Despite the leak, there is a case for making the K–Panel report public
Against a widespread flurry criticism of belated and apparently academic dialogue largely seen inadequate to respond to Kashmir’s summer rage of 2010, quite a few and significantly influential people within and outside the state not only supported but also meaningfully contributed to the last round of interlocution between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. Now they are an embarrassed and disappointed lot, though not quite disheartened. If not implementation, at least they had expected a descent ‘entombment’ to what comes at the end of interlocution, as partially has been in case of such processes in the past.
The point for support
As has been argued thrice earlier in this column, the last round of interlocution led by Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari, was one of the most comprehensive, unique and capable of delivering results. Besides a strong a believe that there is no process other than consultations and dialogue to resolve conflicts, there are two most important reasons in support of Delhi-J&K interlocution: firstly, the process of consultations was enormously inclusive to hear even the last person in Jammu and Kashmir who had something to say and secondly, the interlocutors factored in, analysed and took on board publically stated positions of all those who refused to meet them, of course, for maintainable reasons. The lampoon of monologue is therefore rubbish. Right from the beginning the dialogue was ridiculed for lacking the separatist touch. The Kashmiri separatists, also known in selective parlance as pro-freedom sentiment leaders, are people of ideological standings but they are not the exclusive stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir. The vast majority is of the people who have range of other issues at hand which, for them, are often larger than the dubious ‘Kashmir issue’. To collect these and other voices from the ground the panel of interlocutors met, talked to and heard from no less than ten thousand persons –they came across more than 300 delegations, two roundtable conferences, half a dozen interest-group meetings and countless individual conversations on the sidelines of scheduled meetings over twelve months. These consultations were long overdue as the contemporary smaller and unattended conflicts have often proved to be more dangerous than what is called as historical conflict of Kashmir. The recommendations of the interlocutors may not have been helpful in resolving the Kashmir issue which is better left unresolved but certainly there could have been a roadmap to a shared journey for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The leaked contents of the report, which was supposedly under lock and key of Home Ministry, has just proved the advocates of interlocution right as the panel doesn’t seem to have taken a dismissive approach to what different people and groups in Jammu and Kashmir believe in. They have rather suggested a roadmap for the follow-up.
In the middle of October 2011 when three-member panel of interlocutors presented their twelve-month long labour of love to the Home Minister P Chidambaram, the latter said, ‘the report will soon be seen by the Cabinet Committee on Security and then made public. A day later, a number of newspapers reported, what they claimed as, key recommendations of the interlocutors. On October 18, the interlocutors issued a joint statement rubbishing all media reports as speculative. To reassure the public of sanctity, security and secrecy of the document, they said, ‘our report is under lock and key of the Home Ministry. There is no question of its selective leakage’. In his month-end Press briefing the Home Minister Chidambaram also reiterated his earlier statement of passing the report through CCS (something he has been saying during his every encounter with the Press and the most recent one was in Jammu on April 10) before making it public. Six months later, the most ordinary in the public has been through the limited opportunity of knowing what is in the report but the Cabinet Committee on Security has not got that privilege. This is strange, disappointing and indeed disgusting. There have been in the past many such processes whose fate is still not known but the latest one was in the backdrop of very peculiar circumstances. There are some people in the Valley who openly challenge the very integration of the state with India but there are many more other –clubbed as pro-India groups –who complain about and ask for honour and dignity of Kashmiris. The latest development –report going to public without being officially responded to by the government –is indeed not a material of respecting the honour and dignity of a highly billed and comprehensive process of consultations with twelve million people. To Delhi-Kashmir dialogue, this has not happened first time. Experience from last twelve years is depressive. Once upon a time there was KC Pant mission which was wound up before anyone in the public could know about its outcome. In 2002 there were officially mandated and publically announced Arun Jaitley-GM Shah parleys on Autonomy. Then there was R K Mishra back-channel steered by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. In 2004 came the N N Vohra mission which continued until June 2008 when the interlocutor was posted out as state’s Governor. In 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched highly ambitious and widely credited roundtable conferences and constituted five Working Groups. Thankfully, reports of only four of five Working Groups were made public. Though the fifth and politically most sensitive group –on centre-state relations –was dramatically handed over to J&K Chief Minister instead of Prime Minister of India, one can say with confidence that implementation of even two-thirds of recommendations of four working groups have the potential of doing exceptional wonders in terms of satisfying the residents of the state with peace, reconciliation and economic development. Implementations of these recommendations would have left very little of the internal grouse and offered sufficient political leverage to the local political groups and position of strength to the Government of India to go about handling the external dimensions of ‘Kashmir issue’.
Call for closure
Among the media and policy wonks with an apparent access to desks of strategic-political manoeuvring there is a grapevine that the report might have been deliberately leaked to gauge the public reaction. Wish this was true but seems unlikely given the timing of leak –barely two days after Home Minister said in Jammu “as I said in Delhi the report (of interlocutors) shall be made public after discussions at CCS which is meeting soon”. Now this has happened –the public has seen the operative parts of what is known as New Compact, as the newspaper claiming possession of report name it –it doesn’t mean that the CCS should never discuss it. One of the interlocutors has said “we neither deny nor confirm what is appearing in a newspaper as contents of our report”. To lend credibility to the process he has personally monitored it is, probably, important for the Home Minister to take call for closure by putting the report to discussions at CCS or whatever other platform and offer an official response to the recommendations.