Protesters in Jammu throw stones at policemen on August 26.
THE Jammu province of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a regional identity with a rich past and a composite culture. It has produced scholars, artists, poets and writers of high distinction. After 1947, the Sangh Parivar foisted a communal identity on it precisely at a time when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the foremost leader of Jammu and Kashmir State with a Muslim majority, moved for its accession to India. He was attracted by its secular ideals symbolised by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhi said at a prayer meeting on November 28, 1947: “You see Sheikh Abdullah with me… [who] although a pucka Muslim, has won the hearts of both [Hindus and Sikhs] by making them forget that there is any difference between the three [communities]…. Even though in Jammu recently the Muslims were killed by the Hindus and the Sikhs, he went to Jammu and invited the evil doers to forget the past….” (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi; volume 90, page 123).
There were Muslims in the valley who were opposed to the accession; there were forces in Jammu who resented the transfer of power from a “Hindu” Maharaja to a “Muslim” leader. The Maharaja’s son, Karan Singh, resented that “Dogra rule had in effect been replaced by Kashmiri rule”.
In October 1987, Jammu erupted in fury when Farooq Abdullah, at Rajiv Gandhi’s behest, ended the Darbar Move by which the government functioned alternately from Srinagar and Jammu every six months. It was not communal but regional self-assertion. But, in August 2008, it was not Jammu but the communal forces there that took to the streets under a false regional garb. The issue of allotment of land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), a legacy of the former Governor S.K. Sinha’s communal agenda, was badly handled by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for his own ends in a manner that offended Muslim and Hindu feelings.
But while in the valley the people led the leaders and the campaign was spontaneous, in Jammu the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) acted after preparation and in pursuit of its resolution of June 30, 2002, for the break-up of the State into three parts. New Delhi’s brutal clamp-down in the valley on August 24, following mammoth and unarmed rallies, is in glaring contrast to its kid-glove treatment of Jammu. It is a replay of what happened in 1953 when Nehru confided to his friend B.C. Roy, Chief Minister of West Bengal, on June 29: “It is difficult to speak openly about the injurious results of this movement. It has made the Kashmir problem far more difficult than it ever was. Before this movement was started, I had little doubt in my mind that the final decision about Kashmir would be in our favour, however long it might take. But this movement has upset all my calculations and weakened our position in Kashmir terribly. I am for the moment talking about the Kashmir Valley only. As you know, the people in the Valley are over ninety per cent Muslim. The reaction of the Jammu Praja Parishad movement on them has been very great. They have become frightened of the communal elements in Jammu and in India and their previous wish to be attached to India has weakened. Indeed, at the moment, all the hostile forces against us are dominant in Kashmir…. The whole difficulty has been about the Valley of Kashmir and we are on the point of losing it because of the Praja Parishad movement.
“Psychologically we have lost it and it would be difficult to get back to the older position. You will appreciate how it has distressed me to see the hard work of several years washed away by this movement. In the ultimate analysis, we gain Kashmir if we gain the goodwill of the people there” (emphasis added, throughout; Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; volume 22, pages 203-205). In 2002, the RSS admitted that in 1952 it had “agitated in the name of Praja Parishad”. Nehru tried to “control” the situation by arresting Abdullah on August 9, 1953, and inflicted a wound that has still not healed. Is New Delhi about to repeat that mistake in 2008?
Three factors must be borne in mind – the preparations behind the Jammu disorders, the RSS’ trifurcation agenda, and its roots. Dharmendra Rataul of The Tribune reported from Madhopur as early as August 5 that “hundreds” of Shiv Sainiks and Bajrang Dal men, led by Dinesh Kumar Babbu, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of the Legislative Assembly, had “blocked the NH-1A linking J&K with the rest of the country. Punjab BJP leaders including two State Ministers camped 10 km away.” He cited the details. Azad remarked on August 4: “There have been four delegations of the BJP going there in the past one month and they call it spontaneous. The BJP is backing the Sangharsh Samiti and is funding it” (Indian Express, August 5). Anil Anand reported in DNA (August 11) that the RSS was “tightening its hold over the BJP” to implement its agenda and had selected an RSS loyalist, Leela Karan Sharma, as chairman of the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti.
Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, executive editor of Kashmir Times, published from Jammu, wrote a detailed report in Communalism Combat (July-August 2008): “That the protests in Jammu were not marked by spontaneity but by a steady build-up is evident from the fact that in the first few days of the agitation only a few protesters, supporters of the Sangh Parivar, were out on the streets. Gradually, the numbers started swelling into thousands” to join in “the violent protests”. Television channels were not curbed, as they were in Srinagar from August 24, when they “worked to complement mass mobilisation campaigns by the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the RSS”. No praise can be too high for Anuradha or her father, Ved Bhasin, the paper’s founder, for standing by the values of secularism and honest journalism throughout these difficult years.RSS agenda
The RSS’ agenda was mooted almost from the time of the State’s accession to India. Its prime mover was none other than Maharaja Hari Singh, as Nehru wrote to Vallabhbhai Patel on April 17, 1949, after reading an intelligence report from Kashmir: “In this report, among other things, a reference was made to a growing Hindu agitation in Jammu province for what is called a zonal plebiscite. This idea is based on the belief that a plebiscite for the whole of Kashmir is bound to be lost and, therefore, let us save Jammu at least. You will perhaps remember that some proposal of this kind was put forward by the Maharaja some months back. It seems to me that this kind of propaganda is very harmful, indeed, for us. Whatever may happen in the future, I do not think Jammu province is running away from us. If we want Jammu province by itself and are prepared to make a present of the rest of the State to Pakistan, I have no doubt we could clinch the issue in a few days. The prize we are fighting for is the valley of Kashmir.
“This propaganda for a zonal plebiscite is going on in Jammu, in Delhi and elsewhere. It is carried on by what is known as the Jammu Praja Parishad. Our intelligence officer reported that this Praja Parishad is financed by the Maharaja. Further, that the large sums collected for the Dharmarth Fund, which are controlled by the Maharaja, are being spent in propaganda for him” (Sardar Patel’s Correspondence 1945-50; volume 1, page 262).
It had no effect on Patel because he had ranged himself for Hari Singh and against Abdullah. Only three months after Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India, Hari Singh threatened secession in a letter to Patel dated January 31, 1948: “Sometimes I feel that I should withdraw the accession that I have made to the Indian Union. The Union only provisionally accepted the accession…” (ibid, page 167). He was, of course, not reprimanded by Patel.
General K.M. Cariappa reported to Nehru that “the Maharaja’s brother-in-law was openly carrying on a campaign against Sheikh Abdullah and his government and issuing pamphlets of this kind”. Nehru added that in an intelligence report “mention was made of the Yuvraj [Karan Singh] getting mixed up with this business” (ibid, page 262).
To Patel, Nehru “after all… is also a Hindu and... a Kashmiri Hindu”, “a patriot”, and Kashmir was “a Hindu State situated in Muslim surroundings” (ibid, pages 3 and 4).
Shyama Prasad Mookerjee resigned from Nehru’s Cabinet in 1950 and set up the Jana Sangh, with the RSS’ support, on October 21, 1951. Nehru called it the “illegitimate child of the RSS” (The Hindu; January 6, 1952). Mookerjee was in search of a plank. Kashmir came in handy. He asked Nehru in a letter on January 9, 1950, that if a plebiscite were held “what will be the fate of Jammu in case the majority of the people, consisting of Muslims, vote against India?” He dilated on “the peculiar characteristics of different parts” of the State.
Karan Singh revived his father’s plans. On November 14, 1965, he confirmed to Neville Maxwell of The Times (London) his ideas on trifurcation. Kuldip Nayar, who headed the United News of India, reported his views at length – “a unilingual Kashmiri-speaking State”; Jammu’s merger with Himachal Pradesh; and Ladakh to become a Union Territory. Jammu and Kashmir was an “administrative monstrosity”. There was no “sanctity behind” it. His family had brought the two parts together through conquest and he as successor would say that “the sooner the present arrangement was ended the better it would be.” (He had written differently to Nehru earlier.)
B.K. Nehru became Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on February 26, 1981. “The only real briefing that I got was from Tiger (Karan Singh) who put the State of Jammu and Kashmir in correct perspective for me. He explained that the State was a wholly artificial creation, its five separate regions being joined together by the historical accident that Raja Gulab Singh had conquered all the territories over which his father Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling at the time of Independence and Partition. Those five different entities had nothing in common with each other…. In our part of the State, there were three clear divisions – Jammu, which was Hindu, Kashmir, which was Sunni Muslim and Ladakh, one part of which was Buddhist and the other Shia Muslim. Because of the lack of commonality between these three divisions, the sooner they were separated the better it would be for the future” (Nice Guys Finish Second; 1997; page 589).
Karan Singh’s statement of August 5, 2008, refers to the recent upheaval as “a symptom of a deeper problem including the relationship between the three regions of the State still with India” – a strange formulation – “Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. The fundamental problem needs to be looked into carefully and a national consensus arrived at, but that can be done only after the next round of national and State elections.” He is the only one outside the BJP to call for Governor N.N. Vohra’s ouster.
As Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani set the ball rolling calculatedly at Leh on June 7, 2000. He knew he was on charged territory. The Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) had for years threatened to use violence. A social boycott of Muslims was on for months. The ritual qualification “within the four corners of the Constitution” is less relevant than the fact that the Home Minister countenanced (“can discuss”) trifurcation at all and did so in the context of the memo containing the demand which the LBA gave Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee that day.Idea of trifurcation
Maharaja Hari Singh, whose last days as the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir were marred by a massacre of Muslims.
Constitutionally, the Centre has no right or power in this matter. Article 3 empowers Parliament “by law” to “diminish the area of any State”. In relation to Kashmir, however, no such Bill can even “be introduced in Parliament without the consent of the Legislature of that State”. The Centre has no business to offer to “consider” a demand whose acceptance is the sole prerogative of Kashmir. Advani could not have been unmindful of the chain reaction his remarks would set off. The LBA’s memo said: “We believe a lasting solution lies in trifurcation of the State.” The Times of India’s correspondent summed up the reaction in a report from Jammu published on June 14, 2000: “Trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, an idea forwarded by organisations and individuals – either as a demand or suggestion in the public debate, set in motion by the Centre – has been given new respectability by Union Home Minister Advani’s remark… during the Sindhu Darshan festival demanding trifurcation of the State or Union Territory status for Leh.” Buddhist protests led to the scaling down of the tamasha.
On June 30, 2002, the RSS’ All India Workers’ Conclave at Kurukshetra adopted a resolution that asserted: “The people of Jammu think that the solution of their problems lies in the separate statehood for Jammu region.” It also supported “the demand for U.T. [Union Territory] status for Ladakh region”. This is the agenda that is being promoted in Jammu now.
Jammu will be split evenly. Three of its six districts, now broken up into 10, have a Muslim majority - Poonch (91.92 per cent), Rajouri (60.23 per cent) and Doda (57.92 per cent). Two tehsils in Udhampur, Gul Arnas and Gulab Garh, have a Muslim majority. Farooq Abdullah realistically warned that these areas would not live with Jammu; the massacres would be worse than those of 1947; and “India will be left with two and a half districts while the so-called Greater Kashmir will go on a platter to Pakistan eventually” (Greater Kashmir; October 3 and December 11, 2000). Mirwaiz Maulvi Umer Farooq also said “if the Dogras of Jammu’s two and a half districts want to secede from the rest of the State… we won’t oppose it either” (Indian Express; August 10, 2008).Massacre in Jammu
Farooq Abdullah’s reference to the 1947 massacres has a poignant ring. His father had overlooked the ethnic cleansing of Muslims of Jammu, under Maharaja Hari Singh’s auspices, to forge a Union with India on the basis of the ideology of secularism. As Gandhi said on November 27, 1947, “This has not been fully reported in the newspapers” (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi; volume 90, page 115). It was, and still is, little known in India. It is now being recalled in Jammu. Here are the facts. Gandhi said on December 25, 1947: “The Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu and those who had gone there from outside killed Muslims there. The Maharaja of Kashmir is responsible for what is happening there…. Muslim women have been dishonoured” (ibid, page 298).
In 1947, Muslims were in a 61 per cent majority in the Jammu province. Horace Alexander wrote in the Spectator (January 16, 1948) that the killings had “the tacit consent of State authority” and put the figure at 200,000. On August 10, 1948, The Times (London) published a report by “A Special Correspondent”, an Indian Civil Service official who had served in the State. He wrote: “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated – unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border – by all the forces of the Dogra State, headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the first Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to India.” India was, therefore, not responsible one bit. Hari Singh was, personally. Between 1941 and 1961, the Muslim population of Jammu fell from 61 per cent to 38 per cent.
In 1971 Hari Singh’s complicity was fully exposed by the publication of Nehru’s letter of December 30, 1947, and the Sheikh’s letter of October 7, 1948, both addressed to Patel, significantly (Sardar Patel’s Correspondence; volume 1, 1971, pages 135 and 237).
The Sheikh wrote: “There was enacted in every village and town through which he [Hari Singh] passed an orgy of arson and loot and murder of Muslims. In Jammu the killing of Muslims all over the province continued unabated for weeks under his very nose.”
That orgy is being recalled in Jammu now. In an article entitled “Being Muslim in Jammu”, Zafar Chaudhary writes: “There was hardly any family in the region which escaped” it. Those “events permanently changed the way the Muslims of Jammu would live or think” (Economic & Political Weekly; August 23, 2008). Some decided to make peace with the BJP agitators. The BJP’s State president, Ashok Khajuria, said at a press conference on July 26: “Muslims vacate your houses... I am warning you… else, Jammu people are ready to throw you out.”
From 1947 to 1953, these very forces undermined Sheikh Abdullah’s standing in Kashmir. In 2008, they have strengthened its demand for azadi. It is, of course, absurd to say that land for the SASB will affect demography. But people overreact when they are told that they are not in a majority in their own State. Witness: Assam. In Srinagar I was told by the 15 Corps Commander in 1995, while working on an article for Frontline, that Kashmiri Muslims were not in a majority in the valley itself. On August 16, 2008, S.K. Sinha said the same thing in the Manekshaw Memorial Lecture. What is it that drives persons in government to say such things? Imagine the impact of a similar remark in Mumbai, for instance.The land and the law
Now for the land issue. In 1989, the number of pilgrims to the Amarnath cave was only 12,000. In 2007, it was 400,000. Is there any place of pilgrimage anywhere in India where land is sought to be allotted or transferred in any form for the pilgrimage? Whether by leave and licence or by lease? In law, citizens have a right to move along any road, subject to considerations of security and the like. When throngs gather, the organisers arrange facilities. Land need not be allotted for that. It has not been, anywhere at any time. Neither at the Kumbh Mela, where far greater numbers gather, nor at Gangotri and Goumukh in Uttarakhand, where, on May 1, 2008, the BJP government limited the number of pilgrims to 150 a day to protect the environment. Experts have testified to the environmental degradation already wrought on the route to the Amarnath cave. Yet, S.K. Sinha wanted to extend the duration of the yatra and the numbers who visit the cave.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) efficiently maintains 12 temples and their sub-shrines in the Tirumala-Tirupati area. The TTD once owned 600 villages, but they were acquired by the State under the Zamindari Abolition Act, 1950. The average income of the TTD is a whopping Rs.800 crore. The TTD, established by the TTD Act, 1932, is now governed by Chapter 14 of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987. A Board of Trustees is constituted by the State government, which also appoints the chief executive and other officials. The Tirumala hills comprise seven peaks. The temple of Sri Venkateswara is on the seventh peak. Section 114 of the Act empowers the State government to notify “the limits of the Tirumala Hills area for the purpose of civic administration”. It will be deemed to be a village under the Gram Panchayats Act, 1964, and the Public Health Act, 1939.Sengupta report
Following a blizzard in August 1996, the Government of India asked Nitish K. Sengupta, IAS (retired), and member of the Trinamool Congress, to inquire into the tragedy in which 243 people died on the Amarnath Yatra. Had his report, the only definitive study of the actual state of things, not been flouted by S.K. Sinha, no disputes would have arisen. There are two routes to the Amarnath cave. The “traditional route” is from Srinagar – lately from Jammu – to Pahalgam onwards. “The limited carrying capacity of the 32 km track provides strong grounds for controlling the number of pilgrims… there should not be more than 9,000 or 10,000 pilgrims” on the last sector. The other route is from Sonamarg to Baltal onwards, “an alternative or supplementary route”, which, Ghulam Nabi Azad said on August 4, “is taken barely by 10 per cent of the pilgrims”.
Sengupta recommended that the Tourism Department “should be the administrative department responsible for conducting the yatra” plus a Board, with the Chief Minister at its head, to “undertake primary responsibility of looking into all matters relating to Amarnath Yatra”. At one place he calls it a “coordination committee” (page 25), at another (page 49) a Board “to coordinate efforts of the various agencies”. It would “lay down overall policy measures” and exercise supervision”. It is the government that wields executive power.
The yatra should start on July 1 and end on August 15 – 45 days – with an overall ceiling of 100,000 pilgrims for the annual yatra and only 10,000 pilgrims a day between Chandanwari and the cave. He was most emphatic on both the duration and the ceiling on numbers (page 54). S.K. Sinha flouted both.
In an article in Asian Age (August 14), Sengupta opines that “as long as only 20,000 pilgrims are there they would be able to take shelter in existing huts and be safe”.
He considered the Baltal route as an alternative. “Almost 5 km of this route from Sangam on the way to Baltal is extremely difficult and risky. There cannot be any question of permitting large number of people to travel on this track.” It is “extremely slippery”. The Army holds that it is not an “immediate alternative possibility”. Why then did he recommend development of this route? If the numbers are restricted, as he himself said, the Pahalgam route would suffice. Yet it is on the Baltal route that the controversial land was allotted.
He did not recommend any acquisition of land. The Jammu and Kashmir Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board Act, 2000, set up a Board for “upgradation of facilities” for the pilgrims with the Governor as its head. The Board is empowered (Section 16 d) “to undertake developmental activities concerning the area of the Shrine and its surroundings” – and no more.
S.K. Sinha became Governor in 2003. On July 2, 2004, a petition was filed in the High Court at Jammu, not in Kashmir where the Amarnath cave is situated, against the State government for just three reliefs – it must not interfere with the SASB’s decision at its meeting in New Delhi on March 17, 2004; it must give up registration of yatris nationwide and quotawise; and it must not authorise a private helicopter service. No demand for land was made at that meeting at all. Only suitable accommodation for yatris and shelters – without allotment of land. The SASB supported the petition, “it is interesting to note”, Justice Permode Kohli remarked in his judgment on April 15, 2005. He went far beyond the petition to grant reliefs it did not seek and counsel it did not ask for. He ordered extension of the yatra to two months. “The State should not object to it.”
The land issue surfaced in this judgment as an order to “permit user of the land by the Board” to upgrade the infrastructure along the route. The judge found the Baltal route “narrow and dangerous….” but then found “considerable improvement” on both routes – on evidence neither side had provided.
On appeal, a Division Bench comprising Justices Y.P. Nargotra and V.K. Shanji gave interim directions on May 17, 2005, “without prejudice to the rights of the parties”. No judgment was given. In regard to land, the word “user” was not used; it was allotment. “The land to be allotted by the Board would be only for the purposes of user.” This is allotment, not permission for user. Allotment implies transfer of legal interest in the land, however limited. It is not sought in any of the pilgrimages in India or anywhere else. Local bodies do not “allot” land to bus companies. They permit them to erect stops and shelters on the route.
Meanwhile, on May 29, 2005, the Secretary, Forest Department, Sonali Kumar, wife of the SASB’s chief executive officer Arun Kumar, issued orders, at his request, for diversion of land to the SASB. His and the Governor’s offensive remarks on reactions to the eventual order of allotment on May 26, 2008, need not be recalled here (see the writer’s article “Why Kashmir erupts”; Frontline; August 1). Like the Central Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the State’s Act of 1997 also lays down mandatory curbs, even for permits that forest land “may be used for any non-forest purpose”. A Cabinet resolution based on the advice of an advisory committee is mandatory.
The Secretary, Forest, overlooked this as did the three judges of the High Court. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed rescinded the order and stalled on S.K. Sinha’s demands. The High Court stayed the rescission.
In a letter of January 1, 2008, S.K. Sinha contended that the Governor is “sovereign ex-officio holder of the power… who acts on his own personal satisfaction and not on the aid and advice of the council of ministers… the member [of the Legislative Council] may be explained that he does not enjoy the powers to question the decisions of the body” (Greater Kashmir; June 12, 2008). This was insolent nonsense. As a statutory body, the SASB is amenable to the Court’s orders and also to the Assembly’s probes. S.K. Sinha even proposed to set up an independent Amarnath Development Authority on the stretch from Sonamarg to Pahalgam.
Proceedings under the Act were taken only in 2007. The Law Department, the Advocate General and Law Minister Muzaffar Hussein Beig considered the applicability to Jammu and Kashmir of the Supreme Court’s interim directions in a case on April 27, 2007. They were not. But on November 23, 2007, the Court gave its judgment in the case (T.N. Godavarman vs. Union of India (2008) 2 -SCC 222). Its observations bind Jammu and Kashmir. They were not considered before the Cabinet took the decision on May 20 or before the government passed the order on May 26. Both are bad in law. These facts are cited in the Forest Department’s memorandum to the Cabinet for its decision dated February 26, 2008. It is gravely flawed and misrepresents the Advocate General and the Law Minister.
It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court did not clear the project in that case although it would have helped the poor tribal people in that area. It made important observations on balancing development with environment concerns. In the Amarnath case, the land sought to be given is on the alternative, and not sole, route to the cave which is admittedly dangerous. Only a political agenda can explain such sheer obstinacy.
The Forest Department’s order of May 2008 went beyond “user” (paragraph 9). Arun Kumar said it was permanent and the yatra would be for the whole year (Rising Kashmir; June 17, 2008). The State government has now agreed to make the land available to the SASB for three months, reportedly. It wants to give “user rights”; the SASB wants “exclusive rights” (The Hindu; August 25). On August 30 the Sangharsh Samiti rejected the government’s proposal on the grounds that it was not given “exclusive” rights. Within hours, the government caved in and accepted the Samiti’s diktat. It will “set aside for the use by SASB exclusively the land in Baltal” and falsely characterise this as land traditionally under use for the use of the yatra. The accord is worse than the order, which never used the word “exclusive”. The duration of use will be for the yatra and also from time to time as the SASB requires – a faint hint of user throughout the year. There is no provision for return of land. The accord is one-sided and void: it violates Section 2 of the Act of 1997.
The 39.88 hectares of forest land were to be given “at Baltal and Domail”, not on the main Pahalgam route. The Sengupta Report was to be abandoned - on the duration of the yatra and on the number of yatris. The yatra becomes a show of political strength, not a holy pilgrimage. The SASB’s spokesman, Rajendra Mishra, said on August 18 that the numbers would increase. The accord if concluded will be void in law. The entire process has been irregular, most shockingly.
It is bad enough that the Cabinet did not consider the Supreme Court’s ruling. What is shocking is that the Forest Department’s memo contained grave factual misrepresentations regarding Advocate General Altaf Husain Naik and Law Minister Muzaffar Hussain Beig. On August 26, Naik said in detail that the file in this case was “never” referred to him. His observations related to a different case of diversion of forest land. In equal detail, on August 27, Beig informed me that his views also quoted in the memo related to a different case. Clearly the Forest Department in its zeal pressed into service in the Amarnath case opinions by two lawyers given in an altogether different case and misrepresented them in effect. This vitiates the entire process.
No order for diversion can be made now, even under an accord, unless the entire procedure under the Act of 1997 is undergone afresh. Section 2 of the Act mandatorily requires advice of the advisory committee which must be given afresh - plus “a resolution of the Council of Ministers”, which will come into being only after the next elections.Mailed fist for valley
Trucks stranded on a road blocked by protesters in Jammu on August 26.
The mailed fist is reserved for the valley. The few days of mammoth but unarmed rallies revealed nothing about popular sentiment that was not known before. S.K. Sinha himself said: “We have been able to control militancy in Kashmir but the mindset behind the separatist movement is intact” (Business Standard; August 16). Precisely. Militancy can be crushed. Alienation cannot be. It deepens with repression. It cannot be eradicated by the crackdown on August 24 following the visit of M.K. Narayanan, National Security Adviser.
S.K. Sinha could not have behaved as he did or even survived in office but for the Centre’s backing, mainly, but not exclusively, by Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Even before the crackdown ordered by the Centre, the disparity in treatment was glaring. It has become worse since, because some in New Delhi sympathise with the agitators in Jammu and have been consistently and notoriously hostile to the ones in Srinagar. It is the same old story of “them” and “us”. In Jammu, as Amitab Sinha remarked, “It is significant that despite loss of public property and defying of curfew and prohibitory orders by thousands of people, authorities have restrained themselves from making preventive arrests” (Indian Express; August 6). There were attacks on Muslims; the Gujjars’ huts were torched.
Muzamil Jaleel cited specific cases in Srinagar of the Central Reserve Police Force targeting ambulances ferrying the injured and, “in one instance, they opened fire at the entrance to a hospital’s casualty ward” (Indian Express; August 15). Kashmir Times editorially censured police firing “inside the emergency and casualty wards of the SMHS hospital” (August 13).
It is the very peaceful character of the Hurriyat’s movement that unnerved New Delhi. “The change is that there is no militancy this time,” Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said on August 16. “New Delhi cannot dismiss the demand of Kashmiris as militancy. Now, it has to address the issue [of Kashmir’s status].”
On August 23, a day before the crackdown, the United Jehad Council headed by Syed Salahuddin “unanimously decided to silence the guns in Kashmir” (Shujaat Bhukhari; The Hindu; August 24). The New York Times’ Somini Sengupta reported from Srinagar: “The main city hospital was filled with Kashmiris shot and wounded by Indian security forces” (International Herald Tribune; August 23). On August 24 came the crackdown. “This is the strictest curfew in Kashmir in the past 20 years” (Indian Express; August 27). Srinagar went without newspapers from August 24. Mediamen and even doctors with passes were beaten up.
Whatever for? To soften the Hurriyat leaders to secure acceptance of the new land deal? And, indeed, what follows next? When Nehru arrested Sheikh Abdullah on August 9, 1953, he imagined that with repression over time Kashmir would submit. It did not. It will not now, either. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must assert himself and, with his liberal instincts, ask himself two questions: What will be the consequences of appeasement in Jammu? And what will be the consequences of the repression in Kashmir? He can arrest the drift to disaster even now. How can elections be held in Jammu and Kashmir in this situation?
Burke’s speech in the House of Commons on March 22, 1775, on conciliation with rebellious America has stood the test of time: “The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered… conciliation failing, force remains, but force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left.”
(Letters to the Editor should carry the full postal address)
Home | The Hindu | Business Line | Sportstar | Publications | eBooks | Images
Copyright © 2008, Frontline.
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited
without the written consent of Frontline