This is the second post of a three-part series on how successive recent Indian governments have plotted to give away Kashmir. It is written by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organization of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.
BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO
When Kathwari was invited to India along with his proposals ‘Kashmir: A Way Forward’, it marked a major change in the strategic perspectives of Indian State. Kathwari’s plan was a rechristened Dixon Formula. It envisaged a quasi-independent or eventually independent Greater Muslim Kashmir. To Dixon, doing this was completing the ‘unfinished agenda’ of Partition of India.
Nehru from the inception was opposed to an Independent Kashmir. He had outrightly communicated to Muslim leaders of Kashmir that, “he would prefer to hand over the State to Pakistan on a platter rather than support its independence and allow it to be turned into a centre of international intrigue and danger to both India and Pakistan.” It is not to say that Nehru and his successors till Vajpayee considered independence or quasi-independence for Jammu and Kashmir as a political blasphemy. There is a lot of evidence available to suggest that Nehru and his successors in Congress flirted with these options but predominantly from a tactical perspective. For strategic planners in India, counterpoising independence or autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir to counter pro-Pak sentiment in the State has always been a very attractive option. They always believed that keeping these options alive, and also nourishing them would provide India leverage to wrong foot Pakistan. Bereft of the profound understanding of the issues involved and oblivious of the implications they flaunted this maneuver more often than less as a strategic necessity. By accepting independence or quasi-independence options as possible concepts for clinching a deal with Pakistan, India has virtually checkmated itself. Pakistanis now publicly claim that they are actually agreeing to India’s position and so there should be no delay in a final settlement.
The formulation that two-nation theory can be countered only by a three-nation theory is turning out to be a fatal self goal. Both theories are ideologically one and the same. Cutting the two-nation politics into regional or ethnic denominators does not resolve its basic incompatibility with a state based on recognition of plural diversity on the principle of equality. Breaking away of Bangladesh from Pakistan only solved the problem of power sharing within the frame work of the bigger Pakistan. It did not resolve the conflict with an inclusive secular nation because it defined its separation from India on the same principle of two-nation theory.
The symbiotic relation which Pakistan evolved between pro-Pak and pro-independence/autonomy politics in Jammu and Kashmir could not be properly comprehended within the framework of the strategic perspective of India. This perspective visualized harnessing of Muslim identity politics and constitutionally fortifying Muslim sub-nationalism in the State as not only an antidote to Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir but also an effective device to mobilize Muslim vote bank in rest of India. It considered Muslim communalism in India as merely a reaction to the tyranny of Hindu majority. The entire approach over the years has become not only a device to circumvent the issue of Muslim communalism in India but to protect and nourish it.
Despite all this, till Kathwari’s visit, Indian State had not totally closed its eyes to the incompatibility of an autonomous sphere of Muslim interests in Jammu and Kashmir with the secular nation building. That explains why over the years the process of erosion of article 370 remained alive. Extension of jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India, CAG, fundamental rights and many other central laws was an expression to dissolve this incompatibility. A dominant section of Indian State and the political establishment never agreed to elevate Article 370 from a transitory provision to a permanent feature of Indian constitution. The strategic paradigm of fortifying Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India to negate the appeal of two-nation theory has lead to the creation of broadly two sections within Indian State and the political establishment.
One such section has been that always had a subversive motivation and visualized recognition to Muslim Sub-nationalism in Jammu and Kashmir as a space to build a Greater Muslim Kashmir and use this to impair the indivisible unity of Indian Republic from within. This section always wanted Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir to be alive and kicking to use it as a cardinal insult to balkanize India along its sub-national diversity.
The second segment constitutes of those who gave more credence to the tactical value of harnessing Muslim sub-nationalism, but only to weaken the appeal of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. While keeping the affront to Muslim identity politics to the minimum this section however did try to neutralize the disruptive potential of special status of Jammu and Kashmir to the unity of India. This group nourished a misplaced wish that eventually Indian democracy will prove to be a stronger force and Muslim identity politics in the state will loose its relevance. This group has premised their approach on the line that Muslim communalism has not to be contested; it has to be given minimum affront and the best choice is to circumvent it.
Over the years there has been a ping pong battle between these two mindsets; one seeking to delegitimise the religious identity politics, the other doing everything to consolidate Greater Muslim Kashmir. When Muslim majority Doda was carved out of the Hindu majority Jammu province in 1948, followed by carving out of Shia Muslim majority Kargil out of Buddhist majority Ladakh, we were witnessing the counter responses to the process of fuller integration of Jammu and Kashmir unleashed not from Pakistan but from within. Nehruvian strategic paradigm kept this internal conflict in the nation building process alive.
The promotion of Kathwari plan by Vajpayee government marked the demise of this strategic perspective. The new paradigm recognizes the three nation proposals of independence or semi-independence of Kashmir as a solution to Indo-Pak conflict rather than a tactical antidote to the two-nation vision. Recognizing Pakistan as a partner in settling the future of the only Muslim majority state of India has not only made the settlement on Jammu and Kashmir as the unfinished agenda of partition but opened afresh the Muslim question in India. The support extended by eminent Muslims like AG Noorani or Shabana Azmi or Wajahat Habibullah to the separatist cause in Kashmir have the sinister forebodings of the new confidence of a section of Indian Muslim elite to question the very unity of the nation. Vajpayee’s strategic vision underlined that the frontline Muslim state of Pakistan can live in harmony with a secular and Hindu majority India. This shift in India’s strategic perspective is of the nature of a mutation. From visualizing the creation of an Independent Greater Muslim Kashmir as more dangerous than its secession to Pakistan and a potential hot bed of international intrigue, the new perspective seems to view the creation of the same as a bridge of peace between Pakistan (a confessional ideological State) and India (a secular state).
Giving away Kashmir
Manmohan Singh’s tenure has carried the strategic shift further away from the Nehru-Gandhi era. The peace with Pakistan at any price seems to be getting internalized in a way that it has become more than a strategic necessity — an ideological imperative. The subversive entrenchment within, emboldened by its increasing reach and sway, is gradually succeeding in harnessing the might and wherewithal of the State itself to mount a concerted attack on the Nation.
The three Round Table Conferences and the meetings of the various Working Groups and the conclusions thereof are manifest examples of how Indian State is made to invest in creating a Greater Muslim Kashmir.
A section of pro-India participants, invited to the first Round Table Conference (RTC), did debate the wisdom of participating in it. They had legitimate apprehensions that the conduct of such a conference was in fact an exercise to accord democratic legitimacy to certain concessions that Government of India was ready to make to Pakistan and the separatists in the Valley. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already had series of very high profile meetings with a section of separatist leadership. These meetings, lasting for hours, along with the top most officers of Government of India had catapulted the separatist leadership into the national and international limelight once again at a time when their credibility on the ground was at the lowest. The Chenab Solution, which had prominently come to the public realm after Vajpayee invited Kathwari and sent his special emissary Sh. R K Mishra to start a dialogue process with Pakistan, had attained the stature of a possible solution considered more by the Government of India than by Pakistan. Was the participation of pro-India leadership in Jammu and Kashmir in the Round Table Conference along with the separatist leadership sought to give an impression of involving everyone so that the compromise already worked out could be presented as a fate accompli to the wider national opinion? Retrospectively, this apprehension seems to have been well founded. At that time however the opinion that Round Table Conference accorded legitimacy to the diversity of political opinion in the State and presented an opportunity to show the separatists their position in over all political environment of the state clinched the argument against dissociating from the RTC.
Through the three RTC’s and the Working Groups, GOI pushed through all such proposals, which have critically strengthened the processes for the creation of Greater Muslim Kashmir. A process of reconciliation with separatism on their terms has by now been firmly grounded through a series of administrative, quasi-legal and political maneuvers. These measures are such that they do not need a legislative sanction of the Indian Parliament and as such are not dependent upon the political consensus.
The deliberations in RTC’s and Working Groups amply reflect a deliberation in implementing an agenda which had already been unleashed. The very architecture of the RTC’s was developed in a way were Government of India was placed as a neutral arbitrator between pro-India opinion and those who wanted to change the status quo of the relation between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India. Many times Government of India seemed to facilitate the separatist agenda by maintaining stoic silence even when the Muslim leadership of the valley put forward misplaced constitutional arguments or historically unfounded and false propositions undermining the very accession of the state with India and attacking its sovereignty. When none other than Omar Abdullah said in the very first RTC that, “we have signed only instrument of accession and not instrument of merger,” the statement had profound implications needing a proper response from the highest in the Government of India. In the same meeting the leader of PDP and then Cabinet Minister in the state government, Sh Muzaffar Beigh said, “Article 370 had a treaty status”. He opined that this treaty had developed after an understanding between Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and Constituent Assembly of India, both of which as per him were sovereign bodies. This blatant falsehood and sinister twist was never contested by Government of India.
A section of Indian State and political establishment seem to be allowing blatant falsehoods aimed at wrecking the sovereignty of the nation in Jammu and Kashmir in such a way so that public at large, not only in J&K but in rest of India as well as internationally, is convinced that India has no case in J&K. The deliberations in the Working Groups were also conducted in a manner to undermine all legitimate imperatives of national interests. Government of India is mirroring the attitudes which the British Government adopted in the build up to the partition of India.