Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Saghir Report on State-Center Relations Leaves a Lot to be Desired

Bukhari conducts a postmortem of the Justice Saghir's Report

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

WG report on autonomy is all bones no flesh

“The question of 'Autonomy' and its demand can be examined in the light of the 'Kashmir Accord' or in some other manner or on the basis of some other formula as the present Prime Minister may deem fit and appropriate so as to restore the 'Autonomy' to the extent possible” Justice (retd) Saghir Ahmad’s report on Working Group on Centre-State relations.

This recommendation by Justice (retd) Saghir does not merit any celebration. The casual approach with which he has addressed the most crucial part of five Working Groups constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May 2006, not only undermines the demand of Greater Autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir state as put forth by National Conference but further erodes New Delhi’s credibility vis-à-vis a serious and sincere effort to resolve the Kashmir issue.

After going through the summary of the report, as circulated by State Information department, it looks flawed, weak and superficial. Barring a few mentions which one could relate to centre-state relations, the rest of the report deals with insignificant issues like promotion of IT industry, revival of HMT and enhancing of wages. From a cursory look one can reach the conclusion that the retired Judge has been very unfair to his job.

His one line recommendation about Autonomy does not suggest anything, which should make a senior NC leader like Ali Mohammad Sagar happy to say that “we will have an action plan to implement autonomy”. What are the basis on which an action plan can be formulated? Justice Saghir has miserably failed in even discussing what Autonomy means and how it can be achieved. His “recommendation” only says that “it can be examined”. The fundamental question then arises that whether Justice Saghir’s Working Group is far more sacrosanct than State Assembly which unanimously passed a resolution for implementation of a comprehensive report prepared by NC stalwarts like Late Mohiuddin Shah and A R Rather. As such there is no framework or roadmap on which the retired Judge would have asked the Government of India to work towards the implementation. Justice Saghir was not heading any constitutional body so his recommendation in any case are not binding on the government, which summarily rejected the resolution passed by an assembly, which Government of India “sold” to rest of world as the “representative body” of people of Jammu and Kashmir in 1996.

Justice Saghir talks about “Kashmir Accord” as the basis for the Autonomy. But he must be aware of the fact that Kashmir Accord, which means Accord between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Indira Gandhi in 1975 is not connected with the concept of Greater Autonomy. There is no mention of Greater Autonomy in that Accord. Except for the handing of power to Late Sheikh Abdullah nothing moved on that. The accord had talked about reviewing the central laws, which in any case are just part of the Greater Autonomy. And that also could not be achieved. The Committee headed by Late D D Thakur to look at those laws did not complete its task. In any case if Justice Saghir had to refer to any such agreement then Delhi Agreement of 1952 would have been the most befitting one which entirely deals with the Greater Autonomy to the state. It is pertinent to mention here what senior NC leader Sheikh Mustafa Kamal told this newspaper on December 5, 2009 about the Accord “There is no such accord. I mean to say this accord has never taken place. Has this accord passed in the assembly? No.

So where from comes the term 1975 accord. If this accord has taken place then why it took almost two years for New Delhi to withdraw its support to NC”. The accord, contrary to Sheikh Abdullah's wishes does not return to the position as it was before his dismissal in August 1953, contrariwise, it implies clearly that the accession of the state to India is final according to Indian view point.

Most amusing aspect of this report is that abrogation or continuance of Article 370 has been left to people of Jammu and Kashmir. How it can be done, is not known. Whether there should be a referendum or the State assembly should move a resolution to do that, nothing is specific. Does this kind of a flawed recommendation hold any water when people at large in Kashmir demand referendum for “Independence”. The best option for the Working Group should have been to examine all the documents made public from time to time vis a vis the issues related autonomy. In this backdrop a comparative study of Autonomy, Self Rule and Achievable Nationhood made by New Delhi based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation is a significant attempt to untie the knot. “These documents converge on most of the issues related to empowerment” says the study adding “even on issues where there is difference of opinion between the three, elements can be deliberated upon and then the most apt one selected”. We also need to keep in mind the fate of recommendations made by four other Working Groups which were not touching the constitution.

Apart from the flawed recommendations, it is important to take into consideration the voices of dissent which have emerged from within the Group. Except for NC, all others have raised objection to the manner in which Justice Saghir “hurried” the submission of the report. PDP had initially voiced strong reservation but a day later it softened its stand saying that it was good beginning. At the same time there is agreement between PDP, CPI (M), BJP, Panther’s Party, Ladakh Union Territory Front and Panun Kashmir that the deliberations were never complete and they had been told that there will be another round before the recommendations are complete.

The timing of the report is also not out of place. It has been submitted at the time New Delhi claims to have set into motion “quiet dialogue” with separatists to find a solution. This, in that background looks putting a cart before the horse. In any sense it does not match with the realities and exigencies on the ground to offer an olive branch to a party, which is in power, without taking on board the alienated section which is in direct demand of Azadi. By offering Autonomy (which incase of Justice Saghir’s recommendation is not the case at all), Self Rule or any other solution to NC, PDP, Congress or any other pro India party New Delhi cannot set any course to settle the issue. It takes us back to notion that it is not sincere and serious in resolving the issue that is why the departures like this.

1 comment:

dayasagr said...

Fifth Working Group headed by Rtd Justice Saghir Ahmed with sensitive had on agenda NC’s autonomy, self rule, article 370, issues of refugees and problems of backward areas etc.The WG headed by Justice Saghir Ahmed had last met on September 3, 2007 but could not come up with any report till Dec 2009. In a way this was the only working group that needed priority action keeping in view the J&K affairs as they had shaped after 1990 .This working group had to particularly address to relationship between the Government of J& K and the Government at Delhi ( Union Government ).Kashmiri over ground separatists did not participate in any of the working group meeting as well as the RTC. But still great expectations were there from this Working Group as regards the demands of political parties and individuals who wanted some considerations / resettlements as regards Center State relations (duly holding firmly to the 1947 accession of J & K with Indian dominion ). But what ever may be the quality of the report , what ever may be reaction of different groups to presentation of the report, one thing is sure that the presentation of the report and reactions to report have brought in some political benefits to goodwill of NC amongst some segments in Kashmir. Valley .Signals have gone that NC has succeeded in securing recommendations in favour of its Greater Autonomy. Where as the contents do not appear to be like that. No any clear recommendations have been made even regarding Autonomy Resolution of JK Assembly / National Conference as well as PDP’s Self Rule. It appears that the “working group” was caught in confusions and a way has been found to just get rid of the noose. So what to talk of successfully working for tackling the over ground separatists , the report would not even pull National Conference out of the sludge. The political WAR of words would continue between NC and PDP. The contents of the Justice Saghir Ahmed report and the manner in which report has been submitted would not do any thing good to settle the confusions . Rather it could be feared that confusions may grow further. The report would not even settle PDP flares , what to talk of separatist flares.
How funny as per the report no concept paper was provided by JK PDP to Justice Saghi Ahmed on its Self Rule. The report further recommends that PDP proposal requires to be considered by the Central Government if and when approached with documents containing specific proposals of the “Self Rule”. This style of report also confirms that the chapters on 5th Working Group references have been forcedly closed. (*Daya Sagar, a senior coloumnist on Jammu &Kashmir Affairs, dayasagr45 )