership on the question of accession.

Sheikh Abdullah in a letter wrote to Mrs. Gandhi, “The accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India was no issue. It has been my firm belief that the future of Jammu and Kashmir lies with India because of common ideals that we share. I hope you would appreciate that the sole purpose of my agreeing to cooperate at the political and governmental levels is to enable the State Government to initiate measures for the well-being of the people of the State which I have considered as my sacred trust. It will be my constant endeavor to ensure that the state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to make contribution to the sovereignty, integrity and progress of nation.”

Looking at the statement made by the Hurriyat(M) spokesperson at seminar I see same kind of sentiment expressed but the question arises will the New Delhi asks the Congress-National Coalition to clear the decks for the Hurriyat (M) same way as it did for Sheikh Abdullah and Plebiscite Front. True, the Pradesh Congress chief did hint at facilitating the dialogue and clearing the decks but the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah made it abundantly clear that he won’t dissolve the House.

The Congress also did not dissolve the house but it made a departure from conventions by electing a non-elect and non-congressman as their party leader. Can congress led government at New Delhi   repeat this unconventional practice again is the question that dominates the discussion with a faction of the APHC(M). It is true that the Mirwaiz Omar Farooq at public meeting said that his conglomerate was not for “power transfer or Package but seeks political solution” but the most important question that arises is, if  the APHC(M) was on the same strong pedestal on which the PF was in seventies. It would be unjust to compare the two.

In seventies if Sheikh Abdullah was not the only leader of the state but it cannot be disputed that he was the leader with overwhelming mass base all over the state.  Others had pockets of influence, some confined to couple of wards within Srinagar Municipal limits and some had cadres in most parts of the state but did not enjoy the mass support. At the time of initiation of dialogue with Sheikh Abdullah, New Delhi was convinced about two important things, one, that Sheikh was the only leader and the Plebiscite Front   mattered the most so far as the movement for right to self-determination was concerned and second, it was  convinced “Sheikh was an estranged nationalist”, as was candidly stated by Mrs. Gandhi in her statement on Feb 24, 1975, in the Parliament, “Sheikh Abdullah had played notable part in the accession of the state with Indian Union…despite his estrangement it seemed clear from the public statement made by him that his commitment to basic national ideals and objective had remained unchanged.’

It would be wrong to compare 1975 situation to that of the situation as obtains in 2009. Ostensibly, there seems no reason New Delhi asking the NC-Congress coalition to abdicate power in favor any group or party in the state for facilitating them to come to power in the state.

The statement about working with the National Conference and the PDP made by the APHC leader in New Delhi does not portend anything other than vagueness and dilemmas that has taken over the APHC (M).

(Feedback at zahidgm@gmail.com)