Drowning Mount Everest in a Baab Demb
COME SOON, BAN KI MOON
Naeem Akhtar comments on the deliberate downgrading of Kashmir problem and its resolution process.
What is happening in and around Kashmir? Madness would be a one word answer.
While on the one hand an impression is being created that finally the government of India had acknowledged the existence of a problem that needed to be addressed on the other a virtual theatre of the absurd is set up that has no precedence. It seems we actually are living, or suffering the sultanate of Ahad Raza who ruled the local entertainment charts not many years ago.
Every day begins with a new shot on comedy in this land of eternal tragedy. One need not recount to us or the world the story of Kashmir we have been living for many generations. That should have deserved a treatment above the level of mockery bordering at times outright contempt as has been happening for quite some time.
The highly civilized prime minister of this country of billion plus seemed to be seriously trying to reach out to whosoever was interested in addressing the internal dimension of the problem that has caused deadly wars between India and Pakistan and left a hundred thousand dead within the state that needs world’s largest armed force to keep it tethered to the union. These aspects of the problem are mentioned only to remind of the gravity of crisis faced by us. Otherwise a hundred tragedies a day that don’t even qualify for cold statistical record are enacted at our cost because of the unsettled conditions.
The prime minister held three rounds of a conference with representatives of the parties that swear by accession to India but most of whom post 2002 change of official idiom on Kashmir openly call for a final resolution. Working Groups were constituted as a follow up to decisions of the round table conference. Very important recommendations were made by these groups four of these reports are gathering dust. The fifth one, the last to come out of a two year long limbo added a comic dimension to a sombre and bleak outlook.
The group on economic dimension had recommended transfer of the power projects from NHPC to the state as the Indian equivalent of our East India Company has earned ten times more money out of these projects so far than it ever invested. But in our wait for the Rangarajan manna the levels of darkness have increased manifold. Electricity is now the most visible (ironically by its invisibility) sign of change in administration. God knows why all changes in Kashmir violate the time honoured belief that change is always for good.
Similarly, the group under Haamid Ansari made clear cut recommendations for a troop cut and reversal of the dreaded AFSPA. The only result so far of this group’s recommendation is that Ansari was picked up as the vice president of the country immediately after serving Kashmir cause. Kashmir somehow suits the individual fortunes of Indian Muslims though we never were part of their story, neither of leke rahenge Pakistan, nor of Shah Bano or Babri Masjid. Jaleel Ahmed Khan, Mehmoodur Rehman and Wajahat Habibullah continue to serve the place with dedication even after their retirement many years back. The Midas touch from Kashmir fairyland couldn’t have escaped Ansari obviously even as his recommendations remain mere references while Generals, Colonels, majors, captains and soldiers must say and do what they need to do to save the nation from dangerous Kashmiri Muslims.
As mainstream political parties kept demanding implementation of the WG recommendations an entirely new dimension was added to the situation. Country’s home minister came calling. He reviewed development process at state and district levels. He spoke a new and refreshing language. He talked politics of reconciliation and resolution. He described Kashmir’s history and geography as unique which qualified for a unique solution. P Chidambaram had many takers for his words of wisdom, promise and silence of dialogue. He suddenly became first Indian home minister visible in Kashmir leaving many to wonder whether that meant upgrading the state or downgrading in priority given the fact it had always been handled by Prime Ministers directly. And also for the fact that Manmohan Singh’s Working Group initiative was still to fructify into anything. Was the introduction of home minister at that stage aimed at overwriting the previous effort?
Anyways that set as if a cat among the separatist pigeons. In a fashion that was all too familiar but this time the knives seeming only sharper the separatist leadership fought almost physical fights over the dialogue. Some one somewhere though had a valid dampener in store for such exigencies. When was it that a dialogue resolved a problem in Kashmir (or for that matter anywhere in India) was the question asked with relevance but Chidambaram still seemed to be making sense in hopeless Kashmir context.
Defence minister and his generals kept regularly saying the opposite of what the home minister wanted his Kashmir audience to believe. And it seemed the generals effectively overruled the political bosses if that was not a fixed game as in such sensitive matters there always has a room to be.
The technological part of the circus was about to come and it did defying all expectations of Indian state having overcome its suspicion of Kashmiri Muslims. They couldn’t be trusted even with a cell phone that has not been banned in hot war theatres like Afghanistan, Swat, Waziristan, Iraq or Yemen. As they say in our sweet Urdu gaye the nimazen bakhshwane roze galey pad gaye silent dialogue for azadi was craftily replaced by an agenda to fight for the right to have a mobile phone. Argument that most of the cell phone SIM cards used by 26/11 terrorists in Mumbai were procured in Satara and Kolkatta might be having merit but we are caught in a situation in which cases are lost even while one wins the argument. Look at the yearend clarification of the home minister about the controversy: No lifting of ban till P Chidambaram is “personally” convinced about the foolproof nature of safeguards. He will obviously have to do an IIT course and we have to wait till then. The condition is personal to him, mind you.
Here we are now at the end of sixty two years of a dispute that continues to be an unfinished business of the United Nations and on the agenda of the suspended composite dialogue between India and Pakistan. And suddenly an emissary from the long forgotten group on centre state relations lands in the state and we are treated to pictures of the chief minister receiving him with a report in presence of his law minister. It was ten years back that the autonomy proposal passed by the state legislature by a huge majority was submitted to the central government. Whatever happened then is history, known and documented. A decade later it comes back to the chief minister of the party that copyrighted it with recommendation to “examine” the proposal. Justice Sagheer Ahmed has diluted that recommendation with an oceanful of water and a mouthful of conditionalities. But the chief minister according to the press statement asked his law minister to take action on the report and Mr. Sagar lost no time in announcing his compliance.
In the dying moments of 2009, the Law minister appointed a committee under director litigation who would be assisted by a deputy secretary and another junior. The committee has been mandated to examine the recommendation and make recommendations on it for the state government to take action. Time frame given for all this is a fortnight.
Ali Muhammad Sagar would be a fit candidate for next years Nobel. He has at least done something to solve an international dispute within a fortnight. That is much better than Barak Obama’s claim to medal who got it only on a promise of bringing in world peace. In the process though our law department is made to look like one of those militant outfits called Allah Tigers, Gujjar liberation Tigers et al who in their heyday would claim credit for anything around globe from a typhoon hitting the US to an IAF MIG crashing in Assam.
While Ban Ki Moon needs to visit Kashmir immediately to learn a lesson or two in fast track resolution of international flashpoints, there are lessons for us ring side viewers too. Look how the law of regression takes its toll as the buck that started around a table with lot of fanfare from the Prime Minister of India routed itself downwards. First to the home minister of India and ultimately to Ali Mohammad Sagar who would finally grant us our autonomy.
How a Mount Everest can be drowned in a Baab Demb? Kashmir is never short of miracles.
(Author is former secretary tourism, J&K, Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Jan 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Jan 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Jan 2010 00:00:00 IST
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