Hamid Ansari on Kashmir: Simplistic Ideas of Unity Do More Harm Than Good

Former Vice-President of India Hamid Ansari at the release function of the book titled “Kashmir: Land of Regrets” at the India International Center in New Delhi. — Photo: Caravan Daily

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – In a subtle manner, former vice-president of India, Dr. Mohammad Hamid Ansari, on Wednesday criticised the “unilateral” abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A (according special status to Jammu and Kashmir) by the BJP-led NDA Government at the Center. He said. “In the past too, cherry-picked and selective approach was followed on Kashmir to suit the rulers (interests).

Hamid Ansari was speaking after the launch of a book titled “Kashmir: Land of Regrets” at the India International Center here.

He said, “The most recent happenings in that unfortunate land (Kashmir) are in the public domain, selectively for our own public and more truthfully for a global audience.”

Quoting historian Timothy Synder, Dr Ansari said, “They suggest an endeavour to induct democracy by undemocratic means, public trust through distrust, and freedom through un-freedom and it remains to be seen if such 20th century devices would suffice.”

On the question of restoring normalcy in the state, he referred to former governor N N Vohra’s suggestion that India should regain the confidence of the people, especially the youth, of Kashmir who is frustrated, and cynical.

“Equally telling is Vohra saheb’s two observations in his ‘Foreword’:

(a) That restoration of peace and normalcy will involve sustained delivery of honest, efficient and accountable government, and

(b) That it is of crucial importance that India regains the confidence of the people, especially the youth, who are frustrated, angry and cynical – they have lost faith in the policies, statements and promises of both, the state and central governments.”

Vohra was the immediate predecessor of the present governor S P Malik.

He further said that the author of book, Moosa Raza, former chief secretary of Jammu &Kashmir, has rightly diagnosed and suggested correctives for restoration of normalcy in the troubled-torn state.

“The author knows Kashmir and writes about it from his perspective. His diagnosis and correctives are in the concluding chapters are those of an administrator wanting to do good to a people whose virtues he has discerned in some measure. Like suggestions many times in the past, they would be cherry-picked to suit the rulers.”

Without mentioning the locked down situation in Kashmir since August 5, 2019, Dr Ansari said the date of this evening’s function is accidental; the imagery (cover page of the book) is not. “Yesterday was Muharram; Muharram is the anniversary of the martyrdom of a tragic figure in early Islamic history in a battle between justice and injustice. The image on the cover page of the book of a famous painting tells the story of the aftermath. It is an eloquent commentary on the subject of the volume before us.”

In an oblique criticism of RSS ideology, Dr Ansari said the uniformity could not be brought at the expense of diversity as it does not help the cause of national unity and it should be eschewed.

“Simplistic ideas of unity, seeking uniformity at the expense of diversity and that too selectively and open to suggestions of factional motivation, does not help the cause of national unity and pursuing it can only promote distrust and discord.

To buttress his point, the former vice-president, who is scholar of repute, pointed out that India is a land of identities, of 4,635 communities, 78 percent of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories.

The author of the book, Moosa Raza, did not approve of the stripping of state’s special status. The former chief secretary of the state was appointed in 1988 when the state was going through tumultuous times following the 1987 rigged assembly elections.

Raza was in conversation with noted journalist and political commentator Arati R Jerath after the book launch.

He said Article 370 was mere a fig leaf, there was no need to have abrogated it. It was reduced to a shell as more than 250 subjects were applicable to the state. You name a subject and it was applicable to Kashmir, he added.

Terming it as an “unwise” decision, Raza said it had created a vacuum finishing two major forces in the state, mainstream political parties like the National Conference (NC), the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress and the separatists.

Now it will be a big challenge to the government as Kashmir has been pushed into hands of militants, he said.

He was also critical of the decision to bifurcate the J&K into two union territories. “I don’t know any instance in the history of Independent India where a state was reduced to a Union territory,” he averred.

The former chief secretary of the state gave a word of advice to the government which could salvage the situation to some extent. That’s revocation of the Union territory status of the J& K.

The 300-page book provides multiple perspectives from which to assess the nascent stages of insurgency and other aspects of the state from a common man’s point view.


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