By Kamal Morarka
The unfortunate incident at Una in Gujarat has captured the imagination of the observers and Parliament. It is unfortunate that even after so many years of independence that the Dalits in this country are not being treated properly by the upper castes. That is a social issue. As far as the government is concern the law and order must be maintained and any violation of law should be dealt with severely by the police and the district authorities. BJP being in power and generally perceived to be an upper caste party adds to the problem. If action is not taken and problem is not crushed decisively, the impression goes around that the administration is not serious and does not go in favor of the BJP. I am sure that such things happen by local provocation and local conditions, and they do not have a design planned by the state authorities, much less by the central authorities. However, what action is taken and how swiftly it is taken gives the signal, one way or the other. Of course the government has assured Parliament that they will act, and hope sooner the better.
Another unfortunate statement issued by one Daya Shankar Singh, Vice-President of the UP of unit of BJP, using foul language against Mayawati ji. Of course the leader of the House Arun Jaitely has clearly told Parliament that he is personally aggrieved, his party is aggrieved and they will see to it that these things do not occur. The expulsion of Daya Shankar Singh from the primary membership of the BJP is also a step in the correct direction. As I have been writing in my columns last two three times, if the BJP wants to be a ruling party for any good length of time, it has to moderate its RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, etc., who can carry on their promotion of Hindutva but using foul language, trying to spoil the atmosphere of governance will not help BJP itself. This is where the Congress had an advantage over the BJP. Unlike regional parties, whether the Janata Dal which is predominantly a backward caste combination with Rajputs or Mayawati essentially a Dalit core based, congress has been a party of all sections of the people. Naturally because the freedom struggle was fought under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad and what is put into the constitution is largely what congress party resolution used to be before 1947. It is alright for the BJP to say we will give you an alternative governance, and after 10 years of UPA rule people have put them in power, but they must be careful. They must not read too much into this. They must not read that people have rejected the policies of the constitution or of the freedom struggle. That is far from the truth. Yes, people want better governance. Inflation hits the poorest man the most. Corruption creates the bad atmosphere. These two are probably the primary reasons for the BJP getting 282 seats. But once you are in government you are no more in election mode. You are now doing serious governance, and when you see into serious governance the options are limited. In a complex country like India one will have to reluctantly agree that probably the Congress was exercising the best optimum options possible in the given situation. Of course anything can be done better and BJP should improve upon what congress was doing and how congress was handling matters. That is the only way they can convince the people that they mean to govern and not only rabble-rouse.
That brings us to Kashmir. Kashmir is with India because Sheikh Abdullah, the unquestioned leader of Kashmir at that time, wanted it to be so. Maharaja Hari Singh would have gladly acceded to Pakistan. But Sheikh Abdulla said no, we are a civilized state and we must go with secular India. When Nehru went to the UN complaining that Pakistan is sending people in plain clothes, the UN said there should be referendum within three months, even this does not really go against us, because Pakistan did not fulfill the condition of withdrawing their troops from their border as required by the UN resolution. So anybody harping on this today is really a non-issue. Of course much water has flowed under the bridge: there have been wars, there has been Shimla agreement, there have been various things happened. But now Kashmir situation has arisen which is fraught with serious difficulties. Till 1983 the problem was not so severe, because after everything Sheikh Abdullah was restored to lead Kashmir and he died in 1982. Elections were held in Kashmir. Under the leadership of his son Farooq Abdulla, Congress party and National Conference could not come to an understanding, so for the first time probably a Kashmir ruling party won an election in spite of Delhi opposing it. I thought it was the golden opportunity to establish peace in Kashmir forever, but unfortunately Farooq’s government was destabilized by defections, and his brother in law G.M. Shah was installed as the Chief Minister. G.M. Shah was neither secular nor wanted peace. First communal riots in Kashmir took place when G.M. Shah was the Chief Minister. There were no communal riots in Kashmir before that.
The issue is to how to give faith to the Kashmiri people that we will respect your autonomy and we will respect your choices. Once they made their choice in Farooq Abdulla in 1983, you destabilized him from the backdoor. So the message you have given is given him: unless the ruler is to the liking of Delhi we will not allow you to rule. This is a bad message anywhere in the country, more so in Kashmir. Now situation has come when a student leader who had not with much clout; he has been killed, a young man, 5 lakh people have attended his funeral. I don’t know what Mehbooba Mufti is thinking, but I don’t think BJP-PDP government can now really handled this issue. You have to give a chance to Kashmiris to elect their own government. In fact the time has come now when now or little later you have to resort Kashmir to the pre-1953 status. This is minimum you have to do if you want to keep the people of Kashmir with you. Whatever guarantee we have given to them – autonomy which have been incorporated under article 370 – we will abide by absolutely unless they want to dilute it and integrate with us they are welcome. But we will not do anything to force them to do so.
Now how do we start? There a ruling government – BJP-PDP – which has majority. If they can really resolve the issue, it is very good, but I think the time is coming when ideally you should allow Kashmir to have elections for their assembly without the Congress and the BJP participating. They should keep out of Kashmir. Let local party be elected whether it National Conference, PDP or some other party or anybody. Even a separatist party winning; there is no problem. DMK was a separatist party they wanted a separate flag, separate Madras, Tamil Nadu. Once they were elected they have to function per Indian constitution. Now they are ruling either they or AIADMK for so many decades. In Kashmir also you can have two-party local system. Let one party or other keep on ruling. They will meet the aspirations of the local people. I think a time has come when all party meeting has to be held to find out how to really resolve the Kashmir issue, and you should keep your petty – I call them petty – interest aside of having a few cabinet berth, a few ministers it does not really matter. BJP ideally should have backed Mufti from outside. By participating in the government they have done no good. Alright there are excuses that Jammu should have to look after. These are excuses. These are loaves and fishes of power. Few ministers here and there really do not matter, country matters. And Kashmir what do we want? The land! The land is safe, because there is army. Pakistan can make as much noises as they want. They cannot take away Kashmir from us. To win the heart of Kashmiri people you must create confidence in them that we do not mean to dislodge them. And incidentally, Kashmir Islam is different from the rest of the world, it is Sufi Islam. The militants do not want that. The Charar-e-Sharief they blew up. Any symbol of the highest thinking of Islam was in Kashmir. Now I don’t know what the thinking of this government is? But I think the Prime Minister to rise above all parties and take a view which is statesman-like. Let’s have the Kashmiri people wanting to integrate with India.
Another thing I must warn the government. Talking of development package, employment generation and industries is only insulting the intelligence of people. The youth today of course want all this but not on the cost of their self-respect. They first want their self-respect to be restored. They must be assured that they are running their own government; they are making their own policies. That Kashmir is being governed at Srinagar and Jammu not in Delhi. Unless we can create those conditions, I am afraid there are going to be big difficulties in Kashmir, like militancy raised its head after the 1983 drama. The big militancy took place for so many years till order was restored. But new generation have come. Let’s not start the whole things all over again.
By Kamal Morarka