Chidambaram favours ‘greater autonomy’ for Kashmir

“Well I am afraid. These pellets didn’t kill in 2010 and 2012. You should ask yourself why?” he said in an interview with NDTV.

YASIR ASHRAF
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jul 21 2016 1:33AM | Updated Date: Jul 21 2016 3:33PM
Chidambaram favours ‘greater autonomy’ for KashmirFile Photo

India’s former Home Minister P Chidambaram has said that pellets being used in Kashmir today are “heavier ammunition pellets and not the ones used in 2010.”

He said today’s pellets are “very different than those used during the 2010 summer uprising.”

“Well I am afraid. These pellets didn’t kill in 2010 and 2012. You should ask yourself why?” he said in an interview with NDTV.

“What I am trying to say (is) that they are very different pellets—heavier ammunition pellets. In 2010, we did a few things. We said no bullets, only pellets. There was some size, a particular size of a pellet. They (forces) are not using those pellets now. They are using heavier ammunition,” Chidambaram said in the interview about the current unrest in Kashmir.

He said during his tenure when pellets were first used as “non-lethal” weapon, “I ordered that only a few policemen would carry these weapons, but those orders “are not being followed by forces today.”

“You must shoot those (pellets) below knee. Those orders have not been obeyed. I think they are using a different pellet today. Why those pellets didn’t kill in 2010?” he said.

“The blinding of so many young persons has further weakened the moral authority of the Indian State,” Chidambaram said.

‘KASHMIRIS NOT ENEMIES’

In the interview, Chidambaram said: “We have completely misunderstood what Kashmir people are struggling for or protesting for. We think wrongly that they are separatists, secessionists, and whatever they say is seditious and therefore they should be treated as if they are enemies of the State. That is completely untrue.”

He said during his tenure, they spoke to many people about the concept of Azaadi.

“The word Azaadi means many things to many people there. Today things may have changed as I am talking about 2010. I think what they are fighting for is, identity. What they are fighting for is a large degree of self-government and autonomy and what is wrong in that? We are not willing to think out of box,” he said. “In a federal system there is no principal which says give powers to states in a symmetric manner. You can have asymmetric devolution of powers.”

Chidambaram said it was “greater autonomy” on which Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947.

“Greater Autonomy is the basis on which J&K acceded to India. J&K acceded on the basis of Article 370 and over the years we have simply chipped away that bargain which we had arrived at in 1947-48,” he said, when asked about J&K’s special status.

Chidambaram also said most of the people in India see Kashmir through the prism of land and not people.

“Most people look upon Kashmir issue as an issue of land which Pakistan has tried to grab (and) which belongs to India, and India is trying to defend that land. No one is saying we shouldn’t defend the land. But the problem of Kashmir is not the problem of land. It is a problem of people,” he added.

He said the Parliament was divided over handling of present Kashmir crisis.

“I think the Parliament was divided yesterday. Each side said a few things that were objected to by the other side.  But fundamentally there is a clear division in the approach between the ruling alliance and the opposite parties,” he said.

He said that central government today believes that only muscular approach to Kashmir problem is the answer.

“The biggest difference is the ruling alliance, NDA, believes that a muscular approach to the Kashmir problem is the answer. But there are opposite parties like Congress, CPI(M), CPI, JD (U), which have realized  after witnessing 2010 and since 2010 that security or police -driven measures will only worsen the situation. And therefore they have appealed a healing touch approach,” Chidambaram said.

He also said: “Alliance (of PDP-BJP) itself was a grave provocation to the people of Kashmir. BJP as a party and people of Kashmir valley are poles apart. Hardly any commonality between BJP’s philosophy and what Kashmir valley people believe in.”

“So when you have a govt with BJP-PDP, it’s very disturbing, challenging and provocative. The presence of BJP and what the BJP does in the rest of India; the consistent talk of repealing Article 370 that frightens people.”

He said: “You don’t do hard policing of protesting youth and citizens. I can understand hard policing against militants, insurgents but not against protesting youth who hold stones and nothing else,” he said.

He said: “It’s time for all party delegation to go to Kashmir. I think time for quiet interlocution with the people. Go back and do the things we did,” he said.

Asked why interlocutors’ recommendations were not implemented, he said: “I am equally disappointed as you are. Because I left the ministry in 2012, I accept collective responsibility. We didn’t bring the interlocutors’ report in the Parliament for debate. We could have implemented many of those suggestions, some of them, not all.”

On talks with separatists, he said:

“I can’t call them talks. I did meet them. I think I can convince at least one of them or their friends and to have a space for that point of view within our federal system of India. One other person I talked to was timid. He didn’t have that courage to either take his idea forward or to meet our ideas on a subject.

The one man I didn’t meet was Mr Geelani. I did meet many others. I was confident that over a period of time we can bring them closer to our point of view,” he said.

 

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