In the third week of September (19-21/2006) the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference staged on three day working committee meeting at Srinagar. Apart from the fact that it provided an excellent opportunity for a formatted interaction between members of working committee the show ended up redefining the equations and positions on several important matters. These crucial signals have not been picked up sufficiently because of the current preoccupation with Havana summit and the Afzal Guru episode. I owe it to a journalist friend of mine who gave me copies of these resolutions and perhaps expected that I examine the political pulse of the party in the evolving political situation in the state.
Before we pick up one by one those signals certain observations regarding the total political health of the oldest party are apt to be made. The National Conference being the principal opposition party has not yet given the people of the state a good enough reason to throw out Congress/ PDP government which in all respects is confused and internally divided on crucial policy and political matters. The National Conference is on the defensive. Perhaps it persuaded itself that all it needs to do was to run a reasonably coherent party and then wait to benefit from the electorates anti –incumbency, proclivities at the end of the term of the present government. After all Congress/PDP is busy advertising its own inadequacies on issues of self rule and cabinet expansion. The crux of the problem for National Conference and even other political parties is that winning and losing elections has become only political role a party envisages for itself. There is a distinct disinclination to built cadres, enlist new support base or enthuse party members about new policy initiatives. The National Conference as the oldest political outfit and seen as the only pan Jammu and Kashmir party has to take the lead in reviving itself as a political organization. The National Conference needs to built up and cultivate second generation leaders and workers drawn from varied socio-economic backgrounds. The parties Darbar culture would not permit any navratnas(Nine) gems to shine. Consequently all these years National Conference had no organizational impetus to develop alternative views, ideas and policies because they would inturn have produced ideologues. The National Conference may have to reach out to the intelligentsia and the youth – the two segments where the party has suffered the major erosion. Now the party is not only politically mild but apologetic as well. The party may have to revert back to its revolutionary past and shun its political shyness. The NC leadership is yet to reorient their thinking to the party's changed circumstances.
It was therefore necessary that a few basic propositions be reiterated and Umar Abdullah as party president did that with considerable aplomb during the recent working committee meeting. It is reasonable to flag of these one by one and understand how the grand old party is graduating towards the mainstream of Jammu and Kashmir politics. The party by adopting five crucial resolutions has made a comeback to the Kashmiri mainstream – a space vacated by it and partially occupied by peoples Democratic Party of Mufti Muhammad Syed.
One of the resolutions adopted by the working committee pertained to National and International issues. The Executive has thereby tried to open the search lights very wide. Probably true to its historical legacy. NC has brought itself in the center of major political / ideological churnings at national and international level. The working committee expressed its deep anguish on the rising tide of intolerance and narrow mindedness in the country. It supported prime ministers contention that it was totally unwarranted to dub Muslims as terrorist. It characterized this as conspiracy hatched by the elements who are out to destroy the secular fabric of the country. The session appealed to all forces representing patriotism, liberalism and tolerance to unite and forge an alliance to defeat these dark forces. In the International context, the National Conference working committee expressed its concern on the unabashed terror unleashed by the forces of hegemonism against the unarmed and peace loving people of Lebanon, Palestain, Iraq and Afghanistan. By adopting such an important resolution on such issues, the NC has in a way tried to recapture its past. The party is even otherwise under political obligation to agitate such issues as are central to its ideology. The party being the architect of political accession of the state with the union of India has necessarily to be worried about the decline of secularism in India. The resolution has the capacity to oil and refurbish the image of the party which over the years is one of suffocation and short sightedness. The second resolution adopted by working committee pertains to Indo-Pak dialogue. The session expressed satisfaction that a window of light has reopened between India and Pakistan with their meeting at Havana during the NAM summit. The party expressed its belief that " trust deficit, suspicion and confrontation between these countries has been proving detrimental to the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir and they have to bear the brunt".
The working committee went a step further in stating that an amicable solution to Kashmir tangle must be found which in the first instance satisfies the aspirations of the people inhabiting the unfortunate state and secondly create conditions in which more than 1200 million people of India and Pakistan can live with peace and friendship. The party reiterated its stand that Hizbul Mujahabiden and other militant groups be involved to sit in a negotiating table. Further the party expressed its anguish that "mere handshakes, photo sessions and expression of pious wishes can not sustain peoples confidence". Away from and outside these resolutions it would be proper to take a leaf from history and try to understand the NC position on Pakistan's involvement in the resolution of Kashmir tangle. After the 1964 release of Shiekh Muhammad Abdullah and before he traveled to Pakistan certain important things happened at Delhi which no Kashmir expert can overlook. In Delhi Shiekh told officials that while they could work out the specifics of the solution he wanted that any such should 1) promote indo-Pakistan friendship 2) not weaken the secular ideals of Indian constitution 3) not weaken the position of the minorities in either country. He asked them to give him more than one alternative which he could take with him to Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah seriously considered going to Pakistan by crossing the cease fire line in Kashmir on foot and even got Nehru's approval, before the matter was grounded by Gundevia and Parthasarthy. On May 24 he touched down in Rawalpandi to a tumultuous reception. He drove in an open car from the airport to the town. The well come said one reporter," surpassed in intensity and depth that given to chou-en-Lai of China in February of that year". Latter talking to reporters Abdullah called his visit, "a peace mission of an exploratory nature". As in New Delhi here too he stressed that any solution to the dispute must not foster sense of defeat for either India or Pakistan: must not weaken India's secularism or the future of its 60 million Muslims: and must satisfy the aspirations of the Kashmirs. When one looks at recent debates on Kashmir tangle these words ring as true in 2006 as in 1964.
–To be concluded
(The author is Professor of Political Science in the University of Kashmir)