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|July 23, 2002||
J&K: Fact vs fiction
One recalls reading Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah making the catatonic claim that had Jammu and Kashmir been a part of Pakistan, he himself may well have become Pakistan's prime minister. That was two years ago during the special session of the J&K assembly to discuss the resolution demanding the pre-1953 autonomy status for the state.
And the other day, Abdullah, outgoing chief of the National Conference party, delivered another cathartic conclusion. 'He said Kashmir would have become part of Pakistan had the National Conference not been there.' [The Asian Age, Mumbai, July 17, 2002, page 2). That belief, strung to his litany of grievances against New Delhi, is covertly why Abdullah is once again demanding the OGL [open general licence] of the pre-1953 autonomy -- as the legitimate reward, by implication, for his party making J&K accede to India rather than to Pakistan 55 years ago.
We'll come to the autonomy business after first sorting out Abdullah's view of history of that accession.
Now it is true that the National Conference was the largest and most influential political party in J&K from the thirties onward. But it is perversion to proclaim that it was the National Conference that prevailed upon the J&K maharaja to sign the Instrument of Accession in India's favour. The facts in several historical documents are clear on that. And as narrated by P N K Bamzai [A History of Kashmir, Metropolitan Book Co Private Ltd., Delhi, 1962] it went the following way.
So, Mr Abdullah, your party had no positive role in J&K becoming a part of India. What you said the other day is fiction. Your party was not doing a favour to India by that accession. That accession was done to save skins, period. That is the fact. Never forget that fact even when, if ever, you retire and write your autobiography. Why, the brutal truth is that, frustrated no end with countless sufferings inflicted by Pakistan on his country for bearing the J&K cross all these 55 years, the lay Indian may today be secretly ruing that historic accession. If we had not agreed to it, your father, Abdullah I, would probably have been interned till interred in Pakistan; you yourself, Abdullah II, would probably have had to flee for ever to England, and your son, Abdullah III, would probably be eyeing a seat in some borough council instead of parroting your autonomy demand as J&K's chief minister in waiting today.
That demand itself hides a hypocrisy and irony that's been largely overlooked by people who naively dub the state of Jammu and Kashmir as simply 'Kashmir,' who believe the fiction that there is some ineluctable Kashmiriyat that pervades the whole state, and that the state itself deserves to be treated forever with kid gloves and candy floss. Just see the contradiction: from Delhi, the Abdullahs demand more powers for themselves and from Srinagar, as seen below, they do not devolve powers to the several regions of the state, preferring, instead, to centralise authority in their "dynastised" throne.
Like some other ugly facets of J&K, this craving for monopoly power goes back to Sheikh Abdullah. On record on this subject is Balraj Puri, a very old hand on J&K affairs going back to the fifties when he met Jawaharlal Nehru to seek an arrangement that would ensure Jammu a share of power. Puri, mind you, led a mass campaign in the mid-sixties for regional autonomy in J&K. In an edit-page article in The Hindu of August 21, 2001 and another in The Times of India, Mumbai, of May 8, 2000, Puri wrote:
Consider the above with the fact that, in his Times article referred above, Puri also revealed that 'the district boards, under the state Panchayat Raj Act, have a nominated president, 33 per cent nominated women, nominated scheduled caste and scheduled tribe members and representatives of semi-government agencies with a deputy commissioner as executive head.'
It is obvious that what the Abdullahs are demanding is autocracy, not autonomy. If their 'subjects' are alienated, it is because of autocracy and not for lack of autonomy. That is the fact vs fiction in J&K. And yet there are influential people around who are endorsing that demand for the pre-1953 status. Why, an intellectual politician, Arun Jaitley, has just been engaged to discuss it with the Abdullahs -- whatever the subsequent spin given on that assignment by our deputy prime minister.
Why do we continue to humour the Abdullah dynasty and its National Conference party? Why are we scared of them? Because all those who have governed the nation from 1947 have had no policy on J&K -- unless being scared of the Abdullahs is a policy itself.
Next week: Implications of the pre-1953 demand
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