Kashmir and jugaad

Delhi Common Wealth Games, 2010 have taught us many things. Leave aside the debate on the relativity of the idea of hygiene and the corruption charges; one thing is clear: that India’s peculiar wa...

Delhi Common Wealth Games, 2010 have taught us many things. Leave aside the debate on the relativity of the idea of hygiene and the corruption charges; one thing is clear: that India's peculiar way of doing things – so eloquently and fondly called jugaad – is alive and works even today.

Most of the world is dumb-struck. A week before the games started, there were few optimists outside the Games' Organising Committee who believed that the games would be possible at all. For a moment, ignore the goof up, the international humiliation and the unrelenting bad press about the messy day-to-day affairs at the games, the fact is that the games are on. That is what makes jugaad wonderful – and, obviously, beyond the comprehension of a common westerner, who loves to be driven by a definite idea of the goal and the outcome, a set process, precision and attention to detail.

Writing in The Times of India on October 3 in "In defence of Jugaad" Santosh Desai writes, "Jugaad is the name we give to our subversive disdain for reality; we could change its name if it offends us but it would be a shame if we were to lose this unique ability to see the world in a distinctive way."

So jugaad a civilisational attribute, so to say, which, if talked about by foreigners, may even border racism. In local parlance its negative characteristics are often shrugged off with two cold words – chalta hai.

Jugaad – if we reflect – somehow best explains how Kashmir has been ruled and managed post 1947. This tool explains the micro management of Kashmir's political and security affairs from New Delhi despite the occasional appearance of 'democratically-elected' governments in Srinagar. This tool may also explain the announcement of 8 'concessions' by New Delhi last month, which constitutional pundits say should have ideally been done by Srinagar, as the issues fall easily within the latter's jurisdiction.

Jugaad basically doesn't care for protocols or systems. It doesn't mind political micro management either. It is like being beyond and above everything. So when chief minister Omar Abdullah spoke his heart out in the State Assembly on Wednesday, calling the state's relationship with the union of India a conditional accession and not a merger, a state of denial persists. Jugaad isn't comfortable with shocks. That is the reason, we learn now, additional Union Home Secretary, K Sikandan arrived in Srinagar on Saturday to get a CD of Omar's speech.

Now take the post-APD visit initiative of the appointment of a possible interlocutor by New Delhi on Kashmir. The very terms of reference of such interlocutors seeking engagement with 'all shades of opinion' – bypassing basic democratic principles – is nothing but jugaad. The point is: is New Delhi really unaware about the demands and the bottom line of these 'shades of opinions'?
Let us do not go much into history. Spare me for any dementia issues here, post 90s we have had so many of these interlocutors, emissaries, committees and delegations visiting Kashmir and trying to understand what people actually want here. We have had Ram Jethmalani, the present Governor N. N. Vohra, K. C. Pant, C. Rangarajan, Wajahat Habibullah, O. P. Shah, A. S. Dullat, Justice (Retd.) Sagheer Ahmed, and the recent All Party Parliamentary Delegation (APD). All did the same job. Why start afresh?

The problem, as ever, one need to acknowledge, is with the format and the goals of such exercises. As an example, consider the present Governor N N Vohra's visit to Kashmir in 2003. As per official records, Mr. Vohra met 36 'leaders' of various political parties/groups and 183 individuals and representatives of various organizations at Srinagar's Circuit House during nine days. The meeting statistics of the recent APD may be hardly different. And now when a new interlocutor will come, can one expect a different format?
The policy of engaging with minority groups, NGOs, trusts, 'civil society groups', student teams, mohalla and village welfare committees and so on of fringe nature has never worked on Kashmir. Tiny minorities cannot help alter any political process because they are disproportionate to the realities on the ground in the real world. If that were so, 63 years is a very long time to manage a conflict. Seeking to create a psychological condition of diversity of opinion will never work on Kashmir. There is no substitute for a political engagement with the real stakeholders. 

It is not that New Delhi needs a fact finding mission every year to understand the mass pulse in Kashmir. Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai in an interview to the latest issue of The Week reflects that when he says, "Though we spend 10,000 crore a year [on Kashmir], you have not been able to win hearts and minds. It is not just development. There are roads; the rail link is coming. [But] we have not been able to reach out to people much. Maybe [we have been] reaching out to the government. There is a subtle difference."

Then there are hard line voices like that of Shankar Roychowdhury, former Chief of Army Staff. In an article "Reclaiming Kashmir" on October 5 in Deccan Chronicle he writes, "… those in government surely realise that no amount of "Red Cross parcels" are going to win hearts and minds. How much more is the government prepared to concede to "win the unwinnable" in terms of hearts and minds in the Valley…?"

But then there are other realities, which parties like the Hurriyat and Islamabad need to acknowledge as well. A dialogue initiated by New Delhi, like the process of demilitarization in Kashmir, cannot be a one-way affair. There will have to be matching steps of confidence building by New Delhi and Islamabad for a forward movement.

For instance, New Delhi will find it impossible to initiate demilitarization unilaterally without similar steps by Islamabad in its administered part of Kashmir and guarantees by the state and non-state actors on that side that there will be no military campaigns on this side. That is where engagement with Islamabad becomes an inevitable necessity.
And no amount of jugaad can help skirt that.

(Feedback Arjimand@greaterkashmir.com)

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