here has been wide turmoil in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and various issues have been raised after the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board was denied the facilities of land required to serve pilgrims to Amarnathji. The land issue is serving as a cover as Muslims in the Kashmir valley have raised the banner of separatism and strengthened the Pakistan backed groups while the people of Jammu have raised the banner of Indian Nationalism demanding to be heard for a fair share of power. There has been a temporary solution to the land issue but the Separatism versus Nationalism issue remains and the stark differences between the expectations of people from the two regions cannot be swept under the rug any more.
The Indian media has been featuring news and talk shows on the situation but to those who are knowledgeable, one is shocked by the level of naivety existing or displayed by the anchors in giving out the news or conducting the debates. They continually portray as if injustices have been done to the Kashmiri Muslims and as if they are disenfranchised and more power and doles will bring them to the Indian side. Nothing could be farther from the truth and in fact the recent uprising of the Jammuites is quite a bit against the hegemony of the Kashmiri Muslims in the power structure of J&K state. Jammuites have been protesting the imposition of the will of Kashmiri Muslims over the wishes of all other inhabitants of the J&K state and even the Ladakhis have previously agitated on this matter and the forced exodus of Kashmiri Hindus is common knowledge now.
Let me take from the coverage of an earlier occurrence to explain what the Indian Media does not know about Kashmir and/or how it hides from facts.
I was not amused in the least to read a review dated 22nd June 2008 by Karan Thapar of The Hindustan Times on the book “My Kashmir” written by Wajahat Habibullah. He too like the author, fell victim to propaganda machinations of pro-Pak subversive and anti-national elements of the Valley. The book written by Wajahat Habib-ullah, a Kashmir cadre IAS officer who has had a long innings in the State acquires significance given the present conditions of Kashmir. It needs to be analyzed properly.
While basing his views only on his interactions with Muslims of Kashmir, without looking for facts, he too like the other so called “Kashmir Specialists” analyses the present situation in Kashmir with the “logic” of delusion. He too like other “Kashmir Specialists” feels that Govt. of India trampled on the rights of the people of the Valley and shattered their dreams as a result of which underlying grievances of Kashmiris have not disappeared; rather they have accumulated over decades. He states that Kashmiris were maltreated both by the State as well as Central Govts. He feels that a serious blunder was perpetrated when Sheikh Abdullah was removed from power in 1953 and subsequently arrested, because he feels that he was the main force behind accession of Kashmir with India. Wajahat calls Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest as a betrayal by Govt. of India. He further states that one Act applied in the Valley was Defense of India Rules which allowed police to keep reasons of arrests hidden. He states that the Rules were applied in Kashmir even in normal times for the maintenance of routine law and order.
He also states, that even elections which could have helped people vent their accumulated grievances were not allowed to be free and fair. These were rigged and people of the Valley were thus denied freedom of selecting good and upright candidates to represent them. He alleges that elections were undermined in the following four ways:-
- Enmass rejection of nomination papers merely on technical grounds.
- Impersonation of voters with pliable election personnel.
- Stuffing of ballot boxes.
- Exchange of losing candidates with winning candidates.
All these misdeeds by the government created frustration and detestation in people of the Valley, which generated insurgency in the 80’s. He further feels that the removal of Farooq Govt. in 1984 too was a blunder which he claims was due to a clash between Farooq and Indra Gandhi. He says that Indra Gandhi considered that Farooq was what he was, only due to her support. His ouster from the Govt. in 1984 was questionable. He also alleges that New Delhi wanted only suppliant CMs to work in the State.
He also notes that during State Assembly Elections of 1987 polling in Amirakadal Constituency was rigged to defeat Yousuf Shah of Muslim United Front. He points that his Polling Agents were arrested under the draconian Public Safety Act by the Govt. This act of the Govt morphed Yousuf Shah into a dreaded terrorist Sayeed Sallahudin, the head of Hiz-ul-Mujahideen and Chief of United Jihad Council of Pakistan. According to Wajahat Habibullah, the refusal by the Govt to allow an opportunity to him incited disenchanted people of the Valley to insurrection because they were convinced that freedom was inaccessible in the Valley under Indian rule.
Wajahat Habibullah is still hopeful that harmony can be restored with restoration of Kashmir’s dignity which would require an apology by India to Muslims of the Valley.
This simplistic reading of the prognosis of Kashmir malady by Wajahat-Habibullah is quite interesting. But when one tries to look at the real facts and understand the undertones and implications of the crisis in Kashmir, a different picture emerges, which should dispel the deep seated myths of Kashmir which are still harbored by the Indian media as well as by some sections of Indian society.
Like Wajahat, many more people worked in the State Administration and as such had deep and wide interaction with the people of the State, especially Muslims of the Valley. They therefore know as much, if not more about the psyche of the people of the Valley. It would therefore not be fair to ignore their assessments at the risk of Wajahat's lopsided assessment of the Kashmir Scenario.
It is a deliberately planted myth that people of the Valley were disillusioned and frustrated by the so called misdeeds and mishandling of policies for the Valley by the Central Govt. On the contrary, facts speak something different. The Central Govt. has all along been extra liberal and accommodating with the State, providing liberal funds and technical support keeping in view the sensitivities of Muslims of the Valley. Jammu & Kashmir was and continues to be the only state in the Union where a parallel Constitution of the State is allowed to operate, to safeguard and protect special interests of the Muslims of the Valley. A separate flag as a mark of recognition of special sensitivities of the people of the Valley is still allowed to be hoisted with the National Flag unlike in other states. Even jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is not operative in the State. The State is allowed to have its own Election Commissioner to supervise and oversee the conduct of its elections. Not only that, the Indian Parliament is barred from legislating upon certain subjects pertaining to the State, which are otherwise inherently within the Centre's jurisdiction. This way the State is insulated against all “uncalled for” transgressions by the Centre and thus enjoys full autonomy in political, social, administrative and legislative matters. So it is only simplistic to state that people of the Valley are disgruntled and disillusioned with the Centre due to its controlling policies and actions.
Unfortunately liberal latitudes provided to the state are being misused and exploited by the local politicians irrespective of their party affiliations. All Kashmiri politicians grind their own axes to perpetuate their own survival and existence. The worst record was created by National Conference from 1947 onwards, as is revealed by an objective study of the political history of the State since 1947. It will be relevant to indicate that rigging in elections and misapplication of security laws, if at all would not be done by the Govt. of India but by local politicians through their pliant bureaucrats. So it is not right to say that it was the Central Govt that denied basic civil and political rights to people of the Valley. If at all, this would have to be the handiwork of political masters within the state and National Conference should top that list by virtue of having been in power the longest.
For rigging of elections in the Valley by different means covert and overt, it will be relevant to state that all elections in the State were organized and supervised by Chief Election Officers through their respective District Election Officers. By no coincidence all these Officers of Election belonged to the IAS cadre with security support of IPS cadre officers. Very few exceptions were to be seen. Even Wajahat Habibullah worked as DM and Divisional Commissioner in the Valley during that period when he was head of the administration at the District or at the Divisional level. There is no official record to show that any one of these Election Officers ever resented and objected to such alleged malpractices in elections during their posting as Election Officers or even reported any malpractices later during their tenure. Elections in the Valley were as fair and clean as they were in other states at that point of time with occasional charges and counter charges. Even assuming that there were some malpractices in some elections in the Valley it could not be a cause for armed insurrection without active moral, financial and logistic support of Pakistan.
So far as politico-economic parameters of the State for the period in question are concerned, it has to be admitted by all that conditions in the State were made more conducive for all-round growth and progress as compared with other parts of the country. This was done with tacit financial support and patronage of the Central Govt., which was extra liberal and yielding in granting of funds and other technical support to the State.
Certain politico-historical facts need to be recorded to make matters clear. J&K was and is the only State in the country where radical Land Reforms were introduced which divested landed class of the Valley without any compensation and bestowed ownership rights to the tenants in the Valley who happened to be Muslims. Though the law was a blatant breach of Fundamental Rights of Citizens of India, it was implemented because the jurisdiction of Supreme Court was barred from the State. This act of the Govt. indeed created a situation of denial of sustenance to Kashmiri Pandits who were rendered as paupers by such insensitive legislation as Abolition of Zamindari without due compensation. Even up to this time such radical Land Reforms have not been repeated in any other state of India. Not even in Communist West Bengal or Kerala. This was possible because the Central Govt did not object to the move, in order to placate the Muslims of the Valley. It rather supported the move which fully breached fundamental rights of Kashmiri Pandits who happened to be petty land owners in the Valley. Equally, another radical move was carried out in the State when Debt Cancellation Act was passed which provided full debt relief to both rural and urban debtors by a sweeping act, yet again without compensation.This radical Act too, offering complete debt relief and waiver to the Muslims of the valley has not yet been replicated in any other state of the country. This again was possible because Central Govt did not resist it and allowed its implementation without any hesitation.
An intensely welfaristic policy of free education was introduced in the State in which education from primary to university level, including professional colleges, was made free for all and funded by the Govt. This move too in itself was the first of its kind in the country. This was hailed by all for its impact of removing class and caste barriers in the development of the youth of the Valley, but imposed heavy financial burden on the State Govt. Yes, even here, the state government was aided by the Centre and liberally given complete grants. As a result of this radical measure the literacy rate rose in the state, with special emphasis being given to support Muslim students of the Valley. All this was possible because the Central Govt doled liberal aid to the State in the Education sector as in other sectors. It may be relevant to state here that West Bengal and Kerala Governments have not been able to achieve this feat even up to this date despite their socialistic nature.
Likewise, a foolproof food security system was also introduced in the State, in which food subsidy was granted to all sections of the society, thus making it possible to provide food to all at affordable prices. This is a recorded fact that there has been no starvation death in the State as a consequence of the said food security policy, subsidy for which was granted by the Central Govt. Food distribution system of the State is yet considered to be the best, worthy of emulation in other parts of the country.
Full free health cover was provided to the people of the State through an extensive network of dispensaries, health care centers and hospitals, spread deep into the interiors of the State. This involved huge costs which a poor state like J&K could not afford and again the Central Government doled out grants. So the overall index of health of the people of the Valley showed a sharp ascend.
In order to involve people of the Valley in the day to day working of development and welfare schemes of the State, democratic decentralization of powers was effected by creation of Panchayats and Municipalities. These local, self governing institutions were involved to plan, implement and oversee implementation of rural and agricultural development of the areas and provide civic amenities to the urban sectors. All these local self governing institutions were manned by duly elected representatives through the democratic process of elections which were fair and free. These elections became so important that even mainline political parties participated with full zeal.
There was therefore no reason for the people of the Valley to feel isolated and ignored when they cherished to be active participants in the democratic process of development and growth of the Valley and when they enjoyed suitable levels of prosperity. It needs not to be reiterated that the State Govts., irrespective of their composition were flush with Central grants and funds which were finally declared as 90% grants and 10% loans. Such kindness has yet to be shown to any other state by the Centre though there are many states which deserve more than was granted to J&K.
There are many more indicators in the Valley which show that Centre has all along been extra-liberal and accommodating to the needs of the Valley. There was and is even now no need to manufacture alibis for the emergence of violent, anti-national and subversive activities adopted by some mentally sick elements of the Valley. These elements are trained to dismember the State with active financial, logistic and moral support of Pakistan and other pan-Islamic Agencies. Terrorists are still pushed across the border into the Valley to cause and create havoc and chaos by their nefarious activities. They have been doing it for more than two decades now and find occasional sympathizers by their calculated propaganda against the Indian State.
It would therefore be too simplistic to admit that the present mayhem in the Valley is the accumulated result of decades of miss-governance and political hara-kiri in the State, especially in the Valley by the Central Govt. On the contrary, it is designed and sponsored by Pakistan and its Agencies and agents inside Kashmir with a view to dismember the Valley from India and establish a theocratic fiefdom of Nizam-i-Mustafa in the Valley. Offering an apology or saying sorry to such elements would be the total surrender of saner, democratic elements. If an apology is needed, it should be from these rogue elements who have held the Valley and its people to ransom for more than two decades now and made life a hell for all concerned. It would be only appropriate for this mad fringe of society, which is still plaguing the Valley with frequent outbursts of violence, to abstain from their senseless pursuits and commit an unconditional apology to the people of the Valley including Kashmiri Pandits who were hounded out of their homes some two decades back. No human rights body can atone the miseries suffered by a peace loving community of half a million Kashmiri Pandits who have scattered throughout the country because it did not and does not believe in violence to settle scores.
Is anyone listening? Indian Media? Hello!