A voice of sanity

Published : Aug 19, 2000 00:00 IST

Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, State secretary, CPI(M).

I do not agree with the Government of India's position that the situation in Kashmir is a result of "cross-border terrorism". No doubt, there is violence, extremism and militancy. Yes, there is an element of interference from across the Line of Control. But the roots of the problem lie within our country. It is essentially the dissatisfaction among wide sections of our people accumulated over 50 years which has given birth to this ugly situation that we have been witnessing in the last 10 years. Contrar y to the impression in India, Kashmir has not gone fundamentalist. Kashmiris are enlightened and tolerant people. The same people had in 1947 and in 1965 spurned Pakistan for a secular India. Why, then, have they taken up arms against the country today? We must go deeper.

The fact remains that we were given certain assurances and promises. The record since is one of broken promises and disillusionment, of undermining the democratic aspirations of the people of the State.

The Government of India has played havoc with Article 370 which is an integral part of the Constitution of India and, in fact, the only basis for union between the country and the State. Its spirit has been destroyed in the name of "integration" and "ass imilation". This has proved counter-productive. If the country wants to retain Kashmir, it must wipe out the wrongs committed in the last 50 years.

Article 370 must be restored to its original position. I moved a resolution in the State Assembly on this in 1998.

Does it mean a return to the July 1952 Nehru-Sheikh Abdullah agreement?

Why that? We have a Presidential Order of 1950 under Article 370. Then came the State's Constituent Assembly (in 1951) and another order in 1954. There is a contradiction here. They accept the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (1956) and the status of th e Constituent Assembly. Either you accept its authority and whatever happened until then (1956) or you do not. But after that there was no authority (for the extension of the Centre's powers). For the Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 1957. From then onwards there has been no authority to do what they have done vis-a-vis Kashmir. Only the powers conferred on the Centre until then are valid. If you want to go beyond that you will have to reconvene the Constituent Assembly. If the powers conferred on the Centre after 1957 are invalid, so is Union legislation in exercise of those powers. Those powers must be returned; the sooner, the better.

Why talk of 1953 or 1975? Why not reckon with the context of 2000? Now, large sections of the people of the State are alienated from the mainstream of the country. How will you address this problem? How will you check Pakistan? How will you disarm the te rrorists? Only by winning the confidence of the common man.

If peace is to be restored in the region, the problem of Kashmir must be resolved. The status quo will not work. If you shut your eyes to the realities, you are damaging the interests of the country as a whole. There are only two alternatives - a solution outside India, which is not acceptable to me and is not good for the people of the State and of the rest of the country, or, a solution within the framework of Indian unity, which cannot be based on the status quo. The second solution can be accomplished only when you restore to the people of Jammu and Kashmir what has been promised through Article 370. So, restore Article 370 to what it was in 1957.

Secularism is on trial in the entire region. Some people are talking of a trifurcation of the State. Any division will in effect be on a communal basis. It will be a colossal loss for our ethos and culture and initiate a process of disintegration. It wil l endanger the security of Pakistan as well. A solution must respect the interests of the people of the State and ensure the security of both India and Pakistan.

What are your views on a dialogue with Pakistan?

Pakistan has a role. Fifty years' experience teaches us that India and Pakistan must sit together for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir problem. There are few options for Pakistan's Establishment. Further confrontation with India will create condition s for Pakistan's disintegration. In its own interests, India must enter into a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan without loss of time (He had pleaded for this, he recalled, in a press statement on May 31. "On Indo-Pakistan. dialogue... to resolve the Kas hmir problem").

I favour intra-Kashmir talks. But immediately I would like a dialogue between Delhi and the people of Kashmir, with all shades of public opinion. A dialogue should be unconditional and meaningful.

There is a great need also for inter-regional talks within the State. Some of the people of Jammu and of Leh also have a sense of neglect and resent what they call "the domination of the Kashmiris". Let there be a dialogue between Delhi and the people of the State first, between Delhi and Islamabad; and between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

The guns have failed to accomplish any objective. A democratic process should begin soon. Maybe we can have fresh elections in which all can participate. The 1986 Assembly elections were neither wholly fair nor wholly unfair. They were the beginning of a process, which needs to be broadened with the inclusion of the Hurriyat. To shut one's eyes to the realities is to do a disservice to the nation. Whatever be the designs of Farooq Abdullah, the reaction of political parties in India to the State Assembl y's resolution on autonomy was unfortunate. In 1988, I had moved a resolution for autonomy which he did not support, as he ought to have. Nothing is being demanded outside the Constitution. He joined a government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party which i s committed to the abrogation of Article 370. The Government's summary rejection of the resolution was shocking.

If the secular ideal is upheld can the people of Kashmir still be won over to the Union?

I am sure of that. We want nothing more than a situation in which the people feel that their identity and interests are protected within India. Yet, no peace is possible unless Pakistan is also a party to the process. This business of isolating Pakistan does not serve India's interests or those of State. We must persuade Pakistan to end a confrontation which has brought disaster to the whole region.

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