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Dr. Vijay Sazawal, President of IAKF, Meets Individually With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh PDF Print
Wednesday, 18 January 2006 00:00

Letter describing meetings in New Delhi.

Dear Friends,

I recently visited India for a very brief period and participated in four personal engagements in New Delhi. The first three dealt with meetings organized by a major Indian Think Tank and by political sections of the two foreign embassies of interest. First, I made clear that I was speaking neither for the community

 nor for my organization, but solely in a personal capacity without any public fanfare. Second, I touched on strategic issues that are key to restoring KP identity in the valley. I recognized that others have different perspectives but that is the nature of this beast called politics. But my audience obviously wanted to hear my perspective. These meetings were exhaustive and lasted many hours each.

Around this time, I was informed by the KP leadership in the valley that they had been successful in lining up a meeting with the Prime Minister and wanted me to join their delegation. While in the South, I read newspaper reports indicating that the PM was meeting with KP delegation soon. On my return from the South on January 15th evening, I was informed that the meeting was scheduled with the PM on January 18th afternoon. The valley leadership planned to leave for New Delhi on January 16.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. The unusually heavy snowfall in the next three days made their travel from Srinagar to New Delhi impossible. Finally, an effort was made to place them in a commercial airplane that would have flown to New Delhi on 18th, but it did not leave on time. So the PMO was contacted and the meeting cancelled barely 3 hours before the scheduled time.

As I was rearranging my subsequent plans on 18th, I suddenly received a call from PM's private secretary that PM was interested in meeting with me individually in the assigned time slot and inquired if I was still available. I met with the PM at his official residence at 5:30 PM. The only other two participants in the room were his personal secretary (I believe from Tamil Nadu cadre) and another special secretary from the West Bengal cadre. The meeting lasted precisely for 30 minutes.

The PM expressed his pain with the plight of KP's, described his visit and meetings with KP's in Srinagar and Jammu last year, inquired about the status of 2-room hutments from his staff, and sought my views. Briefly, I made the following points:

  • I thanked the PM for reaching out to KP's in the current dialogue process. I told him that I was impressed that he had chosen the valley based KP's for the symbolic first meeting, and I hoped that he will be meeting with other KP delegations subsequently.
  • There can be no meaningful return of KP's to the valley until the displaced community sees those KP's currently living in the valley are well taken care of. This is the biggest CBM that the State can offer to KP's willing to return, but has not done so. The KP population in the valley just before the Sangrampura massacre was 18,000. Nine years later it has dwindled to about 8,000, and more will leave if the Central government does not recognize this aspect of the problem as the "core issue" for survival of KP identity in the valley.
  • The separate Central government funding towards rehabilitation of KP's is appealing in the short-term, but against long-term interests of KP's. This ad hoc measure amounts to an entitlement program that ensures continued dislocation between the KP community and the State, making integration of KP's back into the State's economy difficult, if not impossible.
  • Instead of being given more fish, KP's need resources on how to fish on their own in the State so that they can productively integrate back into State. Rehabilitation of KP's is not a priority issue for the State government, and as the KP share of State jobs and other opportunities dwindle a federally funded stand-alone entitlement program is not the answer. The Center must assure that KP's get their fair share of educational and vocational training opportunities in the State. Similarly, KP share of gazetted officer posts in the State has gone down considerably.
  • The focus for central assistance must shift from short-term measures to strategic elements that create "political and economic space" for KP's to survive in the valley. This will be impossible without institutional and constitutional changes in the J&K; including passage of special bills in the Legislative Assembly to promote the protections necessary for KP's to be "equity partners" in the future of the State. As an example, I listed how three successive chairmen of the NCM had written to the State CM to grant KP's the "Minority status" that was ignored by the State so far. I expected the Congress led administration to correct this anomaly. I similarly stressed on how putting some KP shrines and cultural places in the valley under KP management will reinforce their sense of belonging to the State.
  • Finally, I touched on the unique dynamics involving KP's because the civil society in India has mostly ignored the plight of this community. This has forced the community to look at creative ways to engage the majority community in the valley, but so far Kashmiri Muslims have only shown propensity for "meet and greet" functions in Srinagar, Jammu and elsewhere, and have shied away from rigorous political discussions that must be seriously negotiated at the local level to build confidence within the minority community. I made this point especially since valley separatists and others have been telling the Central government that they are "fully engaged" in discussions with KP's.

On almost all points noted above, the PM sought clarifications as the discussion moved along. He promised to follow-up with Mr. Azad on various points. Later, the personal secretary asked me to summarize my key messages in a letter to the PM and also send a copy to Mr. Azad.

The PM also inquired about political advocacy of valley Muslims in the US. He was gentle, kind and very engaged in his demeanor. Needless to say, I felt honored that he had sought my views and said so in the meeting. The meeting ended promptly at 6 PM.

If anyone has any questions or comments, please contact me directly.


Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.



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