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Changing Character of Kashmir Movement

By Balraj Puri

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 20, 2010

For three consecutive summers, Kashmir has been on a boil. In 2008 protest started jointly by all separatist parties over allotment of 100 acres of government land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board which its Chief executive officer wrongly said was purchased permanently. The land was to be used for construction of pre-fabricated huts for langars and other facilities for the yatries. It was interpreted by the leaders of the agitation as a conspiracy to change demography of Kashmir.

The government withdrew the allotment. It triggered an unprecedented agitation in Jammu for 63 days with various ups and downs against what was called discrimination by Kashmiri rulers against the region 60 years of independence. What further caused protest in Kashmir was blockade call day during essential supplies to Kashmir by the Sangarash Samiti, which was spearheading the agitation in Jammu. I was able to get it withdrawn after speaking to LK Advani and the Prime Minister. But a chain reaction continued for some time more.

In 2009, trouble started over alleged rape and murder of two young women in Shopian in South Kashmir. Finger of suspicion pointed towards the police. After some administrative action, a judicial enquiry by a retired High Court also confirmed the suspicion. But a CBI enquiry reversed their conclusion. It gave a fresh lease of life to the popular agitation. Significantly the unity between the separatist parties was lacking this time.

In 2010, the current phase of agitation is started by groups of teenagers. It is not being run by any group of the Hurriyat but was triggered by the killing of “seventeen year old Tufail Ahmad Mattoo on June 11, who as his parents say was playing cricket when a teargas bullet struck his head. Thereafter a vicious circle was set, killing of a boy was followed by protest demonstrations an clashes with police and CRPF in which another boy was killed which led to anther protest by the boys till by June 29, eleven boys lost their lives.

As all the troubles happened in summers, which is a tourist season, the main source of income for Kashmiris, no well wisher of Kashmir could have planned them. So the theory that the current agitation was sponsored or pre-planned by any agency does not hold good.

Thus when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram blames LeT and other outside agencies for the present trouble he has to explain why they choose the present season. And could not they have supplied better weapons than stones to the teenagers and how did they contact them or their leaders when they are not known to the state government.

Further the fact that the character of the agitation and its leadership changed every time in the last three years shows that specific issues that agitate the people are no less important. The common factor could be lack of trust in the state or the Indian government.

Therefore chief minister Omar Abdullah’s understanding of the current situation seems to be partial when he made a plea to work together towards a lasting peace, as per the aspirations of the people. He suggested to work to “facilitate a dialogue between India and Pakistan as well as one between the centre and various shades of opinion in the state.” Till that happens, shouted all the problems of the people be held in abeyance? The National Conference contested last elections and sought votes on the promise of development and good governance which now he says cannot assuage the aspirations of the people.

Has he done full justice to the agenda on which he has sought votes? Why people of every region and every district are complaining of discrimination in the development of their area? Why are they denied a say in the process of governance? Why there is no pachayati raj in the state? Even when panchayats will be formed under the state panchayati raj act, they will be more an instrument of centralization and regimentation than institutions of decentralization and empowerment of the people at the grass roots.

Before proper status for the state is sought through Indo-Pak dialogue, it is important that it acquires a composite and harmonious personality. One must be clear that is it a solution for the Kashmir valley that is being sought or also for other two regions and non-Kashmiri communities. But is there a consensus even within the valley?

As far the stand of the National Conference, which stands for autonomy fo the state, is its present leadership aware that Pandit Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah agreed in July 1952 with my proposal for autonomy of the state within India and autonomy of the regions within the state? And the All Parties State People’s Convention, representing the entire spectrum of politicians of the value, minus Congress, which was convened by Sheikh Abdullah in 1968, unanimously adopted draft constitution for the state with autonomy for the regions and devolution of power to districts, blocks and panchayats, and that is provided in the party’s manifesto New Kashmir as revised in 1975?

Moreover will the autonomous state accept jurisdiction of the Union autonomous institutions, which curb the powers of the Union executive to encroach into the affairs of the state, like Supreme Court, Election Commission and Auditor and Comptroller General? It may be recalled that if Supreme Court’s jurisdiction extended to the state in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah could not be dismissed and detained.

As far as complaints of regions and district are concerned, the repeated commitments of the present government in 1998 to ensure equal development of all areas of the state is meaningless without an objective and equitable formula for allocation of funds. The State Finance Commission is supposed to be working on this task for the last several years. But nothing is known about what it has done and when it will submit its report.

Meanwhile the formula that I proposed in my report on regional autonomy submitted to the state government as head of the Committee set up for the purpose may be considered. It suggested an eight point indices to determine the stare of each region and district. It consists of area, population, share in state services, share in admissions to higher and technical institutions, road connectivity in proportion of area, female literacy, infant mortality and contribution to state exchequer. The formula can be put to a computer to determine the share of each region and district. This is a basis for a further discussion and arriving at a consensus. At present allocation of funds is done on subjective, arbitrary or political considerations which does not inspire confidence of all sections of the people.

And should we wait for dialogue between India and Pakistan or between the centre and parties in Kashmir to prevent human rights violations? Why Machail fake encounter which killed three innocent civilians could not be entrusted to a judicial commission instead of the police? And why no enquiry has been held in the killing of Tufail Ahmad which triggered the present movement.

Finally, but most importantly, the character of the protest of the teenagers protest has to be understood. As Umar Farooq points out “the baton of the present movement is in the hands of the new generation.” Why is it disillusioned with the older generation? A group of stone pelters told the media that “the pro-freedom leaders have failed to take up the issue of the detained youth seriously and remained silent over their plight.” They demanded release of all youth who have been arrested as the condition for withdrawing their movement. It is important to know who are their leaders and what exactly are their grievances. A dialogue with them need not wait till Indo-Pak dialogue or centre-Kashmir dialogue.

Balraj Puri
Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs,
Karan Nagar, Jammu Tawi.




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