This is the statement of Democratic Students Union on the report of the three member team of interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir.
The Group of Interlocutors comprising Radha Kumar, M.M. Ansari and D. Padgaonkar (Chairman) had been hastily commissioned by the Indian state in the face of the historic outburst of popular anger that erupted in the valley in the summer of 2010 as the streets of Kashmir reverberated with the slogans of “Go India Go Back!” The ruling classes in India saw it as the time to stage yet another drama in the name of “Roadmap to peace”, “Confidence Building Measures” and “reconciliation”. The final report of the Interlocutors was submitted last week to the Home Ministry curiously titled ‘A New compact with the people of Jammu & Kashmir’. And like all such old “compacts” it begins with the farcical premise that “Jammu and Kashmir should continue to function as a single entity within the India Union”. A premise, that is in direct contravention of the robust assertions of the aspirations for self determination by the Kashmiri people including secession. Therefore, for all its rhetoric, posturing and publicity, the report reproduces the same old discourse characteristic of big nation chauvinism and hence is worth nothing.
Sense of victimhood or an Aspiration for freedom? The report in the very outset declares: “The political settlement we propose takes into full account the deep sense of victimhood prevalent in the Kashmir Valley. It surely deserves to be addressed with great sensitivity.” But if one were to even take a cursory look into the 65 years of struggle or a glance into the summer of 2010 what one would find on the walls is no “deep sense of victimhood”, but a cry for freedom from Indian occupation, a cry for Azaadi. Hence, after a lakh being murdered, thousands raped, countless voices crushed under the jackboots of 8 lakh Indian occupation forces – they don’t want Indian state’s “sensitivity” or “insaniyat”. What they aspire for is freedom. Nor from what is referred to in the report as “religious extremism, ethnic or regional chauvinism and majoritarian conceits”, neither just from “harsh laws”; – but from Indian occupation.
The report narrates that “Here for 6 decades people have experienced what in their eyes constitute a systematic denial of their democratic rights. They have been witness to rigged elections, the dismissal of elected governments, and installation of pliant ones, the arrests of their popular leaders, the choking of dissenting voices through harsh laws, the detention of political prisoners without the due process of law, the failure to bring to book those guilty of violating human rights..” In this cursory citing of the fascist tactics of the Indian occupation of Kashmir it craftily bypasses the fundamental question, i.e., the Indian state’s historic betrayal of the agreement for self-determination. Far from addressing this central question the report reduces “the woes of Kashmir” to the “emasculation of the substance of the distinctive status enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India.”
Article 370: A post-dated cheque. The interlocutors have suggested that adherence to Article 370 of the constitution in letter and spirit would ameliorate the “victimhood” of the people of Kashmir. But it is nothing more than wishful thinking or even trickery to expect that the “distinctive status” granted by Article 370 will be enough to assuage the most ardent aspirations for Azaadi that is ubiquitous today in Kashmir. Article 370 was a provisional arrangement as the government of India’s stated position was to conduct a plebiscite to determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir. Accordingly, a White Paper on Jammu and Kashmir published by the government of India in 1948, authored by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, recorded: “In accepting the accession, the government of India made it clear that they would regard it as purely provisional until such time as the will of the people of the State could be ascertained.” What was called a ‘Temporary’ arrangement to begin with, has become obsolete, redundant and irrelevant today after 60 years of bloody occupation. It is nothing but a post-dated cheque in a crashing bank. Kashmiris today seeks no ‘Special’ status. They demand freedom.
This report, like all its precursors is no more than a justification of India’s unjust occupation. Thus, it states, “any proposed change that questions the sovereignty of India and disrupts its territorial integrity or compromises India’s defence and larger, strategic economic interests cannot be entertained.” While emphasizing the need to actualize Article 370, the attempt as outlined by the interlocutors however is to treacherously delete the word ‘Temporary’ and replace it with ‘Special’. The obvious purpose being to constitutionally ascribe a sense of permanence to the colonial status of Kashmir much in line with the constitutional arrangements made with states like Nagalim, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and so on. What the report celebrates here in the name of the immense ‘flexibility” of the Indian Constitution in its ability to “respond to the collective urges of the people”, is in reality the brute force of bayonets that has historically maintained India as a prison-house of different nationalities.
Liberation or Liberalization? The effort to integrate Kashmir further into the Indian dependency as a colony is further reflected in the interlocutors’ insistence on bringing it within the fold of a “liberalizing India” at the service of Imperialism in a “globalizing world”. It identifies the “heavy State-control” over J&K’s economy as a stumbling block and thereby envisages a free market that would facilitate direct exploitation of its resources by New Delhi. It pushes for SEZs and such other “financial and fiscal incentives on the pattern of the north eastern states” in lines with the notorious Look East Policy that entails heightened exploitation through a thoroughly anti-people development perspective (for instance in the field of Hydel Power that is) grossly tilted to the benefit of the metropolis at the cost of the colony.
So, Kashmir needs no “Mobile Grievance Unit” as the interlocutors describe themselves. It needs no “healing touch” from the army. It needs no cross LoC trading. The Interlocutors call AFSPA “more the symbol of the problem, than its cause.” Instead of a call to revoke, they thereby have merely asked for a review of Disturbed Areas Act and AFSPA. Now, the “cause” of the problem is clearly the forcible occupation of Kashmir by India, and AFSPA in this context is not merely a “symbol”, but a brutal instrument to actualize this occupation. So, such eye washes like review, judicial enquiry or release of stone pelters aimed at “containing the anger” are no longer going to be enough. The report proclaims that, “It is the future that should matter; not the past, burdened with a highly contentious historical baggage.” Such empty words cannot cover up the past that is soaked in the native’s blood, that is riddled with the army’s bullets, that is marked with broken promises and oppression. It is an utterly significant past that signals towards only one solution, one future – Azaadi.