The Kashmir Interlocution Farce Print
Written by Aditya Raj Kaul   
Friday, 08 June 2012 00:00

[As published in The Sunday Indian]: Kashmir has been a dumping ground for memorial of mistakes since India's Independence in 1947. Wounds never heal in this troubled land, with gun becoming a common sight in these for last more than two decades and every possible dialogue failing to carve a wave of consensus for long-term peace. In a deep-rooted division across the political spectrum along with a lack of courageous honesty and willingness to act together, a road-map for peace has been ignored shamelessly pandering to the obstructionists. Blood has only fallen cheaper, with young lives being lost in crossfire between the Islamist terrorists and the security agencies.

Nineteen months into its formation, Kashmir Interlocutor's report “A New Compact with the people of Jammu & Kashmir” was officially released by the MHA for response from the public, even though parts of the report were leaked out to selected press from time to time after its submission in October 2011.


 It all began in June 2010, Kashmir's bloodiest summer since 1990 – the onset of terrorism. After killing of 112 civilians in stone-pelting incidents instigated by separatists and several promises of troop reduction by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the government finally announced a three-member Kashmir Interlocution panel. This amidst whispers of desperate urgency in the establishment to bring down the tempers in the valley by all means. Separatists in a collective voice announced a “boycott” of the panel calling it a “time buying exercise”.

Not surprisingly, the leadership of the BJP, separatists and several ethnic minority communities including the displaced Kashmiri Pandits in a collective tone have rejected the report merely minutes after its release on May 24th in New Delhi.

“Everybody knows that the report is not the solution to Kashmir. It will achieve nothing even if implemented,” said Chairman of the Moderate Hurriyat faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. In rebuttal, Radha Kumar, one of the interlocutors told TSI, “How can separatists expect their views in the report if they choose not to meet us?”
 “Such teams have an inherent disposition to favor their men in Kashmir - even if that includes distortion, says, Junaid Azim Mattu, Srinagar Head of People's Conference of Sajad Lone, one of the only separatists to have joined the mainstream politics. “The interlocutors' report is flawed, contradictory and utterly mischievous in the way it puts more effort in fragmenting the narrative of Kashmir than seeking a way out”.

Jammu & Kashmir (and Ladakh) has never had a single narrative, possibly can never have in the near future. The contours of the long-pending problem in the state may be difficult to shape, but not impossible. In agreement, Shakir Mir, a youth who aspires to be a civil servant says, “What the report has tried to do is that it tends to cater for the aspirations of the three regions separately, considering the steep differences of opinions those regions endure. Critics allege that the report aims at dividing the state on the ethnic lines, but instead it has just highlighted what was already there.”

 “It is beyond denial that the ideological fault lines were spawned in J&K the moment when insurgency started”, he asserts.

 What then could be the reason for this widespread resentment of the dialogue process initiated by the three interlocutors? “The three chosen ones were too well known for their extreme views on Kashmir issues,” says Tarun Vijay, Rajya Sabha member and National Spokesperson of the BJP, “Their report hasn’t disappointed our worst fears. It certainly is not a time buying tool for MHA, as there is nothing up the sleeves of the North Block for Kashmir except a yawning wait for the next elections,” he told TSI.

 On the other hand, all hasn't been well in-between the three nominated interlocutors since the very beginning of this year-long dialogue exercise. More than the peace initiatives, it has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. While rumours surfaced about a possible rift between the MHA and the PMO on nominating Dileep Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar respectively, M.M. Ansari the lesser known face among the three has always felt sidelined. Sources reveal, Ansari, an Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission (CIC) setup for implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005, was included in the panel as a balancing act – as a face from the minority.

 Padgaonkar was left red faced in July 2011, when a dossier by the FBI after arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai for illegally lobbying for Pakistan in the United States, revealed his name in the guest list for a high-profile conference in the Capitol Hill in 2005. It hit a controversy when his associate M.M. Ansari was quoted as saying, “It is very strange and unfortunate. We need persons of impeccable integrity and character to resolve an issue as contentious as Kashmir. Was the Government of India aware about Dileep attending the conference organised by Fai before it appointed him?”

Within a month, in August 2011, Radha Kumar, an eminent academician who pioneers conflict studies in her own right also had to bear severe criticism for attending a Kashmir seminar in Europe organised by the Tramboo Centre. Its promoter, Abdul Majeed Tramboo, also said to be under FBI scanner for involvement with the ISI. Kumar, “angry and upset” over remarks of fellow panel member Ansari, submitted her resignation, quitting the Kashmir panel and it took personal intervention from the Home Minister P. Chidambaram to sort matters till the interlocutor panel could complete their official assignment.

 And the report was finally tabled to no positive outcome. It’s credibility being questioned by several quarters. “There can possibly be no consensus on this compact. The report appears to be a pre-approved script and the interlocutors look like bad window dressers”, alleged Junaid.

 Kashmir observers have refrained to give much hype to the recommendations of the panel. Many feel the Home Ministry will put the report on a back-burner for the time being as constituting a constitutional panel for review of laws would only lead to controversy. The government is consciously avoiding initiating a new debate at a time when Kashmir has seen a good tourism season with much less violence in years. BJP however chose to “out-rightly oppose” the report. It fails to acknowledge that article 370 is a psychological barrier in the integration of Kashmir with the rest of India. Rather than abolishing it, the report asks to make the status permanent, announced Arun Jaitley, BJP General Secretary, in the National Executive meeting of the party in Mumbai.

“That they advise further dilution of the existing central laws applied in the valley- and then choose to serve the recipe of three regional councils, simply puts the three wise persons in a no man’s space”, laments Tarun Vijay, adding “Strangely they even mentioned PoK, as Pakistan Administered Area, virtually grabbing the role of pro-Islamabad elements. The report, sadly, is a far distanced sand dune in the jannat.”

The Kashmir Interlocutor's report is walking towards a fate similar to the K.C. Pant Committee or the Ram Jethmalani headed Kashmir Committee which saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Grief it seems is to stay in the valley of hopelessness with no end to the hatred emanating from the politics in the region. Even as the wounds of Kashmir remain raw, the question is, Will Kashmir remain a dumping ground for a memorial of mistakes?