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Updated: June 4, 2012 01:39 IST

Farce in three parts

    Amitabh Mattoo
    Happymon Jacob
Comment (12)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

The interlocutors' report on Jammu and Kashmir contributes little towards building a genuine reconciliation in the State

On May 24, 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) made public the report submitted to it by the interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir appointed in the midst of the 2010 uprising in the Kashmir valley. The group of three interlocutors has produced a report that is rich in detail, based on extensive fieldwork, elegantly written, and apparently well meaning. However, we remain deeply sceptical that the public dissemination of such a report — or a public debate on the findings/recommendations — will help to build sustainable peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Not surprisingly, there are virtually no takers for the report among the stakeholders in the State and even the MHA has distanced itself from the work that it commissioned from the interlocutors, by adding the following caveat: “The view expressed in the Report are the views of the interlocutors. The Government has not yet taken any decisions on the Report.” In fact, we believe that the release of the report — instead of doing any good — will prove to be counter-productive and could further strengthen the sentiment in the State that the government of India is not serious about a resolution of the problems of Jammu and Kashmir. We have reason to believe that the recent ineptitude in dealing with the State stems from the decision that the Prime Minister would discontinue to have direct oversight over the affairs of the State. Contrast the “Naya” Jammu and Kashmir vision articulated by the Prime Minister in 2005 with the obtuse legalese articulated, ad nauseum, by the Home Ministry.

We have fundamental problems with almost all aspects of what has turned out to be a farcical exercise: beginning with the appointment of non-political interlocutors; and the structure and content of the report they have produced.

Ever since September 25, 2010, when the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) finalised the eight point political initiative on Jammu and Kashmir, at the height of the crises in Kashmir when over 100 people had been killed, expectations were raised that a seasoned politician would lead the panel of interlocutors. This perception was built on the successful all-party delegation that had visited the State. The announcement of a three-member non-political team provoked widespread anger and hostility and even invited ridicule. Although the three members were undoubtedly professionals, who had excelled in their respective fields, the impression was created that the panel had been finalised without due diligence or a serious application of mind by those who are quite oblivious to the complexities of the problems in the State and were insensitive to the sentiment of the people living there.

On symbolism and substance

In J&K, symbolism is almost as important as substance. Consider the history of the last half a century. Almost every political crisis and political agreement has been possible through initiatives led by heavyweights and backed by the political leadership of the country.

It was Lal Bahadur Shastri who was deputed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963 to help defuse the crisis following the theft of the Prophet's relic. While the chief of the Intelligence Bureau, B.N. Mullik, also played a vital role and enjoyed Nehru's confidence, it was Shastri who was the public face of the initiative.

The three parts

The 1974 Kashmir accord was possible because of the confidence that G. Parthasarthi enjoyed of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Similarly, in the 1990s, interlocutors like Rajesh Pilot and George Fernandes were able to make a difference because they created a perception that they were leading a serious political initiative backed by the highest political authority in the land. Indeed even the mandate of the panel of interlocutors had been defined in the most non-anodyne terms: “The three interlocutors appointed by the Govt. have been entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of Jammu & Kashmir to understand their problems and chart a course for the future.”

The Report, itself, as one of the interlocutors has suggested, needs to be read in three parts: a situation report, a set of political ideas for discussion, and a road map recommending confidence-building measures (CBM) and dialogue. Most informed observers of Jammu and Kashmir would gain little by reading the “situation report.”

The CBMs are well known and, in fact, do little to advance the work produced by the Prime Minister's Working Groups. Set up during the second round table conference of the Prime Minister in May 2006, the five working groups had a specific agenda: (i) confidence-building measures (CBMs) across segments of society in the State; (ii) strengthening relations across the Line of Control in Kashmir; (iii) economic development; (iv) ensuring good governance; and (v) Centre-State relations. Apart from the working group on Centre-State relations, all others submitted their reports in April 2007. The government had, in principle, accepted the recommendations and virtually committed itself to their implementation.

For instance, Hamid Ansari chaired the group on CBMs in the State, and it included representatives from all mainstream political parties and groups. The group's agenda included the following: measures to improve the condition of the people affected by militancy, schemes to rehabilitate all widows and orphans affected by militancy, issues relating to the relaxation of conditions which have foresworn militancy, an effective rehabilitation policy, including employment, for Kashmiri Pandit migrants, an approach considering issues relating to return of Kashmiri youth from areas controlled by Pakistan, and measures to protect and preserve the unique cultural and religious heritage of the State.

The group had recommended, among other things, a review and revocation of laws that impinge on the fundamental rights of common citizens, such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), review of cases of persons in jails and general amnesty for those under trial for minor offences, devising effective rehabilitation policies for Kashmiri Pandits and a comprehensive package to enable them to return to their original residences and for the Kashmiri youth in Pakistan-controlled areas, who may have joined militancy for monetary considerations or misguided ideological reasons, measures to strengthen the State human rights commission, and setting up of a State commission for minorities. The interlocutors' report, in no way, improves on these recommendations.

The only real value addition could have been on proposing new political ideas. And here, not only are there no novel ideas, even the proposals (borrowed mostly from other reports) are embedded in the “grand” idea of the establishment of a Constitutional Committee, to review all acts and articles of the Constitution of India extended to the State after the Delhi Agreement of 1952. In other words, the Report — on the most critical issue — passes the buck and recommends that New Delhi look for someone who is regarded in high esteem in the State and the rest of the country to do the job.

On other related issues too, the Report falls well short of expectations. The report does not give importance to delivering justice to those people wronged over the last two decades. The report also fights shy of identifying some of the other primary causes of the problems in the Jammu and Kashmir conflict: including the widespread rigging of elections, and the political high-handedness of New Delhi in J&K.

Truth and reconciliation

The report talks about the need to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). However, the report treats the whole concept of a TRC in a very casual manner. It says, for example, “even if justice cannot be provided for all victims of violence, if some of those guilty of human rights abuses, including militants, were to ask forgiveness from the families of their victims, it would provide closure for many.”

The report also suffers from a serious lack of focus. The report's recommendations address issues that trivialise the real problems of the State. For instance, by recommending inter-regional dance and theatre competitions, cultural talks about inter-regional culture, and establishing “an art gallery in Srinagar,” the interlocutors undermine the gravitas that a report of this kind should have, if it is to be taken seriously.

Finally, how does one evaluate a report of this kind? It has not managed to reach out to important segments in Kashmir, it has not produced any sort of consensus in J&K or in New Delhi, and its impact is not likely to be felt in “grand” political terms. This report, at best, is an academic exercise of little policy consequence. The fact is there exist valuable documents and reports, which have, in great detail, explained the possible trajectories for building peace in the State. It was not yet another document that we needed to resolve the multiple conflicts in the State, but a genuine political process of reconciliation between the people of the State and New Delhi. Many dissidents from the State opposed this panel of interlocutors because they believed that the group did not have a mandate to negotiate peace, and that this was merely a diversionary tactic to buy time. One-and-half-years later, they stand vindicated.

(Amitabh Mattoo and Happymon Jacob are Professors at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.)

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No matter what India does to woo Kashmiris, to integrate in their Union will ever succeed, unless, the first and foremost thing is acknowledged that it is a disputed territory and all the parties of the conflict ie Pakistan, India and most important people of Jammu and Kashmir are involved to resolve the core issue. No amount of political jugglery or doling out billions of rupees in Kashmir will lead to Indian satisfaction. This is the lesson of history. The earlier it is learnt the better

from:  M Ali
Posted on: Jun 5, 2012 at 17:52 IST

The article contends , "The report's recommendations address issues that trivialise
the real problems of the State..... by recommending inter-regional dance and
theatre.........," and the statement rides rougshod over the signicance of cultural ties.
These bondings or cultural exchanges should be viewed from the perspective of
CBMs rather than "trivialising" the importance of art and culture in mending the ties.

from:  shivnarayan rajpurohit
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 23:58 IST

What is wrong with: “even if justice cannot be provided for all victims of violence, if some of those guilty of human rights abuses, including militants, were to ask forgiveness from the families of their victims, it would provide closure for many.”?
The idea is sound. It's not perfect, but we wait forever upon perfection.
The inter-regional culture competitions, art gallery are also good ideas. They would appeal mainly to the urban middle class with time for leisure, but it is often the middle class that drives opinion-formation.
Overall, the authors seem to be of the view that only political weight matters, and any academic exercise is a waste of time.

The publicity the interlocutors' panel received (as opposed to other committees that don't see so much discussion in the popular media), and the honesty with which they approached the question despite being under public glare, shows that we are slowly beginning to see the Kashmir issue in a less jingoistic fashion, a step forward.

from:  Vishal Bondwal
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 23:01 IST

It matters not which interlocutors, whether political or not, are involved, for the fundamental question is as follows: do the inhabitants of Kashmir wish to be citizens, full and active, of the federal Union of India? If the answer is affirmative, the CBMs, redressal of grievances, etc, would make a real difference on the ground. I am sure most Indians would greatly welcome such a scenario. However, if the answer is negative we would have a serious problem, which would essentially be intractable, for J&K is an integral part of the Union of India, as are all the other states and Union Territories, but those in Kashmir may be oblivious to this fact and refuse to accept it. In my opinion the only long-term solution is to ensure the delivery of JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, and FRATERNITY to Kashmiris within the context of the Union of India.

from:  Samir Mody
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 20:16 IST

The famous three Interloctors were launched with great Expectation
and hype.Each of them had a great amount of Prime Time T.V exposure
Unfortunately the mission (as all Commissions ordered by the Govts)
members themselves were not fully aware of what they were expected
to do-other than meet a very limited sections of the people in Kashmir.The members did cut down there pontifical comments and were
low profile in their entrusted work.The team produced a wonderful
work of literature and highlighted issues which have been discussed over and over.Unfortunately after spending a lot of their valuable time and money I think we are at Square One.
The Govts of Centre and State must initiate DIRECT discussions with
various sections of Jammu and Kashmir who are in any way influetial
in forming opinions.The Cat and Mouse Game with Kashmir has been
a Terrfic drain on our resources and lives lost are lost for ever.
One third of the money spend on Army could change the face of the State

from:  Ajith Kumar
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 17:40 IST

The argument that a politician could have done the job better than any other seasoned intellectual(in this case 3 members of the interlocutor Team) is indigestible.The kashmir issue is not a new one and it has been known to our politicians for about 60 years,and still it is there where it was.
If politicians of this country are not able to decide a poverty line for past 62 years,how can we trust that they are capable of solving Kashmir issue(which is certainly more complex than defining a poverty line).
Now,coming to the cultural exchange issue,its not the panacea to solve the Kashmir issue,but certainly it can be the cornerstone,for increasing the brotherhood between Kashmiris and the others.So an important initial step like this ,certainly desrves a space of few lines in a report which aims to to chart the future course of action.

from:  Pushkar Kumar
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 15:03 IST

The article doesn't give a summary or even an objective view of the
report. It simply highlights some perceived weaknesses of the report,
without giving the reader a meaningful insight into its content. I am
surprised that an article of such little depth was published in The
Hindu.

from:  Gayathri
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 14:45 IST

The interlocutors, JNU-type intellectuals and assorted secularists should extend their mandate (conferred or self-imposed) to argue for full autonomy, self-governing powers etc. etc. to all the states of Bharath so as to make the country a true federation. If you dig deep you can find alienation, rights violation, unemployment and other parameters anywhere and everywhere. This is not peculiar only to Kashmir and the uniqueness of Kashmir is somewhat contrived to exhtort more and more funds from the Central govt.

from:  kvjayan
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 13:17 IST

Such 'interlocution' has been done earlier too and will no doubt continue in the future but the end result will invariably be zero, as always. This type of eye wash is actually meant for the gullible citizens of India. One underlying fact of life - as witnessed at Tashkent and most of all at Shimla - is, both India and Pakistan prefer to keep the Kashmir problem alive as it is much more profitable to do so than resolve it. New Delhi's criterion for this is the vote bank of Kashmir's majority community despite the fact that the Kashmiri Muslim's loyalty is ever with Pakistan and the Kashmiri Hindu's with the Valley, not with Mother India. They call themselves Kashmiris not Indians. In fact they pejoratively call us Hindustanis. Jammu and Ladakh have been deprived of development inputs since Independence with everything being showered on the Valley's disloyal residents. We have refused to sanitise the LOC thus permitting terrorists to cross over at will. Why are we protecting Mohd Afzal?

from:  JK Dutt
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 11:57 IST

Kashmir has been included in India on certain conditions through a treaty.which has been voilated. This treaty should be honour first.This is possible only in Federal Indian setup.on this line Kashmiri should be invited for talk. All powers would be invested in J&k govt. Only defence currency c0mmunication and external affairs with the centre.

from:  awadheshkumar
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 11:57 IST

"However, we remain deeply sceptical that the public dissemination of such a report - or a public debate on the findings/recommendations - will help to build sustainable peace in Jammu and Kashmir." well mr. mattoo and mr. jacob, if you both had cared to look into the recommendations made by the interlocutors from women's perspective, you would not have come to this conclusion. i see some good initiatives undertaken and some concrete suggestions made on how kashmiri women, who have long been excluded in discussions on the kashmir issue, can contribute to peace in jammu and kashmir. i may also mention here UNSCR 1325 which has been very successful in Liberia and which is being implemented by more and more nations, but not yet by India. the report underlines the role and the contributions of women in solving the kashmir conflict. it is not surprising that not one word has been mentioned in this article on this topic.

from:  asha kachru
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 10:14 IST

This article based on fallacy not completely but partially. Although,reach out to an outcome we need not only State government intervention but also Central government too.The tussle among Center, state, and with Kashmiri was seems to be never ending story, without intervention of high self-esteem interlocutors/groups.Kashmir by means a bastion of tolerance so we cant take any hasty move by allowing Kashmirs fate on the hands of frivolous political group.In reference to the Author's point, the real question sprung up is, whether the government given those interlocutors given free hand to justify themselves? Whether they have well informed beforehand about their task? Whether Government take review note of those report during time of survey?If answer is 'YES' then it is high time for Government immediate intervention.If answer is 'NO' Why not out keep is mute and they must justify them? And also it is unjust to Author platitude to doubt on ability of interlocutors self excellence.

from:  Prasannajeet Mohanty
Posted on: Jun 4, 2012 at 09:53 IST
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