In 1964, in an article, Jayaprakash Narayan argued that India had a responsibility to keep its promise and allow Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination. In another article, in reply to blistering criticism of the first, he dismissed fears that India will disintegrate if Kashmir seceded. His suggestion was bound to evoke such a response, but it demonstrates that 50 years ago some leaders were not queasy about discussing Kashmir outside the narrow confines of national interest.
Now look at the report, optimistically titled ‘A New Compact With The People of Jammu and Kashmir’ prepared by the three central interlocutors, who were appointed to work out a political settlement after the three consecutive agitations, in which the only slogan that reverberated the loudest in the Valley was ‘Azadi’. It appears the trio has either chosen to dismiss with contempt what they saw or refused to lend a sympathetic ear to the pulse.
That is why the word Azadi appears only once in the 176-page report and in single quotation marks, as if it had been a spurious academic invention. Azadi and its variant political demands such as “establishment of an Islamic State to autonomy, self-rule, achievable nationhood and such other alternatives” become soulless “dirges”. Then follows a set of solutions and suggestions, which makes the report more a reflection of the deterioration of how Kashmir is thought about than the lack of the interlocutors’ political acumen. The three experts seem to have tried to wish away the problem, supplant it with several offshoots of that problem and offer untenable solutions to the interpretations of those offshoots.
Thus the demand of the Ladakhis for a separate division or a Union Territory status is juxtaposed with the demand for Azadi, as if both sprang up from the same well simultaneously and the latter somehow managed to predominate over the others. The same holds true for a separate statehood demand for Jammu. Both these demands came up in the 60s, when the demand for a plebiscite was the buzzword in Kashmir.
The report is littered with contradictions (the clock can’t be turned back but the laws that have eroded Kashmir’s autonomy shall be reviewed), hasty explanations (alienation among Kashmiri students studying in other parts of India is strong because they are viewed with suspicion, as if they needed only this compelling reason to take any political position) insensitivities (deaths in 2010 become “alleged violations of human rights). Plus, there has been downright distortion of facts. The report recommends seeking “a psychological closure of some 200 cases of disappeared persons, most of them from the 1990s”. The figure of 200 is adding insult to injury for more than 3,700 families. The previous Cong-PDP coalition government had told the assembly that more than 3,700 persons have disappeared.
A couple of days ago, one of the interlocutors (Radha Kumar) told Greater Kashmir that they will collect feedback on the report and convey them to the home ministry for any amendments people wanted in it. This is good move because the report as it stands will only be seen as an insult by the majority. Until then, in the words of Basque philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, “You may win, but you will not convince”.