Anaahat Naad

The Unmade Sound

Long walk home

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The state as well as Central government is focussing on ‘normalising’ the Kashmir valley, and rightly so. In this connection, three interlocutors appointed by the Central government – Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari – toured the entire Jammu & Kashmir state extensively. Following their meetings with people in the state, the interlocutor panel’s report was finally released in the public domain a few days back.

Today, tourists throng the valley. During summer, there is a huge inflow and outflow of people who come to see the beautiful vale as Kashmir is magnificent in summer. In fact, the valley glows in every season – summer, autumn, winter, or spring. Last year, more than 1.3 million tourists visited Kashmir (excluding 6.33 lakh pilgrims who visited the holy Amarnath cave shrine). Kashmir is expecting a very good tourist season this year as well. And the projected number of tourists who will be visiting this year is around 2 million. (Sources: DNA report – April 25, 2012 and Hindustan Times – May 22, 2012)

The state has been relatively peaceful in 2011 compared to the violent summer of 2010. There has been a substantial decline in terrorist violence. In 2011, 189 terrorist incidents were reported, compared to 368 cases in 2010. Jammu witnessed 37 militancy-related incidents while 152 cases were reported in Kashmir. This is the lowest number of incidents in the last 22 years of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is pressing hard for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some districts of the state. The tussle over AFPSA revocation continues till date. There is indeed a significant change in the situation in Kashmir valley as compared to when insurgency was at its peak. (Source: Outlook Dec 31, 2011)

For a section of Kashmiri people though, the minority Hindus – who became homeless due to the insurgency – nothing seems to have changed in last more than two decades. It is a paradox that Kashmir is relatively peaceful, but the exiled Kashmiris are not at peace.

What has changed for the exiled Kashmiris? Have those responsible for making Kashmiri Pandits homeless been arraigned in these years? Are the killers of minority Hindus punished for their barbaric acts? Not only are they roaming around freely, they are welcomed and garlanded by many people in Kashmir as ‘heroes’. A terrorist who has confessed in a television interview that he murdered more than 20 Kashmiri Hindus is a free man. Another terrorist, against whom more than 20 cases are booked including under TADA and POTA, is freely championing the so-called Kashmir cause. At present, both of them lead separatist organisations along with their ilk and are preaching ‘peace’. What can be more agonising?

Be it any political party (National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, or Congress) who came to power in the state, nobody cared about bringing culprits of the largest ethnic cleansing (since Partition) to book. How long will it take the political class to wake from its deep slumber?

There is mere lip service from our political class which won’t resolve the issues. The only pertinent distinction is that those Kashmiri refugees who were living in inhumane camps in Jammu are provided tenements this year.

The issue of homelessness and the return of minority Hindus linger. There are no easy answers on the question of permanent return of Kashmiri Pandits. “Where will the Pandits go? What will the Pandits return to? Where are the houses and the homes? The only forms of return in the current scenario are pilgrimages to temples and tourism and holidaying. The exiles go to Kashmir for a few days and return to their homes outside Kashmir. Permanent return is not possible till the time rebuilding of the lost ethos happens in every sense – trust, security, homeland, livelihood, culture…”, says Siddhartha Gigoo whose novel, The Garden of Solitude narrates the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits and their life in exile.

On May 15, 2012 Mullappally Ramchandran, the Minister of State for Home, in a written reply to a question told the Lok Sabha that there are 58,697 Kashmiri migrant families registered with respective relief authorities which includes 38,119 families in Jammu, 19,338 families in Delhi and 1,240 families in other places in India. It is a pity that the Indian state could not prevent the homelessness of its people. (Source: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=83913)

Under the Prime Minister’s Return and Rehabilitation package for Kashmiri migrants a few thousand Pandits joined government services in the valley, but only on condition that they have to serve within the valley. Whatsoever be the circumstances in Kashmir, they cannot leave the valley. That cannot be termed as a ‘return’. It is like caging them. The government has erred in linking ‘economics’ with ‘return’. Or maybe it is a deliberate miscalculation.

How correct is journalist Vir Sanghvi when he wrote in his article on the 22nd anniversary of the exile of Kashmiri Pandits, “…when this anniversary passes, when bloggers have moved on to other subjects and something else is trending on twitter, that the Kashmiri Pandits will be exactly where they have been for the last two decades: nowhere people with no homeland to call their own.”

What has changed in these 22 years for the exiled Kashmiri Pandits? The homelessness of homeless Kashmiris persists.

(Originally published in Newslaundry)

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Written by Varad Sharma

May 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Where is the prime minister?

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Does India really have a Prime Minister? Ask this question to yourself. I am sure that your answer will be ambiguous. Of course, India does have one officially. Dr. Manmohan Singh is the prime minister of India since 22nd May 2004. Who would have expected that an economist will head the nation? May be the destiny and loyalty to the dynasty made Dr. Manmohan Singh the prime minister of India. However, despite being the prime minster, his presence in political arena is hardly felt.

When a number of scams were exposed (and some may still be in the process of being unearthed), I fail to remember any timely strong move from our prime minister and his government. On the contrary, zero-loss theory was propounded by his cabinet colleague. Moreover, Prime Minster Dr. Manmohan Singh invoked ‘coalition-dharma’ to avert action against the tainted minster A Raja who was involved in the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore telecom scam. Thanks to our judiciary, appropriate actions are being taken against the individuals involved in the scams.

The consecutive disclosures of scams have put a big question mark on the ability of Dr. Manmohan Singh; leave aside the credibility of UPA government. Dr. Singh has been termed as an honest prime minister of India but when the tax-payers money was being skimmed off under his nose, the ‘honest quality’ got disqualified.

It is said that an individual learns through experience. But this principle doesn’t seem true of the prime minister. Though Dr. Singh has served the country as the prime minister for eight years, is he competent enough to lead? Dr. Manmohan Singh, whether in UPA-I or UPA-II, looks the same when seen through the lens of politics and leadership. I wonder what would have been the condition of the UPA without Pranab Mukherjee, especially during its difficult times. Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee is more than just a cabinet minister. It will not be inappropriate to say that Pranab Mukherjee is the unofficial executive head of India (of course, with the blessings of Sonia Gandhi and her advisory council).

Take the recent issues like Army chief’s age row, irregularities in defence forces or Koondankulam nuclear plant; the ineptitude is all pervasive. In addition to this, the delinking of talks (with neighbouring country Pakistan) from terror reflected the tactlessness of the UPA Government and its head in particular.

The prime minister is the head of the government of a country. He is supposed to lead the nation and address the issues faced by the people. India is governed by a prime minister who has barely put forth his views on important problems in the public domain. He is termed as the ‘silent PM’ of India because of his silence on the problems, whether complex or not so complex, faced by our country.

This famous Kashmiri adage seems apt for Dr. Manmohan Singh who finds silence a key to evade any sort of uncomfortable questions ─ Tshop Chaiy Rop Sinz, Karkhai Te Son Sinz (The silence is as good as silver, if practised it is golden).

(Originally published in Rediff)

Written by Varad Sharma

April 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Hum Kya Chahte ─ Azadi

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Hum Kya Chahte, Azadi. You must have heard this slogan if you’ve been tracking the ‘happenings’ in Kashmir. This slogan is often chanted during the so-called protests against the Indian state. Even after two decades of insurgency and conflict, the Azadi slogan not only dominates the sloganeering during the protests, but seems to be the favourite of those involved in the separatist movement. Chanted as if it is a holy verse.

Azadi is an Urdu word for ‘freedom’. In the context of the Kashmir conflict, the general understanding of the term Azadi is that of ‘independence’. In other words, it underlines the demand for the secession of Jammu & Kashmir State from India.

But a closer look at Azadi would furnish different details altogether. Recently, a survey was conducted by The Institute for Research on India and International Studies (IRIIS) which revealed diverse definitions of Azadi. The Jammu and Kashmir division of the Ministry of Home Affairs had commissioned The IRIIS to carry out ‘A Perception Survey of Media Impact on the Kashmiri Youth’ in June 2010. The survey was finally administered in January 2011 in six districts of the Kashmir Valley ─ Srinagar and Budgam in Central Kashmir; Anantnag and Kulgam in South Kashmir; Baramulla and Bandipora in North Kashmir.

As per the IRIIS findings, 54% of youth identified Azadi as the preferred final status of Jammu and Kashmir. That implies 46% don’t believe in Azadi. It is worthy to note that the definition of Azadi varies among even these 54%. For 56% of these 54% youth, Azadi signified the rights of Kashmiris’ ─ political rights, civil rights and economic rights. Those whose idea of Azadi is based on a ‘territorially separate Kashmir’ include 8% who see a sovereign and independent state of Jammu & Kashmir, 11% who want ‘freedom from India’ and 10% who said Azadi means a separate Kashmir without giving any further details.

Also, 67% of Kashmiri youth under the age group of 15-35 years, rank ‘corruption’ among the three top most problems, 48% put ‘human rights violation’ (by security forces) at the top, and 34% gave top priority to ‘employment’ and 28% to ‘education’.

A few surveys conducted in the past have also presented diverse results. In 2009, Chatham House, a London-based international affairs think-tank, conducted an opinion poll on both sides of the Line of Control which separates the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In its findings, only 2% of people in J&K favoured the integration of Kashmir in its entirety with Pakistan. Also, 43% in J&K voted for the ‘independence’ of the Kashmir in its entirety, implying 57% were not in favour of ‘independence’. It is important to note that 87% of people in J&K considered unemployment as the most significant problem followed by 68% for corruption, 45% for poor economic development, and 43% for human rights abuses. By the way, this is in spite of the Chatham House opinion poll being commissioned by Dr Saif al Islam al Qadhafi, son of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi who advocated ‘independence’ for Kashmir.

In 2002, another survey by MORI, an independent market research company based in UK, revealed in its findings that on the issue of citizenship, overall, 61% said they felt they would be better off politically and economically as an Indian citizen and only 6% as a Pakistani citizen, but 33% said they did not know. Again, economic development of the region (job opportunities and reduction of poverty) was proposed by 93% of respondents.

Azadi in the Jammu and Kashmir context has been reduced to just a rhetoric. Those who beat the drum of Azadi do so because of their own interests. The Hurriyat Conference, which is an amalgam of several secessionist organizations, is on the forefront of championing the so-called Kashmir cause of Azadi. It is also commonly felt that the separatists get political and economic support for this ‘cause’ from their sympathisers across border and in other foreign countries.

Time and again, there have been reports about the funding of militancy and Azadi protests through the Hawala network in J&K state. So it becomes quite natural for these separatists to beat the Azadi drum. Recently, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik was charged by a local Jammu court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) for allegedly raising funds to strengthen militancy in the state. Yasin Malik was charged with allegedly deputing two people to collect $100,000 from Kathmandu in 2002. The money was recovered from them after they were arrested later that year.

The reason for quoting these surveys is that they each contradict the claims of the champions of separatism who portray that Azadi is the demand of every Kashmiri. It is certainly not the case. These separatist elements want to impose the Azadi narrative owing to obvious reasons. One can infer from the surveys that economic development including unemployment and reduction in poverty tops the issues faced by the people of state. The Economic Survey of 2011-2012 has revealed that 21.63% population of J&K is falling under the BPL category which includes 26.14% rural population and 7.96% urban. A total of 24.21 lakh people are living under the BPL category which includes 22 lakh people in rural areas. Besides, around 6 lakh unemployed youth are registered with J&K state’s employment department. It is necessary to pay attention to the problems which have been time and again cited by the people such as corruption and unemployment. Delivering justice to the people affected by the conflict is equally important.

Moreover, few realise that Kashmir comprises only 15% of the area of Jammu and Kashmir State (Indian control) and a mere 7% of undivided Jammu and Kashmir. It is amusing and irrational to witness people talking about the secession of Kashmir despite not an iota of feasibility. J&K state needs political, social & economic empowerment. Kashmir needs freedom from separatist and fanatic elements. It is high time we bury the myth of Azadi.

(Originally published in Newslaundry)

Written by Varad Sharma

March 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Memories of a home beyond that tunnel

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Last month, I visited my home-state Jammu and Kashmir to see my folks. Accompanied by my father, I was meeting an uncle of mine after some two years. In the plethora of things we talked about we also spoke about ‘home’. It is quite natural for the exiles to talk, discuss and share views about the ‘home’. Not a long time back we lived together in one big house in Kashmir. When the family grew larger, my uncle and his family moved out and built another house behind ours. It was in a village in Anantnag district in the Valley.

Meanwhile, my aunt served us pinkish salty tea — Scheer Chai. My uncle and my father were conversing about the good old times — the life, the neighbours, the alleys, the school, the college, the fields and the fishing in Lidder. Listening to them I realised that I have missed the life in Kashmir.

My uncle had been to Kashmir some months ago and had taken a few photographs of our houses — the ones we used to live in. We observed it very keenly for some minutes. Silence followed. Thanks to my uncle we saw our ‘home’ after 22 long years.

The silence was broken by a flurry of questions — What about the land we owned, the alleys, the fields, the stream from Lidder. We were told that some land seems to be encroached upon.

Even after leaving my uncle’s place my mind was buzzing with thoughts and questions about the life in Kashmir, the militancy, the exodus of Pandits, etc. It was the home where I celebrated my first Diwali with young Muslim brethren. That was the home where my forefathers lived.

A little over two decades have taken a toll on our house. All the wood that was part of the house has disappeared and today it looks like a dilapidated three-storey structure. After pondering over the picture, I thought — had our neighbours been so caring and loving, they would have maintained the sanctity of my home.

From my father’s expressions I could gather that the photograph brought back memories. After all, an exile possesses only memories; memories of home, homeland, and the life in homeland. We are left with memories of a home that lies beyond that tunnel. As much as we yearn for our home, the home would also be longing for its people. It was the same home where elders of my family once lived. That home stood witness to the good and not so good events in our family. That photograph was more than a photograph — a story is implicit in it.

Likewise, there are thousands of such houses — abandoned, looted, encroached, ruined — in the Valley and its people living in exile.

We were saddened to see that picture but there will be time when the house will again be full of its people to whom it belongs; there will be time when the place will again be bustling. It was once home and it will be home one day.

There is hardly a day without conversation about the ‘home’. Kashmiri poet Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ fills one with hope of return — Mei Chham Aash Pagahuch, Pagaah Sholi Duniyah (I have hope for tomorrow, tomorrow the world will glisten).

(Originally published in The New Indian Express)

Written by Varad Sharma

March 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Black and White Songs

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Yesterday evening, some very old bollywood songs came to my mind. The alacrity to hear the songs was so much that I started searching for the same in my collections but couldn’t find them except the two. Then internet came to my rescue and I found almost all.

I was surprised, in fact bewildered, at my eagerness to hear the old bollywood numbers. I do hear old songs occasionally but not with much alacrity and interest. Alacrity to hear the old tracks was the reason of my bewilderment.

When I was too young, I used to term these old bollywood songs as ‘black and white’ songs. May be because I had an impression that all old bollywood movies are black and white, so old bollywood songs would be ‘black and white’ as well. Whenever my father listened to the ‘black and white’ songs in my presence, I used to remark childishly that these songs are hardly impressive. My father always responded, “You are too young to understand these melodious and meaningful songs. Also, today’s bollywood songs are full of shor-sharaaba.” What he meant by shor-sharaaba was that nowadays bollywood tracks are more westernized and have loud music. Besides, my father listens to only a few ‘new bollywood’ songs especially of AR Rahman and Kailash Kher.

With the bewilderment, I played the first ‘black and white’ song on my system – “Wahan Kaun Hai Tera, Musafir Jaayega Kahan” and repeated it several times. The song is from Dev Anand’s classic movie ‘Guide’, music is by SD Burman and lyrics are by Shailendra. Imagine the ‘Bangla effect’ to the song as it is sung by SD Burman. The song ought to be magical. The song is about an explorer of the world (i.e. human being) – “O traveller, there is no one there waiting for you. Better take a breather here, you may not get this cool shade again.”

The second ‘black and white’ song which I played was – “Jalte Hain Jiske Liye, Teri Aankhon Ke Diye”. The song is beautifully sung by Talat Mahmood and lyrics are by Majrooh Sultanpuri. The song depicts the love for the beloved in a very poignant manner.

Then, I played the third ‘black and white’ song – “Aye Mere Pyaare Watan, Tujh Pe Dil Qurbaan”.  In my opinion, this song is the best patriotic song ever made. Sublimely sung by Manna Dey, the song invokes patriotism in the listener. The song reflects the longing for the homeland particularly the line – “Chod Kar Teri Zameen Ko Door Aa Pahunche Hai Hum, Fir Bhi Yahi Tamanna Tere Zarron Ki Kasam. Hum Jahan Paida Hue Uss Jagah Hi Nikle Dum, Tujh Pe Dil Qurbaan.”

Some others songs of ‘black and white’ playlist were – “Tu Kahan Yeh Bata Iss Nashili Raat Mein”, “Ya Dil Ki Suno Duniya Waalon”, “Beqarar Karke Hume Yoon Na Jaaye”, “Mein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya”, Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hai” etc.

The ‘black and white’ songs reflected as well as conveyed thoughts/feelings to the listener. Those ‘black and white’ songs had implicit meanings and lyrics were touching. Moreover, there are ‘black and white’ songs for every emotion – love/romance, break-ups, fun/joy, patriotism/nationalism, devotion, dedication etc.

These days, unfortunately, most of the ‘new bollywood’ songs lack such moving quality. They don’t make such songs nowadays. As we say old is gold, ‘black and white’ songs are certainly gold. Such songs are classic. ‘Black and white’ songs tranquilize your mind as well as body. You find solace in such songs.

I told my father that I concur with him over the ‘black and white’ songs. Smiling at me, my father said, “See, I had told you long ago. You were too young to understand at that time.” In order not to let the ‘black and white’ debate go in my father’s favour, I said (with the knowledge that even this argument of mine is not valid), “There is a generation gap between you and me. So our liking of songs can be different.” By the way, I realized very soon that all ‘black and white’ songs are not black and white but coloured also.

(Originally published in Daily Excelsior)

Written by Varad Sharma

February 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The Kashmiri Pandit Question

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Lord Rama was in exile for 14 years on behest of his father King Dashrath but his followers hailing from Kashmir continue to remain in forced exile from more than two decades. On January 19, 2012 Kashmiri Pandits complete 22 years in exile.

After India’s partition, the largest internal displacement of around four to five lakh people (marked with ethnic cleansing and genocide) was of Kashmiri Pandits which began from January 19, 1990. On that day, Kashmir lost its soul.

The exiled Pandits still remember the gory night when they left for an unknown land without their belongings. They still remember the horror of the decade during which they were forced to leave their home. Terror and horror ruled the streets of the valley in 1990s.

Twenty-two years have passed, but the questions about exodus, killings, justice, human rights and return of Kashmiri Hindus remain unanswered. I hear muted responses to the ‘Pandit Question’ from both the state and Central governments. Even human rights organisations have not raised their voice on the issue. There hasn’t been a single investigation into the reasons for the exodus and killings of Kashmiri Pandits. There has not been any conviction for the murders and rapes of Pandits except that of human rights activist late Hriday Nath Wanchoo. The ‘Pandit Question’ doesn’t seem to dent the conscious of our politicians and their ilk.

In these years, both the state and Central governments have come up with several proposals for return and rehabilitation of the exiled Pandits though not concrete ones. Had they done that, the return would have happened. Many a time, linking return with economic packages. Minister of State for Home, Jitendra Singh informed Lok Sabha on 13th December, 2011 that even after the government had announced an Rs 1,618.40 crore package for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants to the Valley in 2008 but so far no family has returned.

Did Pandits leave the valley due to economic/financial reasons? Certainly not; they left due to attack on their existence from terrorists. Economics cannot define the return of Pandits. Further, there are several reports of encroachments of Pandit properties and their religious shrines by some miscreants. Many temples were broken when the insurgency was at its peak. Barring a few, the temples are in a dilapidated condition. There is not any strong move from the J&K state government till date to deal with this menace. Even the Kashmiri Hindu Shrines Bill is pending in the J&K assembly for years.

Besides, lies and false notions have been created regarding the exodus of Pandits from the Kashmir valley. The ‘myth factory’ still works in propagating such myths in and outside the Valley. I still get to hear that Jagmohan, then the governor of J&K State, is responsible for the exodus of Pandits. No, it wasn’t Jagmohan but Islamist fanaticism and terrorism covertly supported by Pakistani militant groups, which resulted in displacement of Pandits.

Armed insurgency was a movement to secede the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India and Pandits were seen as living symbols representing India in Kashmir. It is worthy to mention that there were some good neighbours (belonging to the majority of Kashmir) of Pandits who advised them to leave as they also knew that the Valley wasn’t safe for Pandits anymore.

Kashmiri Pandits will return when the conditions are conducive. The prime concern is safety (both in physical as well psychological sense). When the fanatics roam freely on the streets of the Valley, the return of Kashmiri Pandits is not possible. Their “return” means returning to the same home where they lived before the exodus. It should be done with dignity and honour. The return is feasible when issues concerning the entire community are addressed.

It is likely to happen only when there is full guarantee of no foul play with the community. Remember, the Kashmiri Pandit is as much a stakeholder in the larger debate of Jammu and Kashmir as anyone else. As J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his government completed three years in office on January 5 this year, Kashmiri Pandits will enter in 23rd year in exile on January 19.

Maybe the reason behind not answering the ‘Pandit Question’ is implicit in Sudarshan Faakir’s famous couplet – “Mera Qaatil Hi Mera Munsif Hai, Kya Mere Haq Mei Faisla Dega?”

(Originally published in MiD Day)

Written by Varad Sharma

January 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm

J&K Interlocutors: They came, they saw, they went

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Last summer, Kashmir was fuming with protests, arson, shutdown and killings. Many people came on streets protesting against the government/state and demanding ‘Azaadi’ (secession from India). The protest was supposed to be for alleged human rights violation but it turned out to be protest for complete demilitarization and independence of Jammu and Kashmir State. Stone-pelting was on peak, curfews were defied and violence ruled the streets. It was Kashmir’s Intifada. Instead of following state government’s rules and orders, protest calendars were followed. Protest calendars were prepared by instigators of violence, the separatists. People were venting the so called ‘anger and dissent’ on streets. Summer Unrest of 2010, as it is called, resulted in loss of more than 100 civilian lives and hundreds of security forces were critically injured. As per Indian intelligence agencies, protests and demonstrations were sponsored by Pakistani agencies. Moreover, there were attempts to ‘redefine’ relation of India with Jammu and Kashmir. The attempts continue even today.

In order to defuse the tension, all-party parliamentary delegation of 39 members visited Jammu and Kashmir on September 20-21, 2010. The delegation included P Chidambaram, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Sitaram Yechury, Gurudas Gupta and Ram Vilas Paswan. All-party delegation met people of different shades of opinion. Even some members of the delegation met separatists. On October 13, 2010, Government of India in consultation with J&K State Government appointed three interlocutors – Dileep Padgaonkar (veteran journalist), MM Ansari (former Information Commissioner) and Prof. Radha Kumar (noted academician) – to hold talks with all shades of opinions as part of effort to bring peace in turmoil-hit state.

The interlocutors travelled to all 22 districts of J&K State, interacted with nearly 700 delegations to hear different views and solutions to J&K imbroglio. Also, there were three roundtable conferences of activists and scholars with interlocutors. Interlocutors held several meets with almost all the stake-holders of state to listen to their problems. People apprised them of their social and political issues.

In between the exercise by interlocutors, nailing of ISI agent Ghulam Nabi Fai in United States by FBI in July this year made an imprint on integrity and credibility of the two interlocutors – Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar. Dileep Padgaonkar had attended one of the “international conferences” on Kashmir organized by Kashmir American Council (KAC) headed by Fai. On the other hand, Radha Kumar had attended one such type of seminar organized by ‘Kashmir Centre’ in Brussels headed by Abdul Majeed Tramboo. Both the conferences were allegedly funded by ISI. The two interlocutors received flak from several sections for attending these anti-India seminars. Even their colleague MM Ansari criticized both for attending such seminar and went on to say that if he had been in the same position, he would have “quit immediately”.

Dileep Padgaonkar in his clarification said that he didn’t remember the year of the seminar but he “quite liked the idea of meeting and didn’t suspect any hanky-panky.” Padgaonkar also said that he was unaware of Fai’s connections. Prof. Radha Kumar clarified that government was in loop during her seminar trip. Even the J&K interlocutors’ panel was on brink of breakage when Radha Kumar offered to resign though the resignation was not accepted by the government.

Anyhow the working relationship seemed to remain unaffected. On October 12, 2011, the three interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir submitted their report to Home Minister P Chidambaram, a year after appointment for drawing roadmap to peace in the state. In response to a RTI query, it was disclosed that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spent nearly Rs. 70 lakh as remuneration and other expenses on the three interlocutors.

The atmosphere for resolving socio-political issues pertaining to the state of Jammu and Kashmir was created with interlocutors exercise and that mood continues. People expect the exercise by interlocutors will yield some results. It’s been more than two months since the submission of report but there hasn’t been a word on it. After the submission of report, there is kind of lull on part of government regarding the issues of Jammu and Kashmir. The valley is relatively peaceful this year. It is imperative that government should grab the opportunity of ‘relative peace’ and start the process of addressing the issues of the entire state keeping in view the opinions/aspirations of all the stake holders. The report hasn’t been made public yet. The interlocutors’ report should be brought into public domain so that the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh know what the interlocutors are recommending (and/or imposing) on them.

Now that the Jammu and Kashmir Interlocutors came to the state, saw the problems of people and went by submitting their report on a year-long exercise, it is time for Government of India to be serious over the intricate matters concerning Jammu and Kashmir.

(Originally published in Rediff)

Written by Varad Sharma

December 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm