A G NOORANI
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is amusing as well as instructive to watch unionists Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti and separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq vie with each other in singing hosannas to former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
On June 23, 1987, Pakistan and India agreed in a joint statement at Islamabad to set up working groups on certain subjects, including Kashmir. Prime minister Inder Gujral consulted then opposition leader Vajpayee who asked what work the working groups would do? Gujral marked the accord.
When officials met in New Delhi, for the first time after the BJP-led NDA government came to power, a deadlock ensued, especially on Siachen. From 1986 to 1998, there was accord that both sides would withdraw from the region. The issue was authentication of existing positions. When the defence secretaries met in New Delhi in 1998, India decided it would not withdraw.
The Lahore Declaration of February 21, 1999, issued by prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee raised hopes. They nominated emissaries to work a back channel on Kashmir. But Vajpayee’s choice of R.K. Mishra as his emissary belied his earnestness. Once editor of the pro-Communist daily Patriot, he wormed his way into the councils, first of Indira Gandhi and then of Vajpayee. He had no experience in diplomacy. Pakistan’s Niaz A. Naik was fixated on a partition of Kashmir along the Chenab river. India had rejected a similar proposal by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The dialogue was resumed at the summit level in Agra in July 2001. The idea came from L.K. Advani who wanted to size up Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He was visibly disturbed as the declaration was being drafted. Advani wrecked the draft Agra Declaration.
In December 2001, Vajpayee summoned the service chiefs and asked them to prepare for war; but refused to give a written directive setting out the aims. This followed an attack on Parliament House in December 2001. Operation Parakram was called off on October 16, 2002, at a cost of Rs 8,000 crore. One of India’s leading strategic analysts remarked: “India’s movement of troops towards the border was designed to put pressure on the US to put pressure on Musharraf.”
Myths enveloped the subsequent events of 2003 which culminated in the Islamabad summit; all because a crucial document was overlooked by both countries. The source of the myth is Vajpayee’s emotional declaration at a public rally in Srinagar in April 2003, where he resumed his plea for a dialogue with Pakistan “on the basis of justice and … insaniyat (humanity)”.
A little homework would have brought home the inspiration behind the volte face. It was a joint statement issued on March 27, 2003, by then US secretary of state Colin Powell and British foreign secretary Jack Straw in the wake of a summit when President George W. Bush and prime minister Tony Blair decided that enough was enough.
It prescribed for India and Pakistan a road map to the last detail: “Violence will not solve Kashmir’s problems. Pending the resolution of these problems, the LoC should be strictly respected and Pakistan should fulfil its commitments to stop infiltration across it. Pakistan should also do its utmost to discourage any acts of violence by militants in Kashmir. Both sides should consider immediately implementing a ceasefire and taking other active steps to reduce tension including by moves within the Saarc context.”
Sure enough a ceasefire followed. And Vajpayee attended the Saarc summit in Islamabad in January 2004. By the middle of 2004 he lost power. But he was determined to see that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not reach an accord on Kashmir with Musharraf. His letter of June 2004 to Dr Singh should dispel doubts: “The peace process has now become Kashmir-centric… A year ago there was a distinction between the moderates and the hardliners. Today the moderates are totally pro-Pakistan.”
Kashmir has two dimensions: external vis-à-vis Pakistan and internal. In July 2000, the Vajpayee Cabinet brusquely rejected a unanimous resolution passed by Kashmir’s Assembly endorsing a report on Kashmir’s autonomy. Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister, was an ally of the BJP. It spurned the Hizbul Mujahideen’s ceasefire on July 24, 2000, by offering surrender terms to the Hizb.
The “interlocutors” sent to Kashmir were hardliners; like K.C. Pant in 2001 and Arun Jaitley, a Modi supporter, in 2002.
As deputy prime minister, Advani met the Hurriyat leaders. But his home ministry’s report for 2003-04 said “none of the factions enjoys popular support” and Kashmir “already enjoys autonomy”.
And in 2014, it is Narendra Modi who has delivered a coup de grace in Jammu by renewing the old BJP line. The saga continues.
Little do the Muftis realize that Modi & Co. must be laughing in their sleeves at the duos’ praise for “Vajpayee”. To them he is history; his name is used for political cosmetics – a mukhota. He wanted Modi to resign after the Gujarat massacres. Advani and Jaitley thwarted him. Advani also fell foul because he was strongly opposed to Modi becoming PM and Modi does not forgive. Advani is denied even the small crumbs he asked for so abjectly. Modi is leader in his own right anointed by the parent of all three – the RSS.
He is even more committed as its active pracharak to the RSS; unrepentant, unreformed. “Do you think you did the right thing in 2002” Reuters asked him. He replied ‘Absolutely”. Asked “People want to know who is the real Modi – Hindu nationalist leader or pro-business Chief Minister?” Modi was forthright “I’m nationalist. I’m patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I’m a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So, I’m a Hindu nationalist, so, Yes you can say I’m a Hindu nationalist because I’m a born Hindu” (Indian Express; 13 July 2013)
That he was a born Indian and an Indian nationalist this RSS man truthfully declined to say. He was right in asserting that “there’s no contradiction between the two (Hindu nationalist leader and pro-business). It’s one and the same thing. That is the secret of his rise. He fanned Hindu communalism and also promised economic progress. Secularism was rejected. “Development” alone mattered. That is also his recipe for J&K – forget Art. 370, Human Rights, Peace Process with Pakistan and the rest. “I will make you rich” while saffronizing you.
It is foolish to ignore the radical change in the atmosphere, in the ambience in Kashmir which a BJP in coalition will bring about. As a writer remarked, the Sangh Parivar “is set to do ‘tandav and tamasha’ under the patronage of political power”. Backed by their power at the Center, the BJP Ministers will have the upper hand over the PDP. The army, civil service, police, the entire administration will do its bidding, especially since the PDP, its partner’s sole aim was a share in power. A pariah who acquires respectability behaves like an aggressive upstart. The RSS will feel free to open its shakhas and the kind of Kashmiris who licked its boots, like the Muslims elsewhere, will increase.
A businessman from Gujarat Zafar Sareshwala is appointed Chancellor of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Najma Heptullah as Minister for Minority Affairs and even a man like Kunwar Bharatendra Singh, M.P., a BHU accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots has been sent to the Court of the Aligarh Muslim University – to show the Muslims their place. Once Modi became PM, the RSS and VHP became more assertive.
If he extolled the Gita, they propagated conversions (ghar wapsi), Godse is sought to be lauded. On 4 January 2015 at Ahmedabad, the RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat asked its cadres to propagate the RSS’ ideology in villages. They will not stop at the Pir Panjal Range, but work on both sides. In Jammu Modi himself gave the lead arousing communal feelings by talking about discrimination and the rest.
The entire political scene will be altered for the worse. How far can the hapless people, who have suffered all these decades, resist the RSS? At what price and all this to what gain?
On the eve of the emergency, Acharya Kripalani wrote to N. A. Palkhiwala begging of him not to accept Indira Gandhi’s brief in the Supreme Court. “She appears to be in a desperate mood. If that mood continues she may decide to go the Mujib way in Bangladesh (instal a dictatorship) … If she decides to go the Mujib way, poor and ignorant as our people are, there may be no resistance”.
The letter was dated 19 June 1975. Exactly a week later she imposed the emergency. There was little resistance. Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest on 8 August 1953 created such an uproar that Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was afraid to go on a walk. It all fizzled out. The rigged poll of 1987 led to a sustained revolt because the gun had entered the scene. But what is the state of the militancy now? The alienation remains deep as ever. Must the people be provoked and tested again so that the carpet baggers return to power.
The PDP will be at the mercy of the BJP which can withdraw its support any time and force a fresh poll – as Indira Gandhi did to Sheikh Saheb in 1977 and to Charan singh in 1979 and Rajiv Gandhi to Chandrasekhar in 1991. The Muftis’ credibility, battered already, will be no better then. The BJP will try to accomplish “44-Plus”.
Both Modi’s persona and the BJP’s ideology should have deterred Mufti at the very outset even from contemplating a Faustian Pact with them. Instead he rushed headlong – even before the polls. Here is the record.
17 November 2014 : Indresh Kumar RSS leader said : “There is an opportunity in 2014 to get back lost Kashmir” into the “mainstream”. He promised “industrialization, education and Indianization” (the Jan Sangh’s cry in the 1970s).
20 November 2014: Amit Shah, BJP President promised in Srinagar, “complete integration” with India.
22 November 2014, at Kishtwar, Narendra Modi said: “I want the people to install with full majority a BJP Government in J&K” and “Our mantra is only development, development and development”.
4 December 2014, Jammu, Arun Jaitley: “Times have changed; now the problems of the people in J&K, especially Kashmir, have moved beyond the issue” (of Art. 370). To drive the point home he elaborated on 14 January 2015 that “no private investor would invest in a place where he cannot own the land”; impliedly the curbs on land ownership will go. The BJP’s stand on art. 370 was “still the same”.
8 December, 2014 : In Jammu, Modi said: “The Jammu region has always been discriminated against by successive State Governments”.
16 December, 2014: In Jammu, Modi repeated “Justice is not being done to its people. Despite all this both the NC and the PDP moved towards the BJP.
24 December, 2014: Omar Abdullah: “If the BJP is not untouchable for PDP why is it untouchable for us?”
28 December, 2014: PDP’s spokesman Nayeem Akhtar, in an interview to Muzamil Jaleel: “We know a government cannot be run when the entire Jammu, especially its Hindu population that voted for BJP, is not represented in the ruling dispensation. We know our positions (PDP and BJP) are irreconcilable. But we have to accept the BJP as a major political force in the State”. He added, “They are powerful also because they run the Central Government. So, the only way to prevent them from implementing their dangerous agenda is to join them and restrain their actions.”
31 December, 2014: The PDP President Mehbooba Mufti let the cat out of the bag after an hour long meeting with Governor N. N. Vohra. She said: 1. “The PDP has the support of more than 55 MLAs which is more than enough to form the government”. The word “has” revealed how far things had gone as did the figure of 55 – PDP 28, BJP 25, and, significantly, Lone’s 2. He was to be part of the deal. 2. PDP’s “political agenda of reconciliation which was initiated by former PM, A.B. Vajpayee”. Nayeem Akhtar had called the positions “irreconcilable” only 3 days earlier.
2 January, 2015: A BJP leader exposed the NC. “The only formal contacts we had so far were with the National Conference. In fact they had approached us. But the understanding reached during these contacts didn’t last long; as there were problems within the NC.
2 January, 2015: Amit Shah, BJP President, exposed both the PDP and the NC. “We are in talks with both the parties” which only added to the BJP’s bargaining power. “We want to form a government.”
5 January, 2015: Ram Madhav said, “Today we have decided that we will have structured talks with PDP leaders on the basis of the initiative shown by them”. Thus each, PDP and NC, rushed to form an alliance with the BJP in order to exclude its marriage with the other.
6 January, 2015: Ram Madhav repeated, ‘There has been an initiative from the PDP’s side. To take this forward, we discussed (sic.) to hold further discussions on the issue”.
6 January, 2015: A senior BJP leader meaningfully said that an effort was on to tackle ticklish issues “in a more cordial atmosphere once we are allies”. They were Art. 370, AFSPA; delimitation of constituencies, citizenship rights, reservation of seats, and the CM’s tenure.
7 January, 2015: Wooed by both, PDP and NC, a BJP leader confidently said, “We have to form a government regardless of whether the PDP accepts our demands.” It had the NC option.
Imposition of Governor’s Rule was due not merely because the Assembly’s tenure was to end by 19 January. The BJP could not face the Delhi electorate on 7 February after a pact with the PDP. The quest for a fig leaf in the form of a Minimum Common Program had begun. Both sides needed “a window for face saving”. Meanwhile the Union Home Ministry had made its own moves on the issue of Permanent Resident Certificates and Voting rights in the Assembly to Jammu’s Western Pakistan refugees. Neither the PDP nor the NC figured in this exercise on an explosive issue.
12 January, 2015: With great fanfare the NC decided belatedly to rule out a pact with the BJP. As in the PDP, party cadres were disturbed by the moves while the greedy leaders sought some crumbs from the table. Evidently the BJP had a better understanding with the PDP.
The record proves that 1. Both the PDP and the NC initiated talks with the BJP. 2. Neither was frank with the people or its own members. 3. The BJP held the cards throughout and its sights we set on power. Its J&K in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna told Greater Kashmir, on 27 December: “We don’t want to sit in the opposition for obvious reasons – our vote share and the number of legislators.” He added, “Our stand is clear that we will be having a Common Minimum Programme that will revolve around development of the State”. At Vijayawada, Amit Shah had explicitly said, “We want a BJP Government in the State”.
On 31 December, Mehbooba Mufti herself had said; “any alliance with the BJP should be on the basis of development agenda of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee”. 4. The PDP’s guilty conscience is reflected in the falsehoods it retails.
Mehbooba Mufti said, on 31 December, “we have to ensure restart of Vajpayee’s policy for restoration of peace and normalcy in Kashmir which was later abandoned by the UPA Government”. This is totally false. As well as wrecking the peace process himself – in Agra July 2001, massing of troops etc. – he sought to obstruct the UPA’s moves in the peace process (see letter reproduced in the Part 1 of this essay series). She never made this charge when the UPA was in power. It is a shame that she should retail falsehoods in order to please the BJP. Incidentally Mufti was never a party in the peace process. It was between the leaders of India and Pakistan. True, “the people of J&K have voted against the NC and the Congress”. But so did the Valley unanimously against the BJP.
Nayeem Akhtar’s assertions made to KNS on 4 January are abject. “The question is if we go with Congress or NC can we solve the issues which lie in the domain of Central government.” By this test all the units in a federation must kneel before the party in power at the Centre. “Can we get back even one power project from the Centre if we go with the NC or Congress”. Rs.50 thousand crores are needed to rehabilitate the flood victims. “Can we get it if we go with the NC or Congress”.
This is a brilliant assessment of the mentality of the Modi regime. Flood relief is not charity. It is Kashmir’s right to receive it and also the power projects which are its due. Must a State party perform one somersault after another after every change at the Center? Is there no such thing as principles; values, and ethics in PDP’s politics? He cited “reconciliation dialogue, cross-LOC trade, revocation of AFSPA and return of power projects” as some of “the basic issues’ to which the PDP is pledged. The NC and the Congress, he said, cannot help him. Does he suggest that the BJP will?
By 4 January 2015 every one knew the Modi regime’s stance on these matters. These special pleadings were a desperate effort to conceal sordid moves for power.
Politically M Sayed is a direct lineal descendant of G.M. Sadiq, the man who, more than any other Kashmiri, undermined Kashmir’s unity. He was part of the three conspirators in the coup of 8 August 1953 with Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and Mir Qasim. After the polls in 1957 the two fell out with Bakshi and set up the Democratic National Conference. It merged with the NC on 5 December 1960. The rebels were duly made Ministers by Bakshi who resigned in 1963. Sadiq became CM in February 1964 and put Bakshi in jail. He soon began to play the Centre’s tunes.
It was Sadiq who wrecked Kashmir’s autonomy; politically by planting Congress in the State and constitutionally by further eroding an eroded Art. 379. He planned this soon after he became CM. On 7 August 1964, a former senior colleague in the NC, the veteran Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz wrote to him from New Delhi a historic letter which is little known. It deserves to be quoted in extenso. Obviously Sadiq’s designs had become known in New Delhi as the letter indicates:
“I have already told you why I consider it inadvisable at present to convert the National Conference into a branch of the Indian National Congress or to make a move for the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. From Press reports I now learn that you contemplate amending the Ranbir Penal Code providing for deterrent punishment to individuals as well as political parties advocating secession of any territory from India. I have not been able to comprehend the implications of the proposal.
“Does it mean that anyone who says that the accession dispute is yet unsettled and the future affiliation of the State remains to be determined by the free vote of the people, will come within the mischief of the law after the amendment is passed and incorporated in the Code?…Since you came to power I have taken it for granted that your first and foremost task will be to enlist the support of the State-people, particularly the Muslims, for the solution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
“With that aim in view, it is important that we try to understand and respect the feelings of our countrymen in vital matters of national significance. We have not only to create an impression that Kashmiris are free to shape their own future freely under the new dispensation but also actually to provide such freedom in ample measure..
“I am not inclined to be a nationalist; I consider nationalism like communalism to be a malady of the human mind. But in the contemporary world this disease is so widespread that no practical politician can afford to ignore its influence and power. In one of my previous letters I have told you that in my opinion the interests of Kashmir nationalism and Indian Nationalism are not in every respect identical, at any rate for the present….
“I may be wrong, but I have an impression that at times you and your colleagues are over zealous to appease the Indian nationalist sentiments at the cost of offending the Kashmir nationalist sentiments. This is not wise and will undoubtedly prove extremely harmful to the cause that all of us ardently desire to see triumphant. For India it should be enough that you and your party stand steadfastly for Kashmir’s accession to India and brook no compromise on it. While working to make this a reality, India should afford your Government widest latitude to mollify the sullen and discontented Kashmiris; otherwise there will be little hope for the State remaining with India permanently. I can never believe that Kashmir will be integrated with India by some trick, intimidation or draconian law. …
“Instead of adopting ill-conceived measure to appease the Indians I think it would be better that you impress upon them that they should realize the precarious position of your party and Government and cease to be exacting in secondary important matters when on the basic issue of accession you are clear, unequivocal and firm. By having publicly stated that you will soon replace National Conference by a branch of the Indian National Congress and that you contemplate recommending the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution you may have earned a little praise of the Hindus but you have surely yielded some ground to your opponents. …
“It would be foolish to labor under the false hope that once a law has been enacted people will obey it or that they will be afraid of it. Emotionally moved communities – yes Kashmiris too – can suffer hardships if at calmer moments we find them reluctant to do so.” —Kashmir in Crucible, Pandit Premnath Bazaz, 1967; pp. 227-229).