Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Jamila Verghese
Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Why exclude eminent lawyers and members of civil society of probity and wide experience. The Indian judiciary has most often done us proud but a distinction must be drawn between acting judiciously and judicially. Many commissions of inquiry headed by judges have been total disasters.

Babble, Babel: Look Under Kashmir

J&K acceded to India on October 26, 1947 but was never “merged”. It retains its own constitution. This does not mean J&K is not an integral part of India. It is.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 28 October, 2010

Now that Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari have successfully completed their initial visit to Srinagar and touched base in Jammu, the critics, who come in all shapes and sizes, could be a worried lot and should feel a little foolish. Despite threats of boycott, cries of irrelevance, sniggers at the alleged lightweight nature of these interlocutors, a dialogue has begun. And the Babel of tongues in which sundry politicians have babbled at their irresponsible and irrelevant best, shows that the Government did well to avoid appointing so-called heavyweight politicians of essentially intellectually lightweight parties to parley with all strands of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is just as well that the absurd pursuit of laying sedition charges against Arundhati Roy and Geelani for saying in Delhi what they and a lot of others have been saying for a long time both here and in J&K has been abandoned. To ask for azadi – if by that is meant independence – is not treason. And asking for it is not going to make it happen. Muzzling free speech, one of the cardinal pillars of an open and democratic society, would be to jeopardize our own freedom. Rather, the foolish agitation of the BJP and its ilk, if anything, gives salience to the separatist’s fatuous parrot-cry that ignores history and ground realities. J&K was in fact independent from August 15 until October 22, 1947. Who cut short its independence and who remains in occupation of half the state to this day?

Withered ideologues demand to know the truth in J&K but have never waited for an answer. That is why they dare not engage in dialogue and fear it, for their humbug and duplicity would stand exposed. What credibility does a man like Moulvi Umar have when he dare not acknowledge who assassinated his own father because he spoke of peace, and again angrily panicked when knowledge of a “quiet dialogue” with earlier government interlocutors led to a dastardly bid to assassinate his moderate Hurriyat colleague, Fazle Haq Qureshi. Men like Geelani are hirelings of Pakistan. Yet the door remains open for them and if they are willing to enter into a genuine dialogue they might yet redeem themselves.

The other thing to remember is that for more than a few people, including some in the establishment, the J&K agitation is a sound business proposition that sustains their hearths and ego. Should the matter be resolved, whatever would they do? Like some of their counterparts in the Northeast, they fear peace in J&K. So does Pakistan. Its governing ideology could unravel without an object of obsessive hate while its Army and jihadi ideologues, who hold a hapless people in thrall, would lose their very raison d’etre.

In their first round of talks, the J&K Interlocutors met key functionaries like the Governor and chief minister, the PDP leader, Muzzaffar Beigh, imprisoned stone pelters, detained militants, students, University faculty and senior civil society members. Others will follow. Those who stay out for the nth time, cannot complain later that they were never consulted.

The hue and cry about “admitting” that J&K is a “dispute” and not just an “issue” or “matter”, that azadi can be on the agenda for conversation if someone puts together a blueprint of its meaning and how to get there, that Pakistan must be involved in any final settlement, and the fuss over Omar Abdullah’s statement that J&K has ‘acceded’ but not ‘integrated’ with India constitutes much sound and fury by the BJP and others who seem to know and understand nothing. Such political and historical illiteracy, masquerading as patriotism, is dangerous.

If Kashmir is not a dispute and Pakistan not a party to it, does the BJP plan to arraign Vajpayee for treason for initiating the comprehensive peace process with Nawaz Sharif in Lahore in 1999 and then parleying with Musharraf? The issue is not the fact that a dispute exists but the nature of that dispute. Dileep Padgaonkar stated the obvious in stating what he did in Srinagar.

And azadi. The word has different meanings for different people, ranging from autonomy, back to the original terms of accession to complete independence. Talking about azadi breaks no bones. India is talking azadi with the NSCN-IM.

Does the BJP not know that with approaching independence all princely states, and not only J&K, were invited to sign a standard instrument of accession under the three heads of external affairs, defence and communications. Accession did not signify acceptance of the Indian constitution in toto beyond the limits specified. This was accomplished through a separate merger agreement which was signed in one or two stages, the second stage being financial merger. Tripura acceded to the Indian Union on August 13, 1947 but complete merger was only affected on October 15, 1949. Likewise, Manipur acceded in 1947 but was merged on October 15, 1948. Bhopal acceded in 1947 but only merged on June 1, 1949. J&K acceded on October 26, 1947 but was never merged. Its relations with the Centre are governed by Article 370 and it retains its own constitution.

Absence of “merger” does not mean that J&K is not an integral part of India. It is. This is so by virtue of its accession and inclusion in Schedule I of Article 1 that lists the constituent units of the Indian Union.

The J&K interlocutors were well chosen. They are knowledgeable, open minded and credible. In any dialogue, process is as important and precedes outcomes. Radha Kumar has closely followed the peace process in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Padgaonkar was earlier engaged in a dialogue process in J&K.

The Interlocutors, and India, deserve a chance.

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