What is the issue

India’s interlocutors, post partition happenings and the ignorance of its intelligentsia

Aarif Muzafar Rather
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 14 2017 10:40PM | Updated Date: Dec 14 2017 10:40PM
What is the issueFile Photo

Last week, a friend from Delhi called me up to know about the matters following the appointment of an interlocutor by Delhi. My friend carried a lot of queries with his call. The depressing part of the conversation was that conventional jargon when he said, “What is the real issue? Outsiders (he used the word) do not really know what is happening there.” I did not answer his (read their) darling misperception, but to free myself of this “issue”, I said in an unwilling style, “Well, there are a lot of ways to make you understand, but not one in sight.” He said, “Sahi hai.” And the phone call ended.

New Delhi’s newly appointed interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, landed in Kashmir last month on the responsibility of bringing ‘peace’ to Kashmir. The Joint Resistance Leadership contested his appointment and termed it mere eyewash in the name of peace. The members of the Joint Resistance Leadership are right in their approach because through the historical discourse of the appointment of interlocutors, a sense of persistent rejection of demands and reports thereof, and the destruction of such perceptions as it led to other big demands which are understood to be uncompromised within the majority population in Kashmir, the meeting with the interlocutor seems unlikely and frivolous.

Denial of historical truths, genuine and such historically supported demands and the institutionalized erosion of the constitutional relationship that the state of Jammu and Kashmir had with the Union of India have been the critical junctures of India’s presence in Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s first interlocutor to Kashmir was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who promised ‘referendum’ to Kashmiris at many instances. He did it before the people of India, the governments in Pakistan, and of course the people of Kashmir. At the time of taking Kashmir problem to UN, Jawaharlal Nehru faced mass opposition in the Indian leadership, prominent among whom was Sardar Patel, who wanted Kashmir even at “the cost of war”. The instances of a perpetual propaganda and a state of war that have built up the majoritarian opinion denying any relief to Kashmiris or resolving the dispute at all are an outcome of post-partition situations and communalization of politics in India. Notable among them are thus. 

1.) Sardar Patel played a communal card while insisting that Kashmir was a Hindu state, knowing the fact that it was a Muslim majority state. This denial was to be made institutionalized among the political sphere of India when he sought the help of RSS for Kashmir’s accession with India. M.S. Golwalkar’s help was also sought in this regard. Later, Muslims in Jammu were massacred under a well orchestrated plan and Jammu formally became the ‘city of temples’. Patel was a staunch opponent of communism and as Sheikh Abdullah had already sown the seeds of socialist politics in Kashmir, this might have been one of the reasons for his indifference towards Sheikh Abdullah.

2.) Historical distortion that suggests that Kashmir had always been a Hindu majority state is a common mainstream story. This position by RSS was taken as earlier as in 1947 where they talked of turning the majority population into minority.

3.) Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland came as an unfortunate event in the history of Kashmir. This changed the whole discourse about Kashmir among the Indian public spheres. Kashmir was forever to be seen through the prism of religion.

4.) Military establishment and its huge concentration with an aim to control revolution. Military formation means that the will of the people is served but in our case, it became one of the detested segments of the state. In addition, military has become an institution that is literally worshipped in India. This quest for militarization and the belief that it serves national interest of India alone leads it to spend worth millions a day in Siachen than on its poor.

5.) With different governments in place, the tone of the media also thrusts upon national interest which in turn transforms public opinion. In pursuit of this interest, the journalists distort and evade the questions of truth and represent the state while working under the banner of independent journalism. This evasion of truth and keeping the state view intact can be inferred by my understanding from some recent happenings. When the recent human shield case came into limelight, many mainstream journalists chose not to write about it and if some wrote, they defended the action of the major. Interestingly, I was undergoing an internship during those days in a prominent human rights institution and when I asked the media head this question, he defended the act of the major. Many fellow students from India itself were shocked to hear the answer. Moreover, when JK Tourism released its recent video “Sahibo” on an Indian couple visiting Kashmir, the idea of an old man ignoring his wife and serving the couple was glorified by many Indian journalists and it showed how a Kashmiris’ servility was cherished.

The point here is the situations like this persist. It is not wrong to say that no Indian would want Kashmir to be a free state. When Dineshwar Sharma first came to Kashmir, he dismissed the idea of Azadi saying ,”Kashmiris (are) ruining their future in the name of Azadi or Islam.” This implies the understanding and the effort they have been putting in this regard. Right from Balraj Puri’s appointment in 90s to the recent appointments, things have been taken away from us rather than conferring upon us. Balraj Puri’s report suggested greater autonomy to the state under the larger framework of Indian democracy but remained silent about the constitutional provisions in the Indian Constitution regarding Jammu and Kashmir. A decade later, the autonomy resolution passed by the J&K Assembly was rejected by the Parliament. The watershed moment came in the fall of 2001 when Atal Behari Vajpayee came to Kashmir and made promises of peace and resolution of Kashmir dispute. Following this, KC Pant was appointed as the interlocutor who was without any directions and achieved nothing. In 2002, Ram Jethmalani held talks with the resistance leadership but it never looked like the talks had anyone’s mandate. Thus failed the “peace process”. If they were serious about it, they would have appointed any minister with mandate of the government. At some point of time, there were reports of the round table conference as well. During the bloody summer of 2010, three interlocutors were appointed and no action was taken on their reports and recommendations. Some reports even suggested that they had been scrutinized and reprimanded by the Government of India for speaking too freely to the press.

The question here is: If the reports, demands (and the recommendations therein) of the earlier panels have not been addressed, why is the Government of India gathering heaps of demands from Kashmiris? 


(Aarif Muzafar Rather is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, prose poetry and reportage. He’s pursuing a bachelor’s in Law from Central University of Kashmir.)

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