The Kashmir Solution .

The Economic and Political Weekly

The Kashmir Solution

In the comment “Is Kashmir beyond Repair?” by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (EPW, 12 May 2018), the author’s opinion, apposite to the current unilateral ceasefire by the centre, warrants a cursory glance at the state of flux that caused the socio-political milieu in Kashmir to be fraught with tribulations and animosity. Taking the discourse back to 26 October 1947—when the Instrument of Accession was signed in the wake of the invasion by the tribesmen from Pakistan braced by the Pakistani army—makes one realise that Kashmir’s accession to the Union of India was unlike that of the other princely states, with India getting to control only the defence, foreign affairs and telecommunications. Kashmir was to have its own constitution and a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution of India. In January 1949, the United Nations endorsed a plebiscite for Kashmiris to decide to which country they wanted to belong.

Howbeit, the autonomy conferred upon Kashmir by the Instrument of Accession started dissipating gradually with the incarceration of Sheikh Abdullah, the then Kashmir Prime Minister or “Wazir-e-Azam”—the nomenclature being agreed upon in the original Kashmiri Constitution itself—by the central government in 1953, after he implemented radical land reforms and gave a speech alluding to the possibility of an independent Kashmir. In the ensuing years, the subsequent governments at the centre installed stooges as rulers who eroded Kashmir’s autonomy brick by brick.

When Sheikh Abdullah was released after about two decades, he had given up the demand for a plebiscite. In 1987, five years after his death, the state elections in Kashmir were rigged and opposition leaders terrorised. The long simmering discontent within the hoi polloi was reaching its zenith. Thereafter, the appointment of Jagmohan, an Indian bureaucrat infamous for his abhorrence towards Muslims, as Kashmir’s governor in 1990, was the last straw on the camel’s back. From his palatial residence on the slope of the hill abutting the Dal Lake, he gave orders to vandalise the incipient rebellion, and this effectuated the first massacre in the Kashmir Valley leading to the killing of about 50 people.

Since then, the situation in Kashmir has been turning even more recalcitrant and lamentable. On 23 February 1991, in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora, the Indian Army launched a search and interrogation operation and was reported to have gang-raped at least a hundred women (although the government rejected the allegations as baseless). One must also not forget to look into the Chattisinghpora, Pathribal and Barakpora massacres, which had sent jitters across the Valley. Other such incidents followed suit.

The situation has been marred further by the mainstream right-wing opprobrium to rescind Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution extending certain special provisions to Kashmir. But, we must not, at the same time, forget the special provisions extended to 12 other Indian states under Articles 371–371J. The nadir that exposed the deeper malaise was reached when communal colour was ascribed to the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police by organisations like the Hindu Ekta Manch in the recent case of the gang rape of a minor girl. Notwithstanding this, the Supreme Court merits appreciation for having quashed the plea to transfer the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The central government had, in 2017, appointed Dineshwar Sharma (a former Intelligence Bureau chief) as the special interlocutor to Kashmir, but there was no cessation of the cordon and search operations during his two trips to the Valley against the backdrop of the “Doval doctrine,” positing that no matter what the circumstances may be, the government must never be seen as yielding either tangibly or symbolically. The success of the confidence-building measures lies in giving such representatives a considerable degree of elbow room. The Indian Army is being touted for having eliminated 200 militants since 2016, but little has been said about roughly the same number of youth taking up arms during the same period. Bipin Rawat has himself said that the solution to the Kashmir issue is not military, but political.

Section 3 of the Constitution of Kashmir itself declares the state of J&K an integral part of the Union of India. But, it would be nigh impossible to solve the Kashmir issue till we embrace the populace with humility and stop viewing them perfidiously as Pakistan’s proxies. The solution lies in granting them the autonomy to make laws for themselves, as long as these are not at tenterhooks with the Indian Constitution. It is high time the present dispensation sees the handwriting on the wall.

Vinay Saroha

New Delhi

Updated On : 25th May, 2018