Anaahat Naad

The Unmade Sound

Posts Tagged ‘Interlocutors

An exercise in futility?

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The Jammu and Kashmir interlocutors’ report – “A New Compact with the People of Jammu and Kashmir”, was made public on May 24, 2012 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This was despite the report being submitted on October 12, 2011.

The interlocutors widely travelled the state of Jammu and Kashmir, interacted with more than 700 delegations and held three round table conferences while preparing the report. In three mass meetings, thousands of citizens turned up to express their views on wide range of issues.

The J&K state government and the Central government haven’t commented on the interlocutors’ report yet. The main opposition party of India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has rejected the report altogether. So have the Kashmiri separatists even though they didn’t hold a dialogue with the interlocutors. Also, Kashmiri Pandit organisations have severely criticised the report, alleging that their demands hardly find a mention in it.

When the news of the participation of the two interlocutors in seminars organised by ISI-lobbyists Ghulam Nabi Fai and Abdul Majeed Tramboo emerged, I tried not to be cynical. But my cynicism was reinstated after going through the report.

The interlocutors’ report looks paradoxical many a time. The interlocutors haven’t directly confronted the right of the Indian state over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK). At the same time, they have termed“Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” as “Pakistan administered Kashmir”. It is a deviation from the official Indian stance on Jammu and Kashmir. It amounts to derision of the Indian Parliament which passed a unanimous resolution on February 22, 1994 declaring that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir (including POK) is and shall be an integral part of India. Moreover, the interlocutors have recommended the harmonisation of relations across the Line of Control (LoC) by setting up joint institutions. This implies giving legitimacy to the illegal control of Pakistan over parts of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which acceded to India in 1947.

While the interlocutors don’t directly recommend returning to the pre-1953 situation, they do suggest a review of all the Central acts and articles post in the 1952 Delhi Agreement by a constitutional committee. In other words, they are recommendinga return to the pre-1953 status of Jammu and Kashmir. Also, the group of interlocutors have stressed upon the resumption of dialogue between the Indian Government and Hurriyat Conference – as if the Hurriyat Conference is the legitimate representative of the people of the valley.

The report suggests that the diverse aspirations of the three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – must be addressed without giving concrete proposals. There are no proper measures suggested for redressal of grievances of the internally displaced Kashmiri Pandit refugees or West Pakistan/POK refugees. The interlocutors haven’t touched the controversial law passed by the J&K state legislature such as the ban on delimitation till 2026. Further, the suggestion of making Article 370 “special” from the present “temporary”, the gradual reduction of All India services officers in favour of State civil services and the review of Central laws post-1952 is a step towards distancing the state from the nation. The substantial point in the report is the setting up of three regional councils – one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (with Ladakh no longer a division of Kashmir).

The interlocutors’ report is far from producing any kind of consensus within the state or at the Centre. There seems to be no takers for the report. Also, it hasn’t been discussed in Parliament. While New Delhi is busy in its “Raisina Hill exercise”, Jammu and Kashmir awaits the redressal of grievances and firm resolution of the problems concerning the state.

(Originally published in Newslaundry)

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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)

Written by Varad Sharma

May 28, 2012 at 11:00 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