HISTORY has placed an enormous burden on the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and its leaders; especially on its president, Dr Farooq Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, and Ms Mehbooba Mufti, its vice president and leader of the People’s Democratic Party. Both were elected to these posts on Oct 24, 2020. Sajjad Lone, the People’s Conference chairman, was elected official spokesman, while the veteran leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami was elected convenor and NC leader Hasnain Masoodi as coordinator.
Lone announced that day that the PAGD has decided to prepare a “research-based white paper” for creating awareness of the fallout of the derogation of Article 370. “It will be completed in the next one month,” he said. It is understandable that the deadline hasn’t been met, for it is a massive task. Article 370’s attempted derogation is not only illegal but politically dangerous. Sheikh sahib had published a white paper after the Delhi Agreement of 1952; so had Mirza Afzal Beg’s Plebiscite Front.
Lone explained, “Every misunderstanding and lie will be countered with this document. We will present statistics to bust the false stories of how Jammu and Kashmir was in the dark ages and corruption before Aug 5 last year .” The PAGD also adopted as its own the Jammu and Kashmir flag that the Modi government viciously disowned.
The People’s Alliance should publish a black book of repressive laws.
Thereafter, a convention will be held in Srinagar. There is a good precedent for this: Sheikh Abdullah’s People’s Convention in 1968 (which Jayaprakash Narayan attended) and 1970. Papers were invited and read at the conventions, and a liberal scheme of regional autonomy for Jammu was prepared keeping in mind its aspirations.
It is impossible to exaggerate the significance of the promised white paper. To fulfil its stated objectives it should be in two parts: one on aspects constitutional and political, and the other on economic, social and also political (for the lay reader). The governments headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah appointed a committee. Its report on Kashmir’s autonomy was an able study, rich in detail.
Meanwhile, the situation in Kashmir is getting worse. On Oct 27, India passed the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Third Order, 2020 to enable people to buy land (except agricultural) in Kashmir. On the same day, it enacted the J&K Development Act empowering the government to declare any local area as a “strategic area” on the “written request of the army”.
As part of its educative effort through the white paper and the rest, the PAGD should bring out a black book on the repressive laws in Kashmir. There seems to be no end to it. First, the office of the Kashmir News Service was sealed; next, the office of the daily Kashmir Times. Founded by the veteran socialist Ved Bhasin, it heroically stood up for the rights of Kashmiris even in the darkest days of the 1990s. On his death, his daughter Anuradha Bhasin took up the mantle and performed as fearlessly. She has won international repute and is highly respected in India and Pakistan for her courage and integrity.
It is a grim situation that Kashmir faces today. Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah in an interview said, “What about the representative character of the government?” and stressed the Muslim majority of the area. “Please look at the make-up of our administration today. Your LG is non-Muslim; chief secretary non-Muslim; DGP non-Muslim; both your divisional commissioners are non-Muslims; both your IGs of police non-Muslims; the chief justice of J&K high court is non-Muslim; the rest of the high court bench, barring two judges, are all non-Muslims. How many of your deputy commissioners and SPs posted in Kashmir today are Kashmiri-speaking? It may appear minor, but please understand these are the issues that resonate with people. We are not a fundamentalist people. We don’t play the religious card, but when there is such a severe communal imbalance, there will be resentment.”
The Criminal Procedure Code was enacted in India by the British to rivet their colonial control. It has been abused in Kashmir to procure undertakings from arrested politicians as a condition for their release — surety demands to not indulge in “any unlawful, anti-national activities”.
Predictions are hazardous, but it is permissible to read the tea leaves. Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement on Oct 18 that New Delhi was duty-bound to restore Kashmir’s ‘statehood’ is only the latest in a series that began soon after J&K’s status was destroyed. Why was that constitutional crime perpetrated? It was to destroy Kashmir’s identity as a Muslim area. Delimitations of constituencies will give weightage to Jammu in the assembly elections, and a BJP government will do the rest. It will, of course, be supported by Kashmiri stooges of New Delhi.
The writer is an author and lawyer based in Mumbai.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2021