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Updated: July 3, 2012 00:36 IST

Starting an informed debate on Kashmir

Radha Kumar
Comment (24)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

The wide range of opinions on the interlocutors’ report indicates that serious dialogue is possible and must be encouraged

Over the past month, there has been a series of responses to the Report of the Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir. When we wrote the report, it was evident to us it would please none in whole, but might please many in part. On the plus side, The Hindu, the Times of India and the Hindustan Times ran editorials calling for action on the report. It has been welcomed, in varying degrees, by the People’s Democratic Party, the State Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United), most of the minorities in the State, be they religious, linguistic or cultural, sections of civil society, migrants and refugees, women and groups such as the cross-LoC traders or Chambers of Industry.

Constructive criticism

Constructive criticism, distinguishing between contentious and acceptable elements of our report, has been voiced in editorials and opinion articles in the two major Valley papers, Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir, and the chief Jammu paper, the Excelsior.

On the negative side, there have been denunciations from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Panthers party, Panun Kashmir, and some others. To the first round of critical comments — “nothing new”, Article 370 cannot be the baseline, regional devolution is divisive, and there should be no discussion of Pakistani-held parts of the State — new criticisms have been added, focussing on the proposal for a Constitutional Committee; the talks roadmap; and our discussion of human rights.

The bulk of criticisms indicates a profound misreading of our mission, which was to dialogue with the widest possible section of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and report on what could be done. Given the extremely volatile conditions at the time, we exceeded our mandate to suggest immediate actions, and went so far as to take up grievances case by case. This part of our mission comprised day-to-day confidence building and should be set apart from the report that we submitted in October 2011, though some of it is summarised in Chapter I.

The report itself puts together the various recommendations that came out of our interlocution, across the State and with every community, group and party except the Hurriyat, the JKLF and allied groups in the Valley, who chose not to meet us and whose views are therefore not summarised in the report. To my knowledge, such an exercise has not been conducted earlier, and it opened a vital channel of direct communication between New Delhi and the people of the State.

It was not the purpose of the mission or of the report to add something “new” to the sum of knowledge on the issue. Indeed, it is both fallacious and harmful to demand newness from a group whose mandate is to revive and/or accelerate a peace process. Rather, the task for the report was to seek a framework in which the diverse aspirations of people could be accommodated, identify commonalities between the various party and community positions, and suggest action plans for the Government of India drawn from a review of prior or ongoing peace initiatives and lacunae.

We found broad agreement on CBMs, reviewed their implementation, and suggested how they could be pushed at a faster pace. Political proposals were more contentious. There were commonalities in the stated positions of the two major regional parties as well as parties such as the SP, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the JD (U), but also divergences. Some of the divergences, we felt, could be reconciled. We also found that sectoral demands — of the minorities, gender, traders, refugees and migrants, to cite but a few — could be accommodated by all, in principle. The issue was to get them into practice.

Leaving aside divergences, winning a political consensus on commonalities could not possibly be achieved in a year, especially such a volatile year, and to accuse us of failing to bring all the stakeholders on board is silly. Those that have engaged in such an endeavour for years will agree that the obstacles to consensus are formidable and to overcome them would require a coordinated effort between government, political actors and civil society.

Concerning Article 370, autonomy, regional councils and panchayati raj institutions, our report saw them as interlocking measures. Only a tiered system of devolution, we believed, would fulfil the diverse aspirations for self-rule in the State and make the restoration of autonomy in its original spirit acceptable. Given the wider debate on Centre-State relations that India is presently engulfed in, we felt the time was propitious for this discussion. Recognising aspirations for integration into the global economy and world of ideas, we added new elements to the historic issues.

Constitutional Committee

The Constitutional Committee was proposed in this context. Contrary to postponing decision-making, a Constitutional Committee should speed it. Any settlement has to be accepted by the principal stakeholders if it is to work and if it is not given constitutional validity, then it will not have been committed to. We suggested a six-month time limit in order to stress deadlines in a process that has stretched tragically long.

The most serious criticism of the Constitutional Committee is that it will make it more difficult for the “azadi” groups to enter talks. While this point is well taken, the position that talks must be “outside the ambit of the Indian Constitution” makes sense only if viewed as a statement on process.

The ideal process is indeed one in which no red lines are set at the outset of talks, and the stakeholders are allowed a period of ambiguity during which they can narrow their differences. But how long can constructive ambiguity be maintained without becoming counter-productive? Nearly 20 years have passed since Prime Minister Narasimha Rao promised “the sky is the limit”, and the failure to move beyond ambiguity since then has left bitterness and cynicism in the State. Sometimes, momentum towards resolution can be injected only through measures that appear to set red lines but actually force the pace of talks.

Nor should the establishment of such a committee narrow or limit the options for the “azadi” groups. The dialogue track remains open to them, unconditionally, as it did before. In the roadmap section of our report, we stressed the importance of engaging them at whatever level they wish, on an agenda to be mutually determined. What we suggested, in fact, is two parallel resolution tracks: one engaging the elected representatives and the other engaging the “azadi” groups. As they progress, the two tracks may converge, or one may overtake the other.

Similarly, we discussed Pakistani-held Jammu and Kashmir and the India-Pakistan talks because that is the best way to get a settlement for the whole of the former princely state, and in prior rounds they contributed to a peace process. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself initiated talks with Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir on the grounds that war is unthinkable (except under severe provocation of terrorism).

Plain misrepresentation

Some criticisms are plain misrepresentation. We have been accused of ignoring the Pandits and PoK refugees, but we actually made detailed recommendations on both. According to a creative act of cut and paste, we put the figure of disappeared persons at 200. In fact, we mentioned that the Association of Parents of the Disappeared had documented 200 cases out of thousands of complaints, and the government could begin with these. In our discussion of unmarked graves we did not dispute figures; we recommended a judicial commission.

We have been criticised for being weak on justice and reconciliation. On the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, we said the army had three options: repeal, amend or gradually lift as suggested by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, and urged a speedy choice. We also recommended amending the Public Safety Act (the State Assembly has amended PSA, while the AFSPA amendment is concretising). Moreover, we supported transparent court martials for Pathribal and Macchil (now agreed by the army), and reforms in troops deployment and operating procedures. Finally, far from “trivialising” the truth and reconciliation concept, we actually echoed Bishop Tutu on it.

This is not to say that there are not many faults in our report. For example, Gandhiji would have asked us, “where is atonement?” That is why the government has done the right thing in releasing the report and calling for an informed debate on it. All those who talked to us — and those who did not — now have the chance to add to or amend what we said before the government takes a policy decision rather than after.

Many of the opinion pieces on Jammu and Kashmir have taken this point on board. Of three harshly critical pieces, one said our recommendations should be implemented to demonstrate credibility, another said condemn the report but introspect about your own lapses, and a third said the call for informed debate should be responded to. Several others did not comment on our report but took off from the debate it generated, including a very thoughtful piece on the role of the media. These voices indicate that a truly serious dialogue can indeed be encouraged.

(Radha Kumar was a member of the Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir and is Director of the Delhi Policy Group)

Keywords: AFSPAKashmir issue

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@Ameen Fayaz historically speaking Lucknow was independent from Delhi, historically Afghanistan was ruled from Patna & there are many historical facts. Regarding Kashmir historically from time of Akbar (16th century) Kashmir is part of India ruled from Delhi (except for brief period when it was ruled by Afghans from Kabul & Sikhs from Lahore in 18th, 19th century). Also historically Kashmir was Hindu majority but forcibly converted by Aurangzeb which led to rebellion by Sikh guru's. Go read about how Kashmiri Pandits were forced to drink poison for refusing to convert. Thousands of Pandits fled Kashmir to avoid oppression in 17th century & 20th century again. Tell me are you Kashmiri Muslims progeny of those forcibly converted Pandits or progeny of Aurangzeb's settled foreigner's (Afghans, Uzbeks, Tajik's etc).

from:  Shaleen Mathur
Posted on: Jul 5, 2012 at 14:19 IST

The constitution is clear on the cantours of India, including the whole of Jammu and Kashmir!

So what is the incompetent GOI and its interlocutors doing? Whose side are they on? Are they running a great nation or a banana republic?!?

How can one compromise the territorial integrity of a nation!!

from:  P.S. Swaminathan
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 23:45 IST

The state of J&K is an integral part of India. Now, what is that we want to talk about? Simply because Pakistan claims it does not become an issue just like China staking claim on Arunachal Pradesh is not an issue either. If Pakistan or China wants to talk we can talk have a cup of chai and biscuits and go home. India has too many important things to focus on such as eradication of corruption, poverty, illiteracy and enforcing the law and order, etc. to name a few that ranks above talking on border issues. The news papers will serve the country better by putting those issues on the front page and the border issues on the last page with small print.

from:  K V Rao
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 22:09 IST

Leaving aside all the jingoistic nationalism, do the people of a land have the right to demand independence, whatever be the reason? Do a democratic country have the moral right to hold on to a land against the will of its majority? I guess that is the real question of Kashmir. I guess Kashmiri Muslims, as a people, have every legitimate right to demand indepedence for the land where they are in majority, and where they have been residing in for centuries. But India has its own legitimate reasons why this cannot be granted, atleast to its full degree. A middle ground, based upon extensive autonomy, needs to be arrived at through negotiations.

from:  Vineeth
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 18:23 IST

There's nothing to discuss here, Kashmir has been a part of India since ancient times, India needs to be more forceful otherwise China and Pakistan will continue to demand more and more territory from India.

from:  Vipul Dave
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 17:26 IST

After making the statement that this is the end of history Francis Fukayama had to withdraw it after three years on the failure of the Iraq invasion. History has not stopped its work. Soviet Union broke up. Sikkim became part of India. East Timor separated from Indonesia. South Sudan became a new state. Iraqi Kurdistan issues its own visas and has its own army. Time for us Indians to wake up. Kashmir solution has to be found with Kashmirs acceptance. We do have some critical issues in Kashmir we cannot allow a third or even second country to take control of a strategic area next to China. It will cause us endless trouble. Other than that we should let Kashmiris decide what kind of control they want over Kashmir. Article 370 is a good starting point we need to reinforce the original spirit of it and if needed go beyond what it offers. I see no other solution.

from:  pervez
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 17:23 IST

dafinately the debate will provide a chance to the people to indicate their grievances in their own tone so that the govt. could take appropriate steps in analysing the basic causes in alienation in the people of kashmir

from:  Ashok Kumar
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 17:05 IST

the report of interlocutors is indeed a good way of collecting and portraying the views of J&Kites. They represent different stream of thoughts.After having this report the logical step should follow ie. discussions on key issues and ideas and action be taken so that all diverse thoughts find their outlet in action oriented way and eventually all streams become one stream, flowing with national stream.

from:  jayant
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 16:13 IST

Why the folks from other ex-princely states such as Jaipur, Baroda, Gwalior, Patiala, Mysore are not so special and only those from Kashmir need to be given a special treatment, autonomy etc. etc. Do the Pandits and people from Jammu and Ladakh also want "special" status? If not why? What is their take on Azadi?

from:  kvjayan
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 13:12 IST

Sorry to say this is wastage of time to have report after report on Kashmir.Kashmir is a historic truth which dates back to 1947 when India made all means available to it for the accession of kashmir to Indian union.Historically speaking,Kashmir is neither a part of India nor that of Pakistan and the struggle of Kashmiri people is not for economic packages or autonomy or self-rule,it is just and just for the restoration of history and the lost dignity.We were a free people before 1947.

from:  Ameen Fayaz
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 12:57 IST

Nice article regarding the conflict of Kashmir.As Indian economy is
plunging, so we should resolve all these conflict so as to concentrate
mainly on our economy.So our ministers should take necessary initiative
and resolve this matter as son as possible rather than taking political
advantage with this issue.

from:  vivek singh
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 11:36 IST

Nice article regarding the conflict of Kashmir.As Indian economy is
plunging, so we should resolve all these conflict so as to concentrate
mainly on our economy.So our ministers should take necessary initiative
and resolve this matter as soon as possible rather than taking political
advantage with this issue

from:  vivek singh
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 11:34 IST

And do not shed crocodile tears over Pandits. If India really cares so much abot
Pandits, they would not still be living in camps in Jammu - why does India not help?
Why it doesn't let the UN build proper homes for Pandits? Saffron types keep pointing
at Pandits to excuse India of any blame in Kashmir, and to make it seem that nothing
about Kashmiri Muslims matter (even though we have always been 95% of valley's
population - even before 1989). Pandits are just being used as a pawn. If you help
them, you cannot use them. So no one helps, they just complain, and Pandits
continue to suffer while BJP/RSS pretend to care.

from:  Rizwan Lone
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 04:22 IST

How you can expect the Kashmiris to stop demanding freedom from India when India
does not apologise for what it has done in Kashmir? Instead, Indians deny what they
do, and say all problems are because of Pakistan. You must admit, and apologise for
your mistakes. You cannot just say it is Pakistanis, because Kashmiris know the truth
better than Indians. And speaking about Balochistan does not mean India is doing
good in Kashmir.

from:  Rizwan Lone
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 04:19 IST

The most important point is to change the mind set-up of Kashmiri Muslims. Even most of the well educated people from Kashmir
Valley presently working in PSUs and other central government
organisations openly support the Pakistan. This is my personal
experience as I usually involve in debates with some of my colleagues who are Pakistan supporters. Such people are just like
parasites on Indian economy as they are earning their livelihood
from India but stand by the Pakistan. I have seen during my four
years stay in Kashmir that even people having enough exposure &
studied in top Institutes of India are suffering from anti-India
sentiments. In my opinion, the best solution to the Kashmir issue
is to hold a referendum in J&K as asked by the UN resolution on
Kashmir in 1948.

from:  Parvinder Bhagat
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 01:55 IST

Radha Kumar needs to spend atleast 24 more mmonths in J&K to get out of the the net of the the information to which she had remained exposed upto Oct 2010. If she does not agree with me let her have courage to accept in simple words that she does not see the 1947 accession of J&K with India as valid. She must clear in simple and clean language what she means in quoting Narasimha Rao in her article ?
More over it is not wise for her to quote some write ups in her support simply because those suit her and there are many other victims of uncontested ideologies ( by atleast GOI) cultivated by some Valley based writers / leaders over the years. The style in which the report is written shows that the draft on the major issues was already with the " team". Any how let authers know that the report is not going to serve any purpose.It can not be implemented.
Had the report not been put on the website by MHA, I would not have have commented on this article.

from:  daya sagar
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 22:30 IST

@Rajesh thanks for your concern. I have been outside Kashmir for about 5 years now, I haven't faced any problem yet and I hope it will never happen. I believe it all depends on your attitude how you behave, if you behave like an alien (outsider) you will be treated so (an outsider).

from:  Riyaz
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 19:56 IST

Frankly, I havent read the report. I wonder if the report says anything
at all about the situation of Kashmiris who venture to take up
education/jobs elsewhere in India. They are often treated as outsiders
or terrorists and worstly as Muslims. When even our mainland muslims are
having problems finding accommodation to rent/buy, how would Kashmiris
feel. Unless we treat them as Indians, I suspect if we can have their
trust.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 17:09 IST

It is obvious even from your "rebuttal" of the critical charges that you have completely ignored the displacement of the Pandits and the distress to the minorities in Kashmir due to militancy. No wonder, to most of us, your report appears like Sachar-II only focusing on appeasing the Muslims.

from:  Arun Murthy
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 14:08 IST

If India cannot reconcile with its own tribals in Chattisgarh forget it reconciling with Kashmiris & when Pakistan is involved. If India cannot fix Chattisgarh, just forget fixing Kashmir which is now sufficiently internationalised.

from:  Anish Khindri
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 13:49 IST

In view of considering the report one basic point the interlocutors are missing. That basic point is Connecting Kashmir with rest of India. Interlocutors would have taken this point very important before they submitted their report to the government. Because today the infrastructure facilities connecting the Kashmir Valley to the rest of India especially the train connectivity as it's pending for several years.the valley needs to be fully connectedfirst at least with India so that people there will get good exposure to education,health and businesses with rest of India. Due to the poor education in the valley, especially the young male is being misguided by valley's political entities whose vested interests are with Pakistan.So connecting the valley will be the best suggestion
that can be given to government in respect of many aspects including one aspect as cited above.

from:  manoj p
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 12:33 IST

The future relationship of Jammu and Kashmir State with India and Pakistan was to be decided by the constiuent assembly of the State but following the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 the whole process was disrupted. The only way out now is to reelect a constituent assembly which will again take up the thread where it was broken and after taking the new realities into consideration would deliberate and arrive at a solution acceptable to all.The great powers and the United Nations can oversee the process which after the withdrawal of U.S.troops from Afghanistan can receive their full and undivided attention.This will usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the region

from:  taffazull
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 11:45 IST

Resolution of the Kashmir issue is of such fundamental importance to India and Pakistan
that all right thinking persons would support the direction provided by Radha Kumar and
colleagues to start an earnest and open dialogue on all the issues among all the relevant
parties on an urgent basis so that we can begin to form an outline of possible solutions. We
can illl afford to stay mired in the paradigms of the past. India's future demands that we put
these issues behind us so that the country can spend its governance energy to deal with
The multitude of urgent national economic and other problems.

from:  Virendra Gupta
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 10:56 IST

Good initiative to help people's voice reach government. I strongly feel
that government should take into consideration, the opinion of people
before taking any decision. It;s a really nice idea to encourage people
to express their opinions so that serious discussions will occur and
some productive result will come out from it.

from:  vivek patil
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 10:34 IST
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