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Hybrids and hypocrites

April 15, 2004

The Hurriyat has shown its true colours --- yet again. Its call to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to boycott the coming Lok Sabha polls because 'the election process is no solution to the Kashmir problem' is one in a long series of deeds which reveal its disdain for democracy and all else that India stands for.

The Hurriyat is not only a hybrid of several political outfits, but is also a mirror of hypocrisy -- pretending to be an Indian conglomerate when its heart and soul are either self-centred or yearning to be with Pakistan or both.

Nothing but nothing that the Hurriyat has done all these years has indicated an iota of support for the position on J&K adopted by India, the very country that has treated J&K state like an over-pampered child, meting its needs by straining itself at the seams, if needed, and never mind if the pampered child hasn't the kindergarten courtesy of saying 'Thank you' in return.

Has the Hurriyat, for instance, ever called for a Srinagar bandh over the plight of some 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits who, for ethnic reasons, were hounded out of the Kashmir valley to be left as refugees and destitutes in their own land? Did the Hurriyat call for a valley bandh when the J&K assembly was attacked by terrorists let loose by Pakistan? For that matter, has the Hurriyat ever led a march to the Pakistan embassy protesting against that country's proven terrorism in J&K?

Instead, the Hurriyat has had high tea on the sly with Pervez Musharraf in Delhi; instead, the Hurriyat dared to threaten boycott of the second meeting with India's deputy prime minister until the alleged human rights violations in J&K by the Indian Army had come to a halt.

Ah, that much-touted business of human rights, the subject that has been abused and over-abused by so many partisan parties like some Indian NGOs chasing Narendra Modi and the Bush administration cloaking the prisons in Guantenamo Bay. Did the Hurriyat or anyone else even speak a word on the human rights of the 22 army men and their families killed by terrorists who attacked the military camp at Kaluchak near Jammu in May 2002? Did they utter 'human rights' when another similar attack on an army camp in the outskirts of Jammu killed 12 of our soldiers in June 2003? Did the Hurriyat speak about human rights when yet another terrorist attack on the Indian army camp at Tanda, 40 kms north of Jammu, killed one brigadier and seven jawans in July 2003?

In any case, the Hurriyat or anyone else speaking of protecting human rights in J&K is a joke. Why? Because after the Indian Parliament enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the J&K state government did not want that law to apply to the subjects mentioned in the State List of the Seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution. This State List contains subjects on which legislation can be made exclusively by the federal states of India. Included in those subjects are matters of 'police,' 'prisons and persons detained therein,' 'water supplies,' 'right in or over land' and 'relief of the disabled and unemployable.' Hence, theoretical violation of human rights pertaining to those subjects in J&K is beyond the pale of the national law and of the National Human Rights Commission established under that law. That is why it appears logical that the NHRC hasn't looked into the massive abuse of human rights that has occurred in respect of over 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were hounded out of the valley by local and infiltrating Muslim zealots some 15 years ago and are now withering away in refugee tents, without the property and means of livelihood they earlier had.

It's not the Hurriyat alone that has disdain, even contempt, for India's stand on J&K. The Peoples Democratic Party of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and the National Conference couldn't care a damn for the Union of India as long as they keep on getting the attention showered on a prima donna.

Ever since the Mufti became the state's chief minister, he has talked to Kashmiris only about his healing touch policy, not about India's legal, moral and constitutional right to the whole of J&K. He has talked of releasing prisoners, of disbanding the Special Protection Group police and of more funds from Delhi, but not of what Kashmiris owe to India. He has pleaded to New Delhi for talks with Pakistan, with the separatists, and, the other day, with the terrorist body, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, as well. But he hasn't, one recalls, advocated parleys with Kashmiri Pandits, and with the organisations in Jammu and Ladakh provinces which want to scrap Article 370 so as to attain full territorial and emotional integration with the rest of India because they feel trapped and trampled by the never-ending rule of the despots from the Kashmir valley.

Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference party was the first of them. Snuffing out the aspirations of people in Jammu and Ladakh provinces in a systematic manner, he was the one who seriously thought for a while of shifting loyalty to Pakistan even six years after J&K had legally acceded to India. The man's son, Farooq, was also for a while on the side of those who wanted to be separated from India. It was during his tenure as the state's chief minister that terrorism took roots in the state and the Kashmiri Pandits took flight from the valley.

Now it's the son's son, Omar Abdullah, who lords over the National Conference, and talks as though J&K belongs to Kashmiris alone and not to India that has sustained the state all these years with the tears, toil, sweat and blood of the people from other parts of the country.

In its 18-page manifesto for the current Lok Sabha polls, the line of the National Conference is not for a greater rapport with the rest of India but a more pronounced cleavage that is contained in the audacious demand for 'autonomy in its pristine form,' going back to 1952 -- five years before the J&K Constitution proclaimed that 'The State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.'

How utterly anachronistic and autocratic the National Conference is can be seen in its manifesto's promise to keep alive the discrimination, first created in April 1927, between two groups of J&K's citizens -- those who are legally endowed with special rights as 'permanent residents' and the others who, though Indian citizens, are denied such fundamental rights as getting a government job, securing a state scholarship and acquiring property.

The original sinner of J&K's present mess is Jawaharlal Nehru of the Indian National Congress. Right from 1947 till his death in 1964, Nehru was so soft towards Sheikh Abdullah that the latter's National Conference, based in the Kashmir valley, has now come to believe that the valley is all that matters to India and the world, that Jammu and Ladakh provinces are just appendages, and, most, importantly, that the Government of India as well as the rest of India can be blackmailed with the veiled threat of its Muslim majority population aligning with Pakistan. Aided and abetted by all those hypocrites who have interpreted 'secularism' as appeasement of Muslims at all cost, this feeling of being so powerful as to make the Indian nation bend at will has, one suspects, spread to the entire population of the Kashmir valley.

As a result, Article 370, meant as a temporary provision since its inception in 1950, has become a de facto permanent provision, continuing to give such unprecedented autonomy and exclusivity to one solitary state that it can decline to accept the application of the CBI rules, the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Corruption Act and other such legislations of the nation's Parliament.

The Vajpayee-led NDA government has further fattened this massive ego of J&K rulers. In the last five years of its reign, the NDA has treated the state with a brand new pair of kid gloves. Farooq Abdullah's golf and other antics were not found reason to hold up financial bounties. His son was made a minister of state and when, after his globe trotting was over, he found a reason to fling his resignation in Vajpayee's face. The prime minister simply ate crow, silently.

So on and so forth with one sop after another to J&K until today when not only the abrogation of Article 370 has been forgotten by the BJP as part of its agenda but has also been abjured in its Vision Document, 2004. Why, the prime minister, who is otherwise so fond of seeking debates on issues, has not dared in the last five years to ask for a nation-wide discussion on why Article 370 must go for the sake of a more integrated India. This failure of the NDA to take on J&K's ego head on and simultaneously letting Jammu and Ladakh drift along with the Kashmiri Pandits must rank as one of its significant failures.

Make no mistake. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is never going to be a truly emotional and ethnic part of India until the Kashmir valley's ego is first burst and its back broken. That's the only way to treat blackmailing hybrids and hypocrites.


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Arvind Lavakare

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