Agitation in Jammu and Kashmir: A study in contrast

21 08 2008

Source: TOI
JAMMU: The peaceful demonstrations in this otherwise bustling city, in stark contrast to the high decibel protests in Srinagar, said it all.

If the idea was to play on the contrast with Srinagar in communicating that they have been differentiated against, Jammu’s agitationists succeeded in sending across the message quite clearly. In prominence are community langars in every locality where daily wagers and the poor are being fed by households that can cook their meals even as the more than month-long bandh continues. The picture is one of bonhomie among citizens, irrespective of denomination.

And clearly, any attempt to suggest that a single political party has taken over the movement that the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti has sustained for 53 days is clearly a non-starter. There is a rare unity to be seen in Jammu for a cause that seems to have built up over years of what the people here see as institutionalised neglect.

Also, there is a careful attempt to ensure that it does not take a communal turn. This was clear when a local BJP leader confided that a proposal by Baba Ramdev to join the movement by marching up to the Amarnath shrine with a contingent of sadhus had to be stalled, so that it did not create communal trouble and spoil the “legitimate demand” to allow the shrine board to use the adjacent land for pilgrims’ facilities.

Even BJP, which has taken up the Amarnath issue to build up a national level campaign against the ruling Congress for “offending the sentiments of Hindu pilgrims”, has had to redraw plans to participate in a rally organised by the Sangharsh Samiti.

In fact, BJP has called it “communication gap” between the two organisations. Going on the backfoot after being snubbed by Sangharsh Samiti chief Leela Karan Sharma, who denied there were any plans for a rally, leave aside any invitation to BJP leaders L K Advani and Rajnath Singh to participate, the party’s state president Ashok Khajuria told TOI , “The Sangharsh Samiti is the last word on this movement and BJP is only one among its 42 member units and hence will follow what the Samiti says.”

Interestingly, a good number of field level National Conference and PDP workers in Jammu have joined the Samiti. Surinder Singh Shinghari of NC, a corporator from the city’s Bakshinagar area, has resigned from his party and post and joined the movement. He is not the only one.

It is not easy for a city that thrives essentially on trading and business activities to sustain complete closure of shops and business establishments for 53 days without having any idea as to how much longer they will have to take it. Leela Karan Sharma said, “We are ready to talk as equals to all – the Centre, Kashmiri leaders – but only if our core issue of allowing the High Court order on the land is reverted back to.”

Giving Kashmir away? No way :: Rajiv Sikri

21 08 2008

August 21, 2008

Is it an orchestrated coincidence or random chance that on August 17, two leading national dailies prominently carried commentaries advocating independence for the Kashmir Valley? With surprising ease and lack of angst, each author has argued in favour of secession by part of an integrally constituted state of the Union of India.

Tremendous efforts by all the state and non-state personae in Jammu & Kashmir and the rest of India over the last six decades have seen sharp ups and downs, almost see-saw phases in the feelings of alienation followed by assimilation, poverty followed by growing prosperity among the people of this state.

The last few years have brought in the most sustained period of political stability, free and fair elections, economic recovery and strengthening integration, achieved through painstaking efforts and sagacity by all players. Heading into the November 2008 state assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir, the separatist groups found themselves on the sidelines, threatened with further irrelevance and declining support should these elections be held as smoothly and with equally wide participation as those in 2002.

The Amarnath Yatra [Images] land issue that surfaced in June has been extremely poorly handled by the state and central governments at every stage. The nation needs answers and accountability about why in less than two months the marginalised separatist groups are once again being allowed to set the political agenda in the Valley. Why have no efforts been made to explain the reality of the proposed temporary land allocation scheme (for the Amarnath Yatra) to the agitating people in the Kashmir Valley? Why have the strong feelings of every community in Jammu over the cancellation of the allocation been so deliberately ignored and under-estimated? Why is it that even the most elementary efforts were not undertaken to disabuse the people of Kashmir Valley about a so-called economic blockade? If there was at any point the possibility of a shortage of essential supplies for the people of the Kashmir Valley this should have been overcome by arranging sufficient airlifts and/or trucking in such supplies through the alternative Manali-Leh route.

At the same time, no matter how serious these lapses, the answer cannot be to suggest that the Kashmir Valley be allowed to secede from India. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is as much a composite whole as the human body is. If there is an ailing part of the body, you diagnose the problem and take remedial measures, not carelessly, almost casually, suggest an excision and discarding of the offending section.

For those who advocate a referendum in Jammu and Kashmir [Images], there are some questions. Do they feel that Jammu and Kashmir legally and constitutionally cannot be considered a part of India? On what basis can there be a referendum in the Kashmir Valley, or separate referenda in Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley? On what basis can “independence” be considered as the so-called third option? Should the proposed referendum be based on the UN resolutions of August 1948 and January 1949? Or are such sentiments the manifestation of a simultaneous bout of exasperation and giving in to the separatists who have been quite unnecessarily allowed to mount pressures in a sudden reversal of the peaceful situation that existed in the state prior to June?

The UN resolutions of 1948/49 (adopted by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan) are unequivocal and specific in making the proposed plebiscite in all the five regions of Jammu and Kashmir conditional upon (i) withdrawal of Pakistani troops from all the areas of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that it has occupied (this includes PoK, the Northern Territories and the Shaksgam valley that has been ceded by Pakistan to China); and (ii) the withdrawal by Pakistan, from these occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir, of their tribesmen and nationals not ordinarily resident in these areas. The UN Commission in an aide-memoire issued on January 14, 1949, stated that in the event of Pakistan not implementing these pre-conditions, India’s acceptance of the UN resolutions would no longer be binding on them.

As recently as March 2001 former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, speaking in Islamabad [Images], accepted the legal and practical difficulties in implementing the UN resolutions and hence their irrelevance. It is evident that the UN resolutions no longer provide any basis for holding referenda either in the Kashmir Valley or in Jammu and Ladakh.

Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, and will remain so. The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir itself recognises this. Any move to hold a referendum in any part of Jammu and Kashmir would contradict the fundamental statement in Section 3 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir that ‘the State of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India’. Section 147 prohibits any amendment of Section 3 by the state legislature. In any case, India has stringent laws that forbid secessionist activity.

It is time that the people of India and all national political parties come out unequivocally against anyone who advocates secessionism. In this context, the print and electronic media too should be more responsible about giving prominence to such views.

THE RIGHT VIEW : This war involves us all

31 07 2008
Condemning blasts

A child during an anti-terrorism protest in Delhi. (AFP)

THE RIGHT VIEW : This war involves us all
28 Jul 2008, 1455 hrs IST, Tarun Vijay

Rahul’s Shashikala has got the headlines and her share of glory. Now is the time to focus on India. Beyond party lines and boundaries. He is young, charming and holds a position that makes a mark wherever he goes. Why can’t he take up the fight against terror, which is bleeding India? If L K Advani can go to Sonia for a book presentation and still remain in the party, why can’t Sonia come to Advani for a collective fight against terrorism? Is India smaller than the personal and political egos and fortunes?

When the ISI or HuJI or Lashkar were planning attacks on Indians, we were counting notes in sacks and fighting each other. Isn’t it time to at least have Sonia, Advani, Rajnath, Manmohan, Mulayam and Mayawati along with Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi to put their heads together and strategize a time-bound “eliminate terror” programme? For power sharing they come together – sworn enemies of yesterday become born twins on political platforms. To liberate India from the dreaded scourge of jihad and all other kinds of terror we feel shy and instead keep ourselves busy in attacking each other, facilitating the country’s enemies.

We are Indians first and stop blaming mussalmans and others for terror. I have a large number of Muslim friends and I know Muslim society in India is uniquely different and as patriotic as any other Indian. And they don’t need any certificate from any one. But at the same time we must not hesitate to recognize that terrorism in India is pronounced essentially Islamic in its character and the aim is to have a so called Nizam-e-Mustafa wreaking revenge against Hindus. The Deoband’s denouncement of terror is not enough. Their dictates must show an impact on Islamic terror outfits, otherwise its papers and faxes would remain nothing more than a crude PR exercise. It’s the bounden duty of Muslim leaders to make it sure and visible that those involved in jihadi barbaric attacks are condemned as un-Islamic and are practically declared non-Muslims like they have done with regard to many others in the past.

A nation’s collective will is the biggest weapon against fissiparous tendencies. The US and China have shown that. They too faced Islamic terror, but handled it with a resolve that got united support by the people and all shades of political colours. Indians can fight each other on a hundred issues of political programming or power grab. But on the question of our sovereignty and security we must stand united, as one – and it must be visible too. After all, where would all these leaders take their money and enjoy it if India doesn’t survive? Even to enjoy the loot they must have a station to leisure and be free of threats. To say this is too rude and crude, yet, seeing the Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmadabad blasts, what can a citizen pray for? Security and a collective will to converge on national interest.

And for God’s sake if you can’t remove this home minister, appoint another capable minister for internal security with independent charge. It serves the interests of the UPA and Congress too. He is just incapable of holding that crucial position. It’s against national interest to keep such a non-performing person in North Block who becomes a source of demoralisation and incompetence to security agencies and law enforcers.

Intelligence must be strengthened and the present colonial structure of intelligence gathering has to be completely overhauled with a structure on the patterns of the FBI. Gujarat’s new law on terror is awaiting the Centre’s nod for the last four years. Why? Is tackling terror a partisan matter?

Israel is willing to help and now that the burden of the Left is removed, the govt must begin a long-term association with Israel to restructure our intelligence network against Pakistan and their hired goons masquerading as Islamists and befriending gullible locals to provide them basic support and shelter.

The terrorist can’t work in a vacuum. Hence the police and security network must ruthlessly deal with the local bases of the terror outfits without caring for the human rightists or the defeatist seculars lobbying for the terrorists. Like Punjab in Gill’s time, a group of daredevil police and army officers must be assigned to handle terrorism and given an autonomous status with powers to strike independently without awaiting a nod from the political masters. Let them tackle terror and leaders of all parties and ideologies can do the mass awakening campaign – instilling confidence in the general public and making them an active instrument in helping security forces to crack on terror network.

Let’s forget every other matter, temple or Setu or masjid or Church. Convergence to remove terror network should be our foremost offering to the gods and that should be our religious agenda too. If Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammad fought against injustice and against the forces of dark evils, let all those who follow Mohammad’s teaching come together to defeat inhuman cowards killing Indians in the name of some jihad. This may prove to be the biggest opportunity for a genuine Hindu-Muslim solidarity and can be followed with greater ideas. Being a Hindu I can request all the priests and Mahants and spiritual leaders who go to different parts of the globe for world peace and human happiness, to include in their puja “eliminate terror” preachings and make their followers a part of the terror-busting programme. This is the greatest yoga – call it Rashtra Yoga, yoga of the nation.

If there is a war in our courtyard we do not go to temples worshipping deities as the biggest deity is our nation and her people. Jihad is a Kargil in our precincts. Let the ashrams and the other high-class facilities for nirvana be converged on rousing the morale of the faithful against demons and Ravanas of today.

Vijaya Dashmi is not far – and let this year’s festival be celebrated together with all communities coming to show solidarity with the Indian people rising above religious boundaries to kill the demon of darkness. We are all descendants of Guru Gobind Singh and Shivaji and have produced Rani Laxmi Bai and Bahadur Shah Zafar and Begum Hazrat Mahal and Abdul Hameed. It’s the power of togetherness that wins a nation ultimately.

It’s time that cricketers and film actors join hands to create a national mood of solidarity. They owe it to their motherland. They are born Indians and have not come here just to make money and earn fame from some other planet. Once an Amitabh, a Shah Rukh, an Aamir, John and Sachin share a dais and say no to communal, divisive elements and urge all Indians to merge their divergences in one Tricolour, it will have a tremendous impact on the nation’s confidence and all governments will get a big power push to act decisively.

When people are dying like cattle, it’s disgusting to see media houses deeply engaged in thumka jhumka vulgarity and issues that do not represent the nation facing a terror war. They know we can win it, finally and without losing time. But the atmosphere has to be created for that and who can do it better than the media? Indian media has proved it wonderfully during Kargil; it’s no different now.

If this terrorism has been exported to our land, we have a responsibility to bury it finally with our hands. Victory shall be ours, without doubt. Let the Spirit de India rise and strike.

Is it all daydreaming? A naive, emotional outburst expecting unachievable goals? Doesn’t India belong to us all?

(The author is the director of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, a think tank of nationalist school of thought.)