October 16, 2001


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Arvind Lavakare

Stop blinking your eyes

Why, even during its current war on terrorism, does the USA act almost deaf and dumb to our 54-year suffering over Pakistan's thousand cuts in Jammu & Kashmir? If one reason is America's apprehension of India's superpower potential that will forever remain bottled as long as we carry that Kashmir cross, another is that no national government of ours has cared to whip up the unified passion in every nook and corner of the land to demand that Pakistan be dealt a drubbing so bad as to make it quit interfering in J&K once and for all.

From Nehru down to Vajpayee, our governments in New Delhi have acted as though the J&K issue is a concern not of the Indian people at large, but only of the prime minister, foreign minister and defence minister, with the home minister coming in occasionally as a guest. One doesn't quite recall Nehru informing the Keralites and the Kannadigas about our watertight case on J&K; one doesn't remember Vajpayee's voice move Lucknow's lanes to rage over the property Pakistan looted from us in 1947. None of those two, nor a Gandhi or Gujral or Gowda, has ever announced to the nation that, according to section 3 of the state's own constitution, "Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India".

This utter failure of mass communication on J&K was tucked away in two sentences in chapter 14, para 24 of the Kargil Review Committee report. It said, "There is no single, comprehensive official publication containing details of the Kashmir question, the UN resolutions and why they could not be implemented, as well as of more recent developments in Kashmir through the years of war, terrorism and ethnic cleansing together with Pakistan's involvement in all these. The government must review its information policy and develop structures and processes to keep the public informed on vital national issues."

Almost two years after that indictment, there is no sign at all of the kind of publication the Kargil reviewers cried for. Clearly, none in authority has read the Kargil Committee report in full; alternatively, none in authority has found that recommendation worthwhile to implement; the third possibility is that Delhi itself has neither comprehended nor been convinced about the country's case on the J&K question.

An outrageous instance of this last was Vajpayee's announcement in his Independence Day address this year assuring free and fair elections to the coming J&K assembly -- a thoughtless announcement that concealed more than it revealed.

Whatever be the reason for the deathly government silence on a full-fledged dossier on J&K, the outcome is the kind of two STAR TV shows over the other weekend. In one, the debate's theme was whether terrorists in America could be dubbed freedom fighters elsewhere -- so clearly an invitation to lambaste Pervez Musharraf's perverse view of what's happening in J&K. The second programme was meant to evoke people's response to the suicide bomb attack of October 1 in the J&K assembly complex. Both programmes ended with India, our country, having egg on its face. And only because one or more participant did not know all the facts.

Take the show in which were featured I D Swami, our minister of state for home, and Mehbooba Mufti, a senior office-bearer of the People's Democratic Front of J&K. As the first to be given the stipulated three minutes to make his opening statement on whether terrorists in one country can be deemed "freedom fighters" in another, Swami's reply should have been a brusque: "Ridiculous, because what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." Instead, Swami started off by saying that terrorists are not 'jihadis' and repeatedly invoked that concept. Clearly, our minister had not grasped the theme of the debate and had no knowledge that jihad is a struggle --- against anything. How then can he argue the country's cause on J&K or on terrorism in J&K?

Then there was Mufti. Her thrust was that the trouble in J&K was all because of its people's alienation. The people there were denied democratic rights all along, she said. Even the elections to the J&K Constituent Assembly were rigged, she said. She added that the Constituent Assembly was formed to ratify J&K's accession to India.

Swami's reaction was that since Prime Minister Vajpayee himself had now promised free and fair elections in J&K, all political outfits there should abjure violence and take part in the polls.

The TV debate's compere and the panel of three senior journalists didn't utter a word of contradiction on the above altercation. Their combined silence showed ignorance of the following historical truths --

Come now to the second TV show titled 'We The People'. A female assistant professor in Kashmir University believed that the recent bomb blast on October 1 was the deed of the Government of India itself!! She repeatedly broke into short outbursts against Delhi, accusing it of constantly terrorising the Kashmiris and averred that the youth of the state had taken to the gun because of that. It was a harangue that warranted an immediate charge of sedition. But it went unchallenged by the compere, Barkha Dutt, as well as by all in the audience except a solitary person.

Although an Opposition member of the present legislature, he spiritedly defended the national security forces and listed the developmental achievements of the ruling government. Soon, however, he digressed into how the root of the present terrorism in J&K was in the way Sheikh Abdullah, whom he dubbed "the great secularist", was jailed and how the state's autonomy had been eroded by Delhi over the years.

This diversion too went uncontested because, once again, neither the compere nor the "expert" panel nor the audience knew the whole truth about Sheikh Abdullah's incarceration.

That truth, as stated by Dr Anand in his book comprises the following facts:

  • Though the 1952 Delhi Agreement with Sheikh Abdullah's J&K government provided several concessions, including a separate flag, for giving J&K maximum autonomy while expecting the state to discharge its obligations as a unit of the federation of India, the implementation of its hard core was not forthcoming. This aroused suspicion in the minds of the public. There was a serious rift in Abdullah's Cabinet itself.

    The differences reached a peak when Abdullah started advocating secession that would make J&K an independent state. Abdullah was accused both by his colleagues in the Cabinet and the public outside of trying to create a state for himself. Taking cognisance of all this, the Sadar-i-Riyasat dismissed Abdullah from his post of prime minister of J&K and had him detained on August 9, 1953, under the State Preventive Detention Act. He was released in January 1958, but rearrested in April that year for making inflammatory speeches.

  • In the Kashmir Conspiracy Case, Sheikh Abdullah and 25 others, 10 of whom were in hiding in Pakistan, were charged with conspiracy to "overawe by force and show of force the duly constituted government of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the object of overthrowing it and facilitating annexation of the State's territory by Pakistan". The final charges were brought against Abdullah and the others on August 31, 1962. The case was then committed for trial by the special sessions court, Jammu. The first prosecution witness gave his evidence on September 19. The entire case came to an abrupt end. Sheikh Abdullah and the other arrested persons were released. Everybody knows that it was Nehru who brought about that release.
It was during the years that Sheikh Abdullah was in jail that the state's Constituent Assembly enacted a constitution that made J&K the most autonomous state in the Union of India. It retains that status even today. And remember that whatever parliamentary laws and provisions of the Indian Constitution were made applicable to it from May 1950 have had, as required under Article 370, either the prior concurrence of the state government or were made in consultation with the latter -- even after Sheikh Abdullah returned to power in February 1975. Where then is the question of his imprisonment and the alleged erosion of autonomy being the causes of terrorism in J&K since 1989?

To all who are truly honest and have done their homework, the conclusions would be clear that --

  • The terrorists trained by Pakistan (with American aid) to oust the invading Soviets from Afghanistan became jobless after that mission ended in 1988-89 and were therefore released into J&K for yet another jihad -- this time against the kafir Indians.
  • Because successive state governments' overall performance has been pathetic, terrorism in J&K has continued and proliferated from that direct or indirect abetment.
  • The Government of India has used kid gloves in dealing with the state government.
  • Delhi is still living the legacy of the Mahatma's ahimsa in dealing with terrorists and Pakistan.
  • Delhi has failed miserably in effectively communicating the nation's case on J&K both internally and externally.
All of the above can be set right soon enough if only Vajpayee uses verve and virility, instead of perpetually blinking his eyes, jerking his head and raising his hand.

Arvind Lavakare

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