Kashmir remains a dispute between India and Pakistan and India and Kashmir since 1947. Many rounds of talks have been held on this subject among stakeholders from time to time. Kashmir question was debated at the United Nations, and apart from that, we also know of Nehru-Liaqat and Nehru-Muhammad Ali Bogra and Nehru-Noon talks with several rounds. In the aftermath of 1965 Indo-Pak war, Shastri and Ayub Khan talked about it in Tashkent and six rounds of talks between the foreign ministers namely Swaran Singh and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were also held. Before the war of 1965, Nehru had sent Sheikh Abdullah to General Ayub Khan for talks on Kashmir. In the run up to Shimla talks and agreement, open and secret talks about Kashmir were also held. Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto also talked in their capacity as Prime Ministers. Vajpayee claimed to resolve the issue in the name of humanism and talked to Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. Widening the scope of interaction, India opened up talks on Prime Minister’s level with one faction of Hurriyat. In the current tenure of Indian prime minister, three rounds of round table conference were held. Recommendations made by various committees and approved in the Round Table conference were ultimately consigned to the dust bin. This conference was not held under the chairmanship of the prime minister of Pakistan but under the Indian prime minister in which Indian home minister, defence minister and other ministers of mainstream parties were also present. Earlier after Kargil war, Track II and Agra Summit were held with the government of Pervez Musharraf and it was given out that Kashmir issue had been almost resolved.
But despite all these long and short talks and interaction, Kashmir issue became more and more complicated. The only thing that happened in the course of these long and tortuous deliberations was that during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the present prime minister, the canvas of talks was expanded to include Kashmir leadership in negotiations. Prior to that, Kashmir issue had remained confined to the limits of two countries only.
This issue did not come up for much discussion after 1964 or Tashkent Agreement. Kashmiri leadership did not succeed in extracting any concrete advantage from the governments of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. All this makes us believe that India is only bidding time and is not interested in any result oriented talks with Kashmir leadership. The hindsight shows that Kashmir did not get anything out of the talks between the tallest of Kashmir leadership viz. Sheikh Abdullah and Indira Gandhi. Delhi made loud noise that it was talking to the Hurriyat but the faction with which it initiated talks is part of all those organizations which cannot make any commitment without the permission from Pakistani establishment. Indian policy planners and official representative had also been talking to the militant organizations despite full knowledge that these organizations receive full support from Pakistan. The purpose of all these inconsequential deliberations has been to spread confusion among the organizations and people in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a ploy to divide people and bid time. Indian policy framers and rulers have never been sincere in their talks on Kashmir issue. After all they are not prepared to revive their promises and the facts of history.
For three long years we have gone through the trauma of ragda movement of 2008, Shopian double murder case of 2009, rape case of 2010, and “Quit Kashmir” movements. Huge economic and human loss occurred during these movements. Now India has staged a new drama of talks called interlocutors. Previously a team comprising K.C.Panth, Ram Jaithmalani, and N.N Vohra and was constituted to deal with Kashmir situation. The new interlocutors’ team comprises a well-known journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, an academic Radha Kumar, and a bureaucrat and educationist named M.M. Ansari. No doubt it is a team of well meaning and serious minded persons. They are mandated to visit all the three regions of the State and interact with a variety of groups and opinion holders and politicians, and formulate recommendations for the solution of Kashmir issue to be sent to the union home ministry. Undoubtedly, this time India degraded the talks and search for solution. By selecting a team of its choice, the Indian government has tried to make the Kashmir only its internal issue. After selecting the team of interlocutors, Kashmiri politicians and people were unable to understand how a complicated issue that could not be solved through talks between great historical personalities of India and Pakistan could be solved by this rather unknown team. That is the reason why the separatist leadership in Kashmir boycotted interaction with the interlocutors. Interestingly these interlocutors did issue some statements which normally they should not but obviously they meant to mollify Kashmiri politicians. Those with whom the team of interlocutors met were either from the mainstream political parties or other delegations in the garb of mainstream politicians. Of course the team met with many from the masses also at different places but the bitter truth is that those who met them have more interest in their selfish motives than in the politics of the state. Some of them might have met harassment at the hands of police and security forces. But among the delegations that met them there were some university students and intellectuals and men with conscience who apprised them of the facts of Kashmir issue. They placed before them the grievances of ordinary men and women of Kashmir, like bribery, police and security forces’ excesses, unemployment, nepotism efforts of National Conference and Congress activists trying to find space for their close and near and dear ones and bad governance.
It is appreciable that the masses of people vowed to keep the state united and equitable distribution of power. In other words, despite media hype about trifurcation of the State, every organization excluding BJP and Panun Kashmir supported the unity of the three regions of the state. Nevertheless serious political observers were puzzled at the statement of Dilip Padgaonkar in which he said that “only a small section of people was demanding freedom meaning that they do not want to change the present situation.”
The first thing to know is that the team of interlocutors has been given the power of submitting its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs. But from statements like the one stated above, people in the valley carry the impression that the interlocutors are only pursuing India’s interest and would forestall any big change in the context of Kashmir dispute. They are towing the line of Delhi policy planners and that of the army. They are unable to recognize the freedom movement of 2008, 2009 and 2010 that claimed lives of so many innocent people. During these three years not only hundreds of thousands of people but almost every home of Kashmir was involved in the movement. The cry of freedom rose from every nook and corner of Kashmir. We are puzzled that the team leader of interlocutors labels these people as a “small group”. It appears that they have not at all focused on the history of Kashmir issue that surfaced in 1947. At the time of constituting the team of interlocutors, many observers including some from mainstream had given a statement in which they had suggested instead of a nominated team, a delegation of peoples’ representatives in the parliament should be formed. But New Delhi turned a deaf ear to this suggestion. Who knows the efforts and reports of the team of interlocutors may be consigned to the dustbin as is usually done with reports on Kashmir. The issue is procrastinated. It is evident that the team of interlocutors, too, will not be able to make any headway given the statements emanating from them. If their view that only a small group is demanding freedom in Kashmir is a reality then it should recommend to the United Nations to hold referendum in Kashmir under the supervision of an international group of observers to ascertain what the people want in reality. When only a small group wants freedom, then India has no reason to be apprehensive of referendum in Kashmir.
We would like to impress upon the Indian policy planners that Kashmir festering wound will not be healed by providing jobs to rock pelting youth. Today’s stone pelting youth may be given a job but what about one of tomorrow and so forth and so on. Mainstream parties have always misled India only for their self-aggrandizement. We would implore upon the Indian authorities that before allowing Kashmir issue to take fully communal shape of sorts, this festering wound should go under knife. People have to be given their right if lasting peace is to prevail in the subcontinent. We hear that Track II diplomacy is also in process. India and Pakistan are talking about their respective interests. They are debating how through the division of Kashmir, the issue would be resolved. Interlocutors in both countries are silent about how they want to decide the question of freedom and self rule demand of 1.5 crore people of the state. Both the countries are making a serious mistake by not including Kashmiris in their talks. As long as the people of Kashmir are not satisfied, Kashmir issue will defy every formula of solution.