Politics at the crossroads of past and present
“Hard political reality,” Farooq Abdullah had said of his decision to sign an accord with the Congress in 1986, against his own instinctive judgment.
On Tuesday, as his son stood shoulder-to-shoulder with former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to announce the formation of a new National Conference-Congress alliance, it is certain that Dr. Abdullah would have recalled that moment.
December’s National Conference-Congress alliance could demonstrate that history repeats itself: the last alliance between the two parties ended in a rigged election which prepared the ground for jihadists who had for decades been working to legitimise their war against
But it could also offer unique opportunity to erase the bitter legacy of the past, not the least because
Ever since the falling-apart of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1953, relations between the Congress and the National Conference had been fraught. The National Conference represented the distinctness of Kashmiri identity; on occasion, it used communal ideas and themes to reach out to its audience. The Congress, in turn, saw itself as the sole credible defender of
Both the Congress and National Conference fought the 1983 elections on communal lines. In alliance with Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq — father of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman, Umar Farooq — Dr. Abdullah gave his campaign an expressly Islamic colour. In one pamphlet, the National Conference equated the Congress with Maharaja Hari Singh, who had “enslaved the Kashmiris.” Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used identical tactics to push forward the Congress’ pursuit of power. She campaigned against the Resettlement Act, which would have allowed Muslim Partition refugees to return to
Inflammatory tactics paid off: the National Conference won 46 seats, all in Muslim-majority constituencies, while the Congress picked up 23. However, the Congress continued on with a campaign designed to annihilate Abdullah. His alliance with Mirwaiz Farooq — who was, ironically enough, to die at the hands of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen assassin —was characterised as anti-national. Sikh religious camps held in
“I am not worried about democratic norms”, Indira Gandhi was reported to have said to a confidante, “I am not going to kiss
But Dr. Abdullah’s decision, as the scholar Navnita Chadha Behera has argued, vacated the opposition to the religious right. His actions allowed the birth of the Muslim United Front — a coalition spearheaded by the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose most visible face then, as now, was
In the 1987 elections, a panicked National Conference-Congress alliance unleashed large-scale rigging: rigging most experts concur served only to legitimise jihadists who characterised
Three major strategic challenges lie ahead for the new alliance government in
First, and perhaps most important, is the deteriorating regional strategic environment means the state government cannot take peace, the keystone of the political process which brought it to power, for granted.
Eight years ago, the Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked Parliament House in
But ever since January, there have been signs that
Second, the new government will have to find means to rein in
While the PDP’s affiliation with the Jamaat-e-Islami was a positive development for the long-term re-institutionalisation of democracy in
PDP politicians chose not to confront the Islamists. Instead, the party lurched into a cycle of competitive chauvinism, in an effort to appropriate the Islamists’ causes and use state power to realise them. Hindu fundamentalists in
Rather than hoping to appropriate their opponents’ religiosity, the National Conference and Congress would be well advised to use economic instruments to build bridges to the urban petty bourgeoisie and rural elite who make up the bulwark of the religious right. Hinduism and Islam, for the classes which backed the PDP and the BJP, are instruments to legitimise the protest of a threatened social order against a modernity which threatened to obliterate it. In urban centres, this coalition has the growing support of a class of disenfranchised young people who are witnessing the death of the artisanal and trading occupations of their parents but have neither the skills nor resources to compete in the new world.
Finally, the National Conference-Congress alliance will have to push forward the pace of dialogue on
In critical senses, then, the National Conference-Congress alliance stands at the crossroads of
Source: The Hindu,
2009 COULD BE J & K’S YEAR OF DELIVERANCE
by Manoj Joshi
Once again democratic elections have proved to be the life- blood of Jammu & Kashmir. For a while, last year, it appeared that nothing could stop the state’s self-destructive plunge into chaos.
The Sangh Parivar’s irresponsible counter- agitation on the Amarnath land issue tipped public opinion in the Valley in favour of the separatists led by the most- hard-line of them all — Syed Ali Shah Geelani. But, the voters have spoken. The 62- odd per cent that have voted have clearly laid out an agenda which we can live with.
Clearly, that agenda is centrist and secular. The elections have also provided us with a leader whose family roots take him to the very origin of what is called the Kashmir “ problem” and whose personality is well- suited to respond to the twin demands of roti, kapda aur makan , as well as a political settlement based on a restoration of genuine autonomy to the state. There is only way to go: forward. By now we have gathered an enormous of data on what can be done in the state. And what does the data say ?
First , though 60 years have passed and a huge volume of water has flowed down the Jhelum, the state has not yet had a closure on its political demand of some kind of a distinct political status vis- à- vis the rest of India.
Second , status quo ante is not possible. There are many, especially in the security establishment, who believe that with the decline of armed militancy and Pakistan’s difficulties, India has the opportunity to return things to what they believe was the “ pristine state” of pre- rebellion Kashmir.
Unfortunately, things have not been pristine in J& K, ever. There have been periods of relative peace — 1953- 1964, 1975- 1983 — but mostly there has been an undercurrent of turbulence which goes back to the 1930s. In the two decades since 1989, the cultural and social fabric of the state has been ripped so thoroughly that there can be no return to the past. As it is it will take a herculean effort to repair the trauma caused by the death and violence that has visited the people of the state.
Third , notwithstanding this, the political fabric of the state has shown remarkable resilience. The recent election and its outcome reveals that the centrist and secular forces retain an edge over those who would seek to split the state, or run it on theological lines.
Fourth , notwithstanding pundits who say that the result represents a decoupling of the demand for aazadi with the roti, kapda, makan issues, the election signals a desire of the people of the Valley to seek a political settlement of their grievances.
Fifth , that
Jehadis had driven the mighty Soviet armies from
Sixth , India can absorb anything Pakistan can throw at it in J& K. Pakistan first used the pro- independence JKLF’s enthusiastic cadres to launch the rebellion and then sought to subsume it under the banner of the pro- Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen.
These forces were leavened by hardened Afghan cadre sent by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Afghanistantrained groups of Pakistanis in the Harkat- ul- mujahideen and Harkatul- Ansar. When even these flagged,
Seventh , we know that J& K is not a religious or ethnic monolith. Its varied ethno- religious composition requires special political attention and that the numerical majority of the Kashmiri- speaking Muslims should not be translated into political overlordship over other regions.
Eighth , we know that though the entire world community considers Jammu & Kashmir to be disputed territory, there is a broad consensus that the state’s international boundaries should be drawn along the Line of Control. Disturbing this could cause uncontrollable political eddies not only in the state but throughout the Indian subcontinent.
With these verities which would now appear to be immutable in the near term, there is no reason why those — including self- professedly the Pakistanis — who see themselves as wellwishers of Jammu and Kashmir cannot press ahead this year and bring the long- running political dispute in the state to a closure.
The election outcome offers a last chance of sorts for an internal settlement.
Militancy may have been defeated by a blood and iron policy, but the Amarnath agitation has shown us the abyss that remains.
That the separatists could transform a trivial issue like the transfer of a small piece of land for housing Amarnath pilgrims into a huge agitation, betokens the distance that needs to be covered to address the political demands of the people of J & K. Since 2004, we have witnessed a process between
The problem today is the state of
Till 2005, the ISI had the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba firmly under its control. But after the earthquake in the region, the Lashkar has taken a life of its own as a major social and political force in the Azad Kashmir area. Lashkar militants have major camps there, supported by a growing web of educational and medical institutions that provide the people of the region the only services they get any way.
The decline of militant violence, the serious efforts underway by
While the negotiations with Pakistan continue apace — and their parameters have been well established— there is need for New Delhi to press ahead with a plan for achieving closure of the domestic debate on Kashmir’s status.
Fortuitously, the state is set to get a chief minister who may be able to provide not just the good governance needed by the ordinary Kashmiris, but the background to press the political settlement that was aborted in 2000, when the BJP- led NDA government rejected the autonomy report prepared by the National Conference government and adopted by the J& K state assembly.
In the years since, all that we have learnt is that the BJP has no new answers for Kashmir and that its single- minded focus remains on the grievances of the
All the cards are now open on the table. What we need is the political will to move forward. The price of procastination will be steep because Kashmir remains the poison pill stuck in the throat of “Emerging India.” firstname.lastname@example.org Source: Mail Today,