A report on Kashmir

Published : Aug 19, 2000 00:00 IST

Political analyst and senior lawyer A.G. NOORANI provides a range of perspectives on and an assessment of the complicated situation in the Valley on the basis of a series of interviews and discussions in Srinagar with several of the major player s involved.

"Do not think you are dealing with a part of U.P. (Uttar Pradesh), Bihar or Gujarat. You are dealing with an area, historically and geographically, and in all manner of things, with a certain background. If we bring our local ideas and local prejudice s everywhere, we will never consolidate. We have to be men of vision and there has to be a broad-minded acceptance of facts in order to integrate really. And real integration comes of the mind and the heart and not of some clause which you may impose on other people."

(From Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Second Series; Vol. 18; p. 421).

KASHMIR'S alienation from India began as the Jan Sangh leader, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, after resigning from the Cabinet, picked on Kashmir's special status within the Indian Constitution, to which he was very much a party, as a stick with which to beat Nehru. And Nehru, pressed by his party, failed to live up to the sound advice he gave in the Lok Sabha on June 26, 1952.

A national consensus for Jammu and Kashmir's "integration" with India came to be formed. Mookerjee lent it his saffron hue, never altogether absent in many of Nehru's colleagues. The hysterical reaction to the State Assembly's resolution on autonomy refl ected that. A Bharatiya Janata Party member dubbed it a demand for a "nation within a nation". The Speaker of the Assembly, Abdul Ahad Vakil, two senior Ministers A. R. Rathor and Mohammed Shafi, and the general secretary of the National Conference, Shei kh Nazir, an old friend of 30 years, ably expounded the State's case to me.

The day the resolution was passed (June 26), the Valley observed a bandh, called by the Kashmir Bar and another body, to protest against custodial killings which have increased lately. None of those who descended on the Valley to propound solutions had a word about the sufferings of the people. Even those who note the "almost total alienation from the people of India" ignore the real causes for this and the hideous behaviour of the security forces, especially the Special Operations Group. They talk glib ly of a generous economic package, as Indira Gandhi did to Nehru on May 14, 1948 and as the District Collector did during the Raj. They talk hypocritically of "resolving the issue with our own Kashmiris" after having failed to identify themselves all the se years with the people as our "own". In which other State would a senior lawyer like Jalil Andrabi be killed by a known senior Army officer and the murderer allowed to go scot-free? Not one Bar Association in India protested.

Sadaqat Ahmed's bitter plaint is representative: "The message from the recent autonomy drama is: Kashmiris have no friends, no interlocutors, no advocates within the Indian spectrum. Those who say they are, are pretenders." (Greater Kashmir, July 20). Reprisals against innocent, unarmed civilians, and disappearances and custodial killings apart, the subjection of the people to daily humiliation, which any visitor can see for himself, leaves scars on minds.

Ironically, just as the Government of India brusquely rejected the Assembly's resolution for autonomy within India, on July 4, it was in communication with the "separatist" Hizbul Mujahideen for a ceasefire as a prelude to political talks. The Hizb is fo r accession to Pakistan.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was set up on September 9, 1993 precisely in order to serve as an interlocutor with Delhi. It made one overture after another. On August 26, 1999, its former chairman, Maulvi Umar Farooq, said: "Let the governme nt talk to Kashmiris and then involve Pakistan at later stages or let Delhi and Islamabad hold talks first and involve the Kashmiris later." He added: "If the Government of India comes out with a positive signal and announces a ceasefire, we will persuad e the Mujahideen to halt their military operations to facilitate talks." He had offered talks repeatedly, for instance, on June 6, September 13, December 22, 1996 and later. The offers were spurned for reasons which bear on the talks with the Hizb. They must, in turn, be read in the political clime.

IT would be presumptuous to attempt a definitive analysis of the situation after a week's stay in Srinagar (July 15-22). Governor G. C. Saxena, Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitley, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief 15 Corps Lt. Gen. J. R. Mukherjee besides o ther officials, civil and other, whom I met were very candid and courteous in their expositions of the state of militancy.

Lt. Gen. J. R. Mukherjee made an interesting point. "All policy was previously" laid down by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). "Post-Musharraf, it now emanates from the Army directly, with Pakistan intelligence having taken direct control in terms o f planning, all planning - what targets to be struck at, how to organise the tanzeems (outfits), whether to start a new tanzeem or not, what strength, what weapons - is all planned by the Pakistan Army."

On why the number of punishments for human rights violations have not been publicised he properly replied that it was a matter for the Ministry of Defence. He had the data. "You are doing a soldier's job," I said. "Would you say that ultimately it calls for a political solution?" His answer was explicit: "I think it has been accepted by all that ultimately there would have to be a political solution."

Ashok Jaitley had much the same thing to say. "There is total disillusionment with Pakistan. A whole generation of the young has been lost. The gun offers no solution, which is not to say that there is no alienation as far as India is concerned. Let us n ot fool ourselves about that. But the euphoria of 1990 is gone. Another realisation is also that India is not a soft state. When it comes to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the state is a hard state and a tough state."

What is the future of the militancy? Will we be able to crush it by brute force?

No, of course, not. I think that has been well established. Brute force is not the answer and has never been the answer. The answer is - the hearts and minds of the people.

Is it the Hizb which commands the "hearts and minds" of the people? Two facts about it are incontrovertible. It is the only active militant body of predominantly Kashmiri membership - unlike the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (L-e-T), the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e Islami (HU JI), Jaish-e-Mohamadi, and Al-Badr. The Hizb predominates in towns and cities and controls arms supplies with the help of locals. The L-e-T and the Jaish roam over the rural areas.

The other incontestable fact is that the Hizb was set up in 1990 by the ISI, alarmed at the success of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), in order to decimate it, driving it to declare a ceasefire in 1994. The Army's own estimate provided to this writer reads thus: "Favourable to merger of J&K to Pak. Formed to counter influence of JKLF (40-50 per cent FMs)." FM means foreign mercenaries. Accurate or not, the ISI's dominance has been as palpable as Pakistan's tacit approval of the Hiz b's ceasefire offer.

A highly-placed source said that in contrast, the HUJI, L-e-T and Jaish are offshoots of Pakistan's religious parties with an agenda beyond Kashmir. They are independent of ISI control.

With New Delhi's new certificates for the Hizb's autonomy and indigenous character, gone, so far as the Hizb is concerned, are charges of "proxy war" and "cross-border terrorism". Tacitly admitted is a domestic uprising, after all.

Why was the APHC's offer of ceasefire spurned and the Hizb embraced? (One would omit for the present the Pakistan and U.S. factors). The APHC has sought a ceasefire and dialogue for years; from 1993 at least - as it saw militancy acquire ugly forms, the influx of foreigners, and much else. It reckoned that once political activity was allowed, the people's urges would be freely expressed for the world to see. To New Delhi, however, ceasefire should buttress the status quo and simply restore the pr e-1989 situation. Political parleys are farthest from its mind.

Rajiv Gandhi's technique was simple - sign an accord, get the agitation to end, and renege on the political deal. Witness the Punjab, Assam and Mizo accords. This is unlikely to be accomplished in Kashmir, for two reasons. One is immediate and the other is long-term. "We want to retain weapons for our safety and security," the Hizb told Home Ministry officials (The Indian Express, August 7). New Delhi seeks the total disarming of the Hizb; its quarantine in separate "protected" camps; identificat ion of its cadres; and, its help to "identify and isolate" other groups (vide The Statesman and The Telegraph, August 4).

Secondly, these men have not, however, come out to surrender, but to parley. The ceasefire is a preliminary to doing it. The Hizb insists on tripartite talks - very much like the Hurriyat. Only while the Hurriyat could not be manipulated - not for want o f trying though - New Delhi believes that the Hizb can be defanged and rendered impotent. It has no use for the Hizb's 12-point agenda.

The Hizb will insist on something like the Naga and Irish models. On August 15, 1964, a detailed "Suspension of Operations" Agreement was concluded between the Government of India and Naga leaders. The proud Indira Gandhi met them, without any precond ition, in six rounds - on February 17, April 9 and 12, August 11 and 12, and October 27 and 29, 1966; in January 1967 and finally on October 5, 1967.

On one occasion, April 27, 1966, the Naga leaders met her alone. Dr. M. Aram, then Director of the Nagaland Peace Centre, records in his memoirs, Peace in Nagaland: "It was reported that she went to the extent of suggesting that the solution could be within the Indian Union, not necessarily within the Constitution." She probably had in mind an "associate" Statehood under Article 2 of the Constitution. It empowers Parliament to "establish new States" on special terms.

Another model is the Anglo-Irish Agreement of April 10, 1998 which has a whole section on de-commissioning of arms. There existed already an Independent Commission on Decommissioning, headed by the United States Senator George J. Mitchell. Its report, da ted January 22, 1996, had failed to resolve the issue - which came first, disarming or political settlement? The object of the militancy was to reopen what India regarded as a closed chapter. Have any of the parties learnt the lesson of the decade that t he gun is no solution - whether to redraw boundaries or to stifle a people's alienation?

The people will not go along with any sell-out by anybody. As for the Pakistan factor, the Government of India can properly exclude Pakistan from the current parleys on the ceasefire. But it cannot impose a political accord which is not acceptable to the APHC and which does command popular confidence, despite the APHC's grave shortcomings and mistakes. Pakistan is not only a party to the Kashmir dispute, it is now a party in Kashmir as well. In Kashmir there has always existed a pro-Pakistan cons tituency. Thanks to India's wrongs, its size increased. It has declined recently, though, thanks to Pakistan's cynical exploitation of Kashmiri sentiments.

Internationally, a consensus has emerged around four propositions. 1. Kashmir's accession to India is legally valid; 2. a dispute indubitably exists, politically; 3. plebiscite is rejected; but 4. no solution can be arrived at against the wishes of the people of the State in all its regions.

Neither Pakistan nor the militants can detach Kashmir from India. Nor can India rule over the State any longer indifferent to its people's aspirations, through familiar devices. They are totally discredited. Pakistan dare not attempt another military ven ture. India cannot resort to any more gimmickry to conceal the realities of alienation of the people and the existence internationally of a political dispute that cries out for a peaceful and final solution. This is a deep and universal yearning among the people. It would be a shame if India were to fail to rise to the challenge by devising creative solutions which meet Kashmir's aspirations, provide incentives to its neighbour to settle, and yet satisfy India's own aspiration - Kashmir's members hip of the Union of India. Similar solutions have been successfully attempted elsewhere. One such is possible in Kashmir as well.

This was written before the Hizb ended the ceasefire on August 8, to no one's surprise. It had sought parleys; New Delhi sought its surrender, having exposed the men shamelessly before the media on August 3 - something which was done to no other militant group. The government did not take the Hizb ultimatum on the same day seriously, hoping as ever to split the organisation as it had tried to break the Hurriyat. Democracy is in peril when intelligence agencies mould policy and political decisions. A fin e opportunity was lost through sheer low cunning.

A government that summarily rejected the State Assembly's resolution for autonomy could not have been sincere when it agreed to parley with the Hizb with its own agenda.

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