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Mr Abdullah, Kashmir is not the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh
Prof Hari Om2/17/2017 11:50:23 PM
On February 14, former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister and working president of the National Conference (NC), Omar Abdullah, addressed a gathering of analysts, faculty and students at the HarvardUniversity in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. He spoke on the theme 'Kashmir - Breaking the impasse".
As expected, Omar Abdullah only focused on Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslims' aspirations and treated at par the aggressed upon and profusely bleeding India with the aggressor Pakistan.
"India and Pakistan should stop trying to beat each other at diplomatic fora and claim victory, but rather allow the people of Kashmir win from a peace process. Kashmiris (in this Kashmiri Muslims) have suffered a lot due to the fact that India and Pakistan have failed to initiate a comprehensive and sustained peace process that would simultaneously facilitate dialogue at both external and internal fronts".
As for the nature of Kashmir issue, Omar Abdullah said: "It was inherently one of a political nature that required a broad-based and credible political approach based on the tenets of empathy and statesmanship. The conventional investment in a policy of diplomatic one-upmanship or containment and operational management of the political sentiment in Kashmir has created a prolonged and dangerous phase of political vacuum and uncertainty in Kashmir".
Omar Abdullah also suggested that trade, development and operational processes through administrative mechanisms couldn't replace a lasting political solution to the Kashmir issue. He asserted that "the time has come to engage with the political sentiment in Kashmir", saying "the key to unlocking a future of peace lies in acknowledging and respecting the political sentiment and aspirations of people of Kashmir".
The upshot of his whole presentation was that Kashmir meant the entire State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and meeting the aspirations of Kashmiri Muslims would be the same as fulfilling the urges and meeting the aspirations compulsions and needs of the entire population of the state.
To be more precise, his whole approach was lop-sided and Kashmir and Kashmiri-Muslim-centric. One may put in any amount of effort to find a single reference to Jammu, Ladakh, internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus and other 1.6 million Hindu and Sikh refugees, all leading a wretched life in Jammu since 1947-1948, one would come out of the whole exercise minus everything. Both Jammu and Ladakh and 2 million victims of fanaticism were conspicuous by their absence in his presentation.
It is obvious that he misled and hoodwinked the blissfully ignorant American audience about the stark realities as they existed in the border State of Jammu & Kashmir.
What are the stark realities? Let us skip the period pre-2013 and focus on post-2013 to find if Omar Abdullah or his NC, or for that matter any Kashmiri political party, including the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), represent the general will of the people of the state. Such an exercise has become imperative to put things in perspective and work out a solution that is acceptable to the people of all the three regions. In 2014, the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh participated in large numbers in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The elections turned out to be a Waterloo for the NC. The NC contested all the three Lok Sabha seats and lost very badly to the PDP. The BJP, which also tried its luck in Kashmir, drew a blank. All its candidates lost security deposit. The PDP, which was formed in 1999, captured all the three seats and defeated even NC veteran and three-time Chief Minister and the then Union Minister, Farooq Abdullah, with a huge margin. Farooq Abdullah was, and continues to be, the president of the NC.
The ally of the NC, the Congress, met the same fate in Jammu and Ladakh. It was the BJP which won all the three Lok Sabha seats hands down. The nature of the defeat of the Congress could be gauged from the fact that a novice Jitendra Singh, presently MoS in the PMO, inflicted a crushing defeat on Gulam Nabi Azad (presently Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha) in a constituency that was Considered Azad's pocket borough. The PDP also performed miserably and all its candidates lost security deposits.
The BJP polled 32.4 per cent of the total popular votes polled. The PDP got 20.5 per cent votes. The Congress' share was 22.9 per cent and the NC had to remain content was a paltry 11.1 per cent votes and all from the Kashmir Valley, its core constituency.
The story of the Assembly elections, which were held 6 months later, was no different. Ladakh andJammu rejected outright the pro-autonomy NC and the pro-self-rule PDP and Kashmir rejected outright the BJP. The NC and the PDP failed to open their account in Ladakh. And, in Jammu, the NC and the PDP could win three seats each with a slender margin. These Kashmir-based parties captured 6 out of 37 seats in theJammu province - constituencies where the Muslim voters were somewhat more numerous. More significantly, the Congress, which enjoyed power on its own or shared power either with the NC or with the PDP, also lost miserably in Jammu. It could win only four seats - all Muslim-majority. It was the BJP, which created a history of sorts by winning 25 of the 37 seats and with a huge margin. The BJP contested elections on three specific planks - Chief Minister from Jammu, integration of the state into India and justice to the refugees. The BJP could have won Rajouri, Nagrota and Bishnah seats, had it not fielded "weak" and "unpopular" candidates. It lost these seats with a narrow margin.
The PDP won 25 seats out of 46 in Kashmir and its election planks included self-rule and friendly-relations with Pakistan. All the seats that the PDP captured were 100 per cent Muslim. The NC captured 12 seats and the Congress 4 - all 100 per cent Muslim. The NC fought the election on autonomy plank. The remaining seats went to independent candidates and marginal parties such as Peoples Conference, CPI-M and Peoples Democratic Front. These seats were also 100 per cent Muslim.
In Ladakh, it was the Congress which sprung a big surprise. It won three of the four seats and the remaining fourth seat went to an independent candidate. The Congress could capture Ladakh, which was represented by the BJP in the Lok Sabha by Queen of Ladakh Rani Parvati's son-in-law Thupstan Chhewang, because it fought the election on Union Territory plank.
The vote share of the BJP in the Assembly election was 23 per cent. The PDP got 22.7 per cent of the total votes polled, the NC 20.8 per cent and the Congress 18 per cent.
What does the 2014 mandate suggest? It clearly suggested that the mandate was for the state's trifurcation into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh States. It also suggested that the people of Jammu and Ladakh didn't want any kind of truck with Kashmiri leadership.
Omar Abdullah and others of his ilk in Kashmir would do well to revise their whole approach towards Jammu & Kashmir. It is must considering the fact that while they stand for a solution outside the political and constitutional organisation of India, the people of Jammu and Ladakh not only want their complete merger with India but they also long for a regime that ends 70-year-old Kashmiri domination over them. Trifurcation of the state is the only viable solution. Similarly, the Kashmiri Muslim leadership can't ignore the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, who have been struggling since 1990 for a separate homeland north-east of river Jhelum in the Valley. To ignore these stark realities and continue to cling to the same old failed line would be only to create more problems than resolving the existing ones.
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