In my childhood we were told Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed land undecided between India and Pakistan. We were also told final decision regarding this soil will be taken by the sons of the soil through an impartial plebiscite. Later on we heard United Nations had appointed an election commissioner that would supervise the voting process. During these jubilations our government in 1952 was elated to host American diplomat Mr. Dixon resulting into vague reports of American plans to divide the state leaked deliberately in the press like the Wikileaks of the present days. This unexpected development resulted in the pent-up feelings within Indian administration resulting in to a belief that J&K was to be treated as a part of India. Hence for Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah the then Prime Minster of the state and Mirza Afzal Beg the architect of the land to tiller playing hosts to the American diplomat was treated as an act of treason culpable to an indefinite punishment in the prison. That was the fate of the first phase of interlocutors. It is here the folly of de-recognizing the state’s semi autonomous status a brain child of peers of politics was started clandestinely. Later on our Sadr-e-Riaysat went into hiding and Prime Minster disappeared consequently to be replaced by a docile nomenclature of a governor and Chief Minster. Interestingly our relations with union of India have recently been interpreted as accession and not a merger! Thereby suggesting the marriage has not been solemnized.
It is a universal truth based on observations that too many cooks spoil the broth. During the last more than sixty years dozens of interlocutors as negotiators tried to solve the Kashmir imbroglio. Some were self imposed back channel diplomats striving for their own recognition in the society some off course were appointed by the governments of India and Pakistan. Interestingly never ever it was thought to give a proper representation to the people of the state to represent the nation. That is why we are in a mess.
With the result only last year we have lost hundred and twelve young men and women besides bringing a standstill to hundreds of working days leading to an economic distress in the state and nobody knows where to go from here. In fact when a proper track record of the events is lost one is bound to land into confusion. Long ago Pt; Nehru deputed Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg as interlocutors to negotiate with Pakistan. No doubt the chain was broken because of the sad and untimely demise of the Prime Minster of India yet the follow up was murky with the result we were again at Ground Zero. Another attempt of stabilizing the relations between two arch rivals India and Pakistan came to an end at Tashkent by a tragedy in Prime Minster Shastri’s death. The events that followed during the totalitarian rule of Madame Indra Gandhi have a long history of somersaults and broken promises that is a part of the silent history. An interesting scene of this tenure was the Sheikh-Indra accord an outcome of an exhaustive dialogue between the two shrewd interlocutors Mirza Afzal Beg and Shri Partha Sarthy that was torpedoed by a vote of no confidence by the henchmen to the first experiment of a coalition government in Kashmir- a confidence building measure between the people of the state and government of India.
Wisdom lies in the fact that one should stabilize his first step before taking the second. One should also see if the first step was taken in the right direction and what went wrong if your first step slipped out. On top of all this success always lies in sincerity. We need to remember one can fool some people for some time but not all the people for all the time. The delay in solving the Kashmir issue has landed India and Pakistan into such a whirlpool that even a cricket match between the two is a nightmare for the two nations. Even if their diplomats invite each other to enjoy the game so long as their nuclear bombs are in their arsenal and Kashmir unsettled they are sitting on a volcano despite watching in a bullet proof area.
We have heard a lot about the present group of interlocutors and have watched their interesting demeanor with interest. People of the state are keenly observing the coincidental developments that have taken place on the political scenario of the state since this group has shown on the scene. It is off course a healthy development if they could figure out broader contours of a solution to Kashmir problem. We also don’t challenge their modus operandi but if in a class room of hundred students we ask every student about his likings some will definitely ask for chocolates some for pizza some for jeans and so on. Similarly if you tour the state the way our interlocutors are doing some people will definitely demand for schools some for roads and some for bijli. That should not lead us to believe that we have a road map to Kashmir problem because if you ask them the same question collectively the answer will match their demands on the streets of J&K. The second interesting development was conspicuous in this year’s budget allotment for the state in the Indian parliament. For the first time since independence the funds were earmarked separately for Jammu and Ladakh and thereafter for Jammu & Kashmir. A common man is bound to interpret two things out of this mischief. One, Jammu and Ladakh besides directly allotted funds are entitled to a share from the funds for J&K pool too. Two, are we unwittingly heading for the division of the state on ethnic grounds? Incidentally the developments corroborate with state health minster’s statement demanding separate status for Jammu some time back and now someone kidding with a Dogra certificate. Hoisting a separate flag by Ladakh Hill Council also cannot be brushed aside as a trivial issue. We need to understand that Jammu and Kashmir are like Siamese twins and in association with Ladakh it makes a triplet interdependent on each other protected by Article 370 and guarded by our Himalayas.
Let us have a cool analysis of the partition of India that led to the creation of Pakistan. Besides that we have just across the cease fire line our Pakistan administered AJK too. We need to think if these Cesareans have solved our problems? We also need to sort out if we have to leave UN resolutions and Pt. Nehru’s commitments in achieves of history to be debated by our future generations! Leaders with a broad vision should not look at problems through a narrow prism to satisfy their egos. Keeping an eye on global politics where international community has different priorities and the hawks are bent upon to play a mischief after mischief while our legislators are in a slumber concerned for the pay hikes. Rome was burning and Neru was fiddling. Under the circumstances civil society of J&K need to rise above party politics and involve itself as its own interlocutors to find ways and means to bring the nation out of this quagmire where we are losing our young men besides our economy and culture is being destroyed in a planned manner.
(The columnist is the writer of, ‘Kashmir in search of peace.’ Feedback firstname.lastname@example.org)