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Prelude To Padgaonkar Report

The interlocutors appointed by the Central Government to interact with people in Jammu and Kashmir and make suggestions, visited the state for the fifth time in February 2011, and indicated that they would be finalizing their recommendations soon.

During their last visit, the leader of the team of interlocutors, Dileep Padgaonkar, said they had made repeated requests to the separatists to meet them, or, at least give them their point of view in the form of a written communication. Except for a brief communication from Shabbir Shah, there was no response.

Even the leader of the ‘moderate’ faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq, expressed his unwillingness to meet them. Instead, he thought it worthwhile to visit the United States to participate in a ‘National Prayer Breakfast’.

Mirwaiz was also keen to attend the meeting in Virginia’s George Mason University on ‘India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock over Kashmir’ to promote the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir. Hardcore Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani found it a waste of time to interact with the interlocutors appointed by the Government of India. He is yet to recover from the impact of the ‘Goddess of Small Things’, on Kashmiris, and was stuck in Delhi, explaining Hawala transactions.   Arundhati Roy is satisfied that her task is over after occupying the headlines of some Indian and international newspapers

Other members of the Hurriyat Conference like Yasin Malik found it safe not to interact with the interlocutors.

The most frank communication that Dileep Padgaonkar had from the separatists as to why they did not interact with them was given by Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat, when he recalled what had happened to Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq, the father of the present Mirwaiz who was shot dead in 1991 when he responded to peace initiatives. He also mentioned what happened to another separatist leader Abdul Ghani Lone.

More interesting, after interacting with the interlocutors, the main opposition party in the Kashmir Valley, the People’s Democratic Party, does not have the patience to wait for their report. PDP mentor Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has asked for another ‘Round Table Conference’ on Kashmir. His daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, who is the President of the PDP, attributes all the ills of the state to the National Conference-Congress coalition, which, according to her, has neutralized all the good things that happened when the PDP headed the government in the State.  The people of the Ladakh region, who have been observing the painstaking efforts of the interlocutors, have made it clear that they are looking forward to more autonomy for themselves.

The decision of the Ladakh administration not to display the flag of Kashmir along with the National Tricolour in their logo says it all.

Lastly, the reaction of the people of the Jammu region would have made it clear to the interlocutors that there was a limit to their patience.  The region itself has not been given the representation due to it in the state legislature.  In addition, except for a period of two years or so, no one from the region has headed the state government. The Jammu region again has been an area for providing ‘homes to migrants.  Firstly, migrants arrived there from Pakistan during Partition in 1947, followed by migrants from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and lastly, from the Kashmir Valley after the outbreak of militancy.  And, not all of them are Pandits.

Apart from bearing the brunt of aggression from Pakistan in three successive wars, the Jammu region has received step-motherly treatment as far as development is concerned. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah would have given an opportunity to the team to understand the steps taken by his government to promote infrastructure and development in all three regions of the state.

He is also keen that India and Pakistan should continue their dialogue and find a solution to the problems and promote inter-action along the border. The state government has already received over 600 applications from former militants who are now in Pakistan and want to rejoin their families. The team also had the advantage of hearing the views of Governor NN Vohra, who was a former interlocutor and the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen K T Parnaik on the issue of revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The interaction with the people of the state during their visits should have made it clear to them now that there are vested interests who do not want a ‘solution’ of the ‘Kashmir issue’.  Militancy and proxy war have become an occupation to many of them.

The solution to the ‘Kashmir problem’ was decided in 1948 by Sheikh Abdullah when he persuaded Jawaharlal Nehru not to go ahead and ‘liberate’ the whole of Jammu and Kashmir but move towards Poonch.  This was disclosed by the then Brigade Commander LP Sen, who later rose to become a Lieutenant General and headed the Eastern Army Command.

The losers have been people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. The final solution to the Kashmir problem is to make the Line of Control a permanent border.  Internally, provide more autonomy to the regions of Ladakh and Jammu.

The best that one can hope for is an uneasy peace along the border. And, do not blame the Kashmir interlocutors for it.

*The article is written by Ghazunfur Butt.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express/ADNI)

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