It may be a voice, not in sync with that of the establishment or various political parties in New Delhi. But, it would be wrong to believe that his is the lone voice. Or it is an isolated voice. The reference is to a statement made by an eminent Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bushan and member of team Anna about resolving the Jammu and Kashmir problem by holding a UN mandated plebiscite in the state.
Eighteen days after his statement in Varanasi he was attacked on camera in his Supreme Court office by three extremist youth belonging to Hindutva outfits Sri Ram Sene and Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena. It is not a matter of debate; if attack on the Supreme Court lawyer known for his concern over rights violations was carried at the behest of some top right wing Hindutva leaders. The television footage and the statements by various leaders sufficiently established connection of the three youth.
The attack raised questions in a section of Indian civil society about the growing intolerance and if it preludes to Hindu extremism that could endanger pluralistic society of this country and lead to ‘religious and caste terrorism’. The incident despite being widely condemned failed to generate an objective debate on the statement made by the lawyer. One day after the attack Mr. Prashant in an interview with a television channel not only stood by his statement but further explained it. In his words:
"In my view, the present situation in Kashmir is such that there is tremendous pressure on the government… I think AFSPA should be withdrawn… army should also be withdrawn gradually. But if we still feel that people feel alienated in Kashmir then an UN-mandated plebiscite can be conducted. There was nothing wrong in holding a plebiscite to ascertain people’s view. We don’t want to retain Kashmir at the cost of suicide bombings… We don’t want Kashmir to become another Afghanistan”.
He in fact said nothing new but as he very rightly pointed out him, he in fact has reiterated what had been said umpteen times by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Denial of facts is delusion. No simple or complex problem or dispute can be washed away by denying historical realties. The question arises how truthful the Supreme Court lawyer was to the historical realties when he asked for resolving the Kashmir dispute through a UN mandated plebiscite. Truth is that on 30th January 1948, New Delhi knocked at the doors of the United Nations Security Council with a complaint against “invasion” by Pakistan on Kashmir. Much before complaining before the Security Council, Jawaharlal Nehru in a statement on November 25, 1947, had said in the Constituent Assembly:
“In accepting the accession, however, we made it perfectly clear to the Maharaja that his Government must be carried on in future according to the popular will. We also made it clear as soon as law and order has been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of invaders, the question of state’s accession should be referred to the people.” (India’s Foreign Policy by Jawaharlal Lal Nehru page 445). Jawaharlal in stating holding a plebiscite in the state was not stating anything new but reiterating the standard practice adopted in accordance with the Partition Plan with regard to states like North Western Frontier Province and Junagadh.
The dispute over future of Jammu and Kashmir state assumed international dimension only after January 30, when the Security Council adopted one after another resolution calling for holding of a plebiscite in the state under its aegis. Arundhati Roy reacting to the “court order directing the Delhi police against an Fir for waging a war against the state”, in article quoted fourteen statements by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wherein he had reaffirmed India’s commitment for holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Making a case, she had stated that if her utterances on Kashmir were seditious then a ‘charge against Nehru should be posthumously filled.’ It was not Jawaharlal Nehru alone who repeatedly talked about India standing by its international commitments and stating: “we have taken the issue to United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”
There have many other top leaders and intellectuals during the Nehru era and after who have almost made similar statements as that of Arundhati Roy or Prashant. These two have not been the only birds that have been singing songs Azadi for Jammu and Kashmir, there are many other opinion makers, intellectuals and members of civil society that have been singing in symphony with them. In an article published in the Times of India, on 17 August 2008 leading economist, Swaminathan S Ayiar wrote:
“I was once hopeful of Kashmir’s integration, but after six decades of effort, Kashmiri alienation looks greater than ever. India seeks to integrate with Kashmir, not rule it colonially. Yet, the parallels between British rule in India and Indian rule in Kashmir have become too close for my comfort.”
Seen in right perspective since 2008 the discourse on Kashmir amongst an important section of intellectuals has under gone a change- this change in discourse largely may not be in synchronicity with the ‘popular’ discourse of various political parties’ including those who are purposely wearing blinkers or blindfolded themselves but it cannot be dismissed as unpatriotic. Instead of pooh-poohing intelligentsia and opinion makers have dissenting views on Kashmir, it would be statesmanship to accommodate their views and involve them in the peaceful resolution of the vexed problem. Kashmir problem needs statesmanship and not politicking.
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