The Candid Eye

February 24, 2010

J&K: Boatman’s betrayal

Who can save the boat that the boatman is determined to sink? Hindus in Jammu fear the possibility of fresh holocausts as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s red carpet to terrorists in PoK reinforces the politics of Muslim precedence in J&K, and strengthens Kashmiri Muslim resistance to full integration with India. The state last month broke a 19-year tradition and refused to unfurl the tricolour at Lal Chowk, a decision that demoralized armed and para-military forces in the state.

While successive Indian governments have failed to redress the citizenship and human rights of refugees, mostly Hindu scheduled castes, who migrated to J&K after Pakistan grabbed parts of the state in the 1947-48 war, and again after the wars of 1965 and 1971, the UPA has with alacrity welcomed PoK-based militants to the Valley. Nearly one lakh Hindus remain excluded from the socio-economic and political life of the state, denied voting rights, education for their children, bank loans, and the right to own property, since 1947.

More dangerously for the Republic, religious cleansing operations are covertly going on in the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu, though the state government is hiding the magnitude of this internal displacement. The matter was, however, raised in the PM’s Working Group on Centre State Relations for J&K, though it seems to have been ignored.

Bemused Pandits and a stunned nation are at a loss to understand what prompted the Centre to unilaterally announce an open door policy for the terrorists who unleashed genocide and drove nearly four lakh Hindus out of the valley since 1990. So far, only 7,000 families have been sheltered in government camps in Jammu; the rest are dispersed nation-wide and left to fend for themselves. They suffer unemployment, serious health and psychological traumas, a falling growth rate of the community; but they are nobody’s children.

Yet, on Feb. 11, 2010, home minister Chidambaram said the Centre was ready to “welcome” Kashmiris (read Muslims) who crossed the LoC for arms training for insurgency operations, if they relinquished militancy. He had previously surprised the nation by announcing resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, despite lack of tangible moves by Islamabad to control terrorism. Chidambaram defended the amnesty mooted by chief minister Omar Abdullah on grounds that it was recommended by the Justice Saghir Ahmed Working Group appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, though this has been challenged by BJP member Arun Jaitley.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has contested this bird-brained scheme as Pakistan could use it as a cover to push foreign militants into the country. Azad argues it will be difficult to establish if the youth being accepted are the same men who went to Pakistan for arms training, and if they have genuinely eschewed violence. When Islamabad is refusing to hand over the accused in the Mumbai 2008 terror attack, how can New Delhi adopt a surrender policy that facilitates further infiltration of militants into the country?

It is estimated that nearly 4,000 youths crossed the LoC during the 1990s; many returned quietly, but about 800 remain. In 2006, these youth met an Indian delegation to PoK that included Omar Abdullah (PUGWASH Conference) and pleaded for help to return, claiming they were “homesick.” That may be true, but when separatism continues to thrive in J&K as a whole, and militancy is on the upswing, there is no political logic for such generosity. There are also complications like men who married local girls and have children who are Pakistani nationals.

Many Hindus view the amnesty scheme as a new incarnation of the J&K Grant of Permit for Resettlement Act, 1982, which was ultimately stayed by the Supreme Court on a petition by Mr. Bhim Singh of the Panthers Party. Sheikh Abdullah had piloted this legislation after his victory in the July 1977 state elections; Dr Farooq Abdullah became chief minister in September 1982 after the Sheikh’s death.

Like his father, Farooq too tended to raise the bogey of autonomy from time to time, in order to retard the process of the state’s integration with the Union of India. The Resettlement Act aimed at the resettlement of Kashmiris (read Muslims) who had migrated to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir or Pakistan itself, and wished to reunite with their Indian kith and kin. It was disliked by the state’s Hindu community which saw it as a ploy to deprive Hindus of the migrant properties which had been allotted to them. These fears have now been revived.

Observers saw the Bill as a step in the direction of concretizing the plan for a Greater Kashmir by ensuring an effective Muslim majority for the districts of Poonch and Rajouri. Governor BK Nehru received a plethora of complaints against it, which prompted him to send a message to the legislature outlining its legal and constitutional infirmities. But an adamant Farooq Abdullah got the assembly to pass the Bill again on October 4, 1982, and the Governor was constrained to give his assent.

Thereafter, the President referred the Bill to the Supreme Court, as the power to grant citizenship vests with the Centre, and not the states. But the apex court returned the matter last year without remarks. However, acting on Bhim Singh’s writ petition challenging the Act’s validity, the court took note of rising cross-border terrorism in J&K, where by then 50,000 persons had fallen victim to militancy, and stayed implementation in February 2002; this is still valid. It was argued that the Act was prima facie “ultra vires of the constitution.”

The UPA owes the country an explanation why the wars and sacrifices of 1947, 1965, 1971, Kargil, and the continuing thousand cuts which culminated in the spectacular violence of Mumbai 2008, are being discounted in this cavalier fashion. What compulsion drove Kashmir’s dominant Muslim majority to hound their unarmed Hindu brethren with violence and threats of violence issued from loudspeakers attached to mosques, to molest Hindu women and threaten to retain them as captives while forcing their men out of the land? Kashmiri Muslim obduracy continues to pose a threat to national security, yet the Centre is willing to risk the entry of more spies, saboteurs and outright terrorists, to stoke emotions and push the state in the direction of independence/secession. We need to know who is setting this treacherous agenda.The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com

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