Monday, August 18, 2008

How many 'Leagues' now?

How many Leagues now?

Immediately after partitioning in 1947 of India an era of playing blame games started which is continuing till date. While today Hindus hold all the Muslims responsible for partition and vice versa, that time the blame game was played out between three main parties; The British, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.

Some people are of the opinion that not everyone in the British ruling class believed in the idea of partition. Even Lord Wavell till as late as 1946, didn't favour creation of Pakistan, an idea which in his opinion was an unviable and unattractive proposition. However, it finally happened.

The British laid responsibility at the door step of the Congress party which they felt could not bring the Muslim community into the mainstream. The blame for failure of the all party interim government was also put on the party. The League had, of course, held Nehru responsible for keeping the domain of Pakistan smaller by a few provinces that would otherwise have been there with them but for the influence exerted over Mountbatten through Edwina.

The position taken by the Indian National Congress was mainly centred on the Jinnah factor. The party accepted partition only as the last resort because it found working along with the Muslim League extremely difficult. According to the Congress leaders the League was interested in only enhancing its religious agenda and India as a country didn't matter in its scheme of things. The League therefore was a stumbling block in the path of India's development and progress. The Congress party was reportedly also of the view that a united India even if smaller was better than a disorganised and weak big India.

Today, looking back, after 61 years of partition, one finds little or no significance of the views expressed by both the British and the League. However, the arguments extended at that time by the Indian National Congress are of considerable importance because the party has ruled India for more than five decades since then and the cited reasons for accepting the partition could be termed as fundamental assertions towards shaping the future of the country.

We lost a big chunk of our land with a view to having a united India by getting rid of a troublesome adversary - Muslim League. But has the goal of a united India been achieved? Look at the hundreds of 'Leagues' that since the independence emerged in this united country. India not only remains under constant threat from some international Islamic terror outfits but also continues to terribly bleed by terrorist activities of organisations mushrooming inside the country. Repeated cases of bombings in cities, trains, places of worship and even hospitals are open examples and ample proof of the activities of indigenous terror formations. Our National Security Advisor has just been reported as saying that there were about 800 sleeper terror cells aided from outside the country active inside India. We have on various occasions including the Independence and Republic day celebrations have witnessed antinational elements hoisting a Pakistani flag in the Kashmir valley - the so called integral part of India. And on this 62nd Independence Day the Indian Tricolour was torched in full public view by those whom we consider citizens of India. Worse, we, the people of India watch all this helplessly. Our politicians are busy blaming each other for this sorry state of affairs and law seems to have become a toothless and a rusted tool in the hands of an inept executive. All this is happening despite numerous concessions and relaxations extended to the Muslims in all walks of life and enactment of special status and extraordinary advantages like the Muslim personal law holding supremacy over law of the land besides the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and freedom to all the citizens.

Where have we failed then? Is this a systemic failure wherein we could not develop strong institutions of democracy? Does Islam not stand compatible with the type of democracy we in India Have?

And lastly, does this dire situation point towards dangerous portents of yet another partition of India?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Uprising in Jammu - 3

Uprising in Jammu - 3

How the public representatives behaved.

When the PDP withdrew from the ruling coalition, fall of the state government was imminent. Some efforts were apparently made by the Congress party to rope in the National Conference but it cold shouldered the proposal albeit keeping the future options open. Both the Kashmir based parties have a constituency to address and this was the time to oppose not support. They clearly and decisively acted in the interest of their people back in the Valley.

Look at what the politicians from Jammu were up to. Print media quoting senior Congress leaders reported that money from Pakistan had bank rolled into the Valley resulting in cancellation of the land allotment order. Congressmen also reportedly accused their erstwhile coalition partner PDP of being anti-national by saying children of some of these leaders were allegedly carrying out subversive activities from abroad. Ironically, it was the 'anti-national' PDP which broke ranks with the 'nationalist' Congress, not the other way round. It took the two elected members of parliament from Jammu region some thirty days after protests had started in Jammu to meet the Prime Minister in connection with the agitation. They demanded removal of the Governor - a meek and insignificant way of showing solidarity with their constituents. They never sat in protest along side the people. Who then these so called leaders from Jammu were hoodwinking? Obviously, the people of Jammu region.

That is the difference between the respective leadership from the two regions. The Valley has its leaders while Jammu has only subservient politicians.

Aren't the leaders failing Jammu once again as they have been doing over six decades? Why then blame Omars and Mehboobas alone? Why demand the Governor's head who was barely a few days into his tenure when the order was rescinded. Did any of the ministers from Jammu region or any MLA for that matter, resign from the cabinet or the legislature on the land row?

Has the Sangharsh Simiti erred in boycotting the leaders from Kashmir?

I think yes, it has. No matter what they have done or were doing; the important point is when New Delhi is banking on the Kashmir leadership Jammu can't ignore them. Whereas protests and boycotts are perfectly justified in a democratic set up, dialogue too is an integral part of the same system. Mahatma Gandhi on number of issues and occasions boycotted the British but he never undermined the validity of a negotiation process. Moreover, New Delhi has a bigger hand in neglect of the Jammu region. Even the NDA government in which the Jammu sympathetic BJP was at the helm did nothing to initiate steps towards restoration of Jammu region's respect. Kashmiri leaders only took advantage of this apathy.

So far things have gone right for the people of Jammu. They have the Kashmiri leaders clearly on the back foot who appear relenting from their hitherto hard stand on the land issue. The main leaders from Kashmir have been standing their ground against the hardliners but now it appears slipping from under their feet as well. And surely, they would not like to fall flat. When things slip away from the mainstream they drift to extremes. And the fringe elements in any polity who are ever ready to seize the initiative have always behaved irresponsibly. High time the people spearheading the agitation in Jammu realised this. With this uprising the people of Jammu have made their point forcefully and effectively. Let them now negotiate the issues which by all means they would be doing from a position of strength.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Uprising in Jammu - 2

Uprising in Jammu - Part 2

Jammu at disadvantage:

The one and only disadvantage with the people of Jammu is lack of independent leadership. While people of the Valley always kept pace with the changing times and their political leadership continued to emerge, the people in Jammu region had to stay content with their politicians playing a subservient role since independence. Jammu couldn't produce a Sheikh Abdullah or a Mirwaiz or even a Mufti who would take bold decisions in the wake of adversities. If Jammu were to politically match Kashmir there has to emerge a leader who does not have to salute some masters in New Delhi or Srinagar. It is an irony that a national party like Congress has to hand pick its leader from the Valley though the contingent of its MLAs comes from the Jammu region. Slave mentality or what?

This resulted in Jammu being meted out a second grade treatment in all walks of life. Since it was the Valley which got all of New Delhi's attention, Jammu region was neglected disdainfully. For example, it took just four days of agitation in Kashmir valley for the government to rescind the land allotment order while the Jammu region had to shut down for over a month for the Union government to take notice of it. What could be more humiliating to the people of Jammu?

What can be done?

New Delhi should act immediately and give Jammu its due place in the scheme of things it has for the state of J & K. The Central government's efforts and decisions ought to be equity based. Jammu has been discriminated against since long but New Delhi should see an opportunity in the present turmoil and unequivocally bring at par politically, economically and strategically all three regions of the state.

At the same time people of Jammu now appear to have become aware of the fact that they don't have to always look towards New Delhi or Srinagar for their rights. They have to fight for it. However, they have a leadership handicap which can only be overcome by grooming leaders independent of New Delhi and Kashmir.

Secondly, such leadership ought to have secular credentials so as to be acceptable to whole of the region.

A conglomerate of business associations and social bodies with diverse interest, like the one spearheading the current agitation can at best exert with a single issue but for fighting regional imbalances it has to be a broad based political movement. That is the long term vision but for the moment coming to the negotiation table in order to break this impasse would be in the interest of everyone in the state including the people of Jammu region who despite an environment of suffering and apathy have proved their mettle with this uprising.

Uprising in Jammu - 1

Uprising in Jammu - Part 1

The mass movement of the people of Jammu province against the state government's failure to stick to its own decision is gaining strength with each passing day. It is already over a month and a half since it started as a minor protest against withdrawal of a government order allotting some land to a religious body of Hindus ostensibly under pressure from the separatist elements in the Valley.

How this all started:

It came about, in fact, as a result of the one-upmanship game between two coalition partners; the Congress and the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP). Congress party as per the coalition arrangement was heading the government in the latter half of its tenure and PDP was feeling much uncomfortable. With elections in the offing, Congress tried to score some brownie points. About one hundred acres of land was allotted to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). It was a cabinet decision but when PDP bosses woke up the next morning they assumed that the Congress party had already pocketed the Hindu votes with this single stroke. Worse, two of their own party men who were the concerned ministers, had signed the final clearance which paved the way for the decision. Desperate and with nothing to hold onto, the PDP bosses resorted to the usual and time tested tactics of 'danger to the special status by changing the demographic character of J&K' - a laughable proposition for the sane but not for the hot-headed intolerants. It worked. The valley rose in protest against land allotment to a Hindu body. The PDP withdrew from the ruling coalition and the government fell. But before its fall the government losing its nerve had already withdrawn the allotment order.

It would be appropriate to state here that the said land transfer order was about leasing out the land for two months for erecting temporary shelters and did not involve any transfer of ownership.

Naturally, as a sentimental reaction, people of Jammu too came out to protest. That is the story.

The Grave Situation:

As is wont in India, we have political pundits, journalists, sociologists and many more who jumped into analyzing the situation, coming up with stereotyped rhetoric that it was a ploy of communal forces to seize momentum in the wake of forthcoming elections to the state legislature. This argument appears far removed from reality. Jammu was never communal. How many today remember that more than two decades back when under the separatist threats and acts of ethnic cleansing by the Islamic terrorists, there was mass exodus of people from the Valley, the people of Jammu had opened their arms to welcome them? And the migrants were not only Hindus, there were Muslims too. There is enough evidence to vouch for that. Talking of communalism in Jammu is just rubbish.

In the mean time the situation is turning nastier with every passing hour. The Central government didn't consider it appropriate to take notice, leave alone interfere, till about the 35th day of protests and loss of some precious lives. It was known to all in Kashmir as well as New Delhi that Jammuites have never had the stamina to hold on that longer. New Delhi always feared unrests in Kashmir valley. They had no inkling of it that this time it was a different and resurgent Jammu.

However, the situation has already turned into 'do or die' for the two regions of the state. It has become an identity issue. If not handled quickly it could further aggravate into a full blown religious war between people of Jammu and Kashmir regions.

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