The Kashmir cauldron

WORDS CAN scarcely be strong enough to condemn the recent spate of killings in Jammu. One can understand the violence in the Valley, the clashes between the militants and the security forces. But the killings of innocents in Jammu and that too on a communal basis defy all logic. The mainstream of the secessionist movement in Kashmir has never been communal. Indeed, the Kashmir Valley has witnessed very little communal violence over the last one decade of secessionist insurgency. It is well known that the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley was instigated and manipulated by Mr. Jag Mohan when in a thoroughly ill-advised move he was sent to Srinagar as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir by the VP Singh Government in 1989.

Clearly, the Jammu killings must be the handiwork of armed groups which are bent upon communalising the Kashmir problem. Ironically, such killings work to the advantage of the states in both India and Pakistan as well as Washington. Indiscriminate killings of innocent people, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, in Jammu enable the Sangh Parivar to present the entire Kashmir question as a kind of grand anti-Hindu communal conspiracy. It makes it so much easier for the saffron jingoists to whip up their brand of communal nationalism. The Indian state gets an alibi for intensifying its brutalities in Jammu and Kashmir. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act has already been extended to all over Jammu and Kashmir except Ladakh. Pakistan too needs no better excuse for stepping up its support for the insurgency in Kashmir. And with the Indo-Pak arms race hotting up, the ground remains fertile for greater American intervention and for the realisation of the notorious American design of communal fragmentation of Kashmir.

For the beleaguered Sangh Parivar, the Jammu killings could not possibly have happened at a more appropriate time. Just when the regime was reeling under the combined pressure of the failed Agra summit and the UTI scam, and the cracks were deepening in the NDA, the Jammu killings seem to have granted a new lease of life to the Vajpayee government at the Centre.

Since the scuttling of the Agra summit, a modicum of ‘family peace’ has returned to the Sangh Parivar. Sangh outfits like the BMS which were earlier screaming for the scalp of the ‘criminal and treacherous’ finance minister Yashwant Sinha remained notoriously silent on the UTI-Cyberspace scam. Vajpayee has put an end to his much-acclaimed reticence and sense of diplomatic dignity with strongly-worded statements in Parliament blaming Pakistan for the failure of the Agra summit. And the hawks in Sangh Parivar are back to their favourite chant of ‘hot pursuit across the LOC’ and ‘pro-active’ approach on Kashmir. Like Lahore, Agra too seems to be heading inexorably to another Kargil.

Democratic forces in India and Pakistan must now assert boldly to prevent the process of Indo-Pak dialogue from degenerating into another Kargil. The NDA government must not be allowed to get away with its all-round failures and numerous betrayals. And the Sangh Parivar must not be permitted to get the upper hand on the eve of the crucial UP elections. In other words, the challenge is not to walk into the familiar jingoistic trap over Jammu. While opposing the Jammu killings in no uncertain terms, we must keep up pressure on the government for a political settlement of the Kashmir problem.

Ironically, while the National Conference government in Srinagar has endorsed the Centre’s declaration of Disturbed Areas all over the state except Ladakh, the NDA government in New Delhi has once again summarily rejected the NC’s demand for dialogue on the question of effective autonomy for the state. It is this rigid approach of New Delhi which continues to push more and more people in Kashmir to the secessionist option. In 1948 Kashmir had sided with India in resisting Pakistan. Even as the overwhelming majority of Kashmiris grew disillusioned with the Kashmir policies of successive central governments, the Azadi movement never contemplated joining Pakistan as against India. But with New Delhi slamming the door on all options towards a political solution, fundamentalist militants are naturally gaining the upper hand in the Valley who clamour for freedom from India at all costs even if it meant going back on Kashmir’s secular history and becoming part of a crisis-ridden military-ruled Pakistan.

If we claim Kashmir to be an integral part of India – not just a piece of land but part and parcel of our lives as Indians, as Vajpayee put it in Parliament – then we must also learn to treat the Kashmir problem as primarily our own doing and not blame Pakistan for whatever happens in Kashmir. Pakistan may certainly like to fish in the troubled waters of Kashmir, but it is India’s responsibility to keep the waters clean and clear in the first place.

As the two neighbours celebrate their respective independence days on August 14 and 15, the biggest challenge facing the subcontinent and especially India is saving the only region which defied the logic of communal partition and two-nations theory in 1947. If communalism is allowed to grow in Jammu and Kashmir and the state is fragmented on communal lines, that will be the end of India, not just the India that Bhagat Singh and Gandhi had fought for, but also the India we inherited in the post-Partition era and have known so intimately for the last fifty-four years. Securing a political solution to the Kashmir question therefore remains as integral a part of saving India as resisting imperialism and sweeping away the rotten vestiges of feudalism.