PDP’s ‘Kashmir issue’ :Beyond Simple Political Gains

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“One cannot say what will happen tomorrow. Let her (Mehbooba Mufti) take time. Let us support her and maybe she will do well”, said Dr. Farooq Abdullah on 13th February in a session on Kashmir at the Delhi Gymkhana Club. A month after the session, Dr. Farooq Abdullah on March 11 said, “2014 verdict and the present political scenario of the State has no doubt proved that parties and people with reactionary and divisive approach may manage temporary electoral gains by whipping up passions and polarizing the situation, but ultimately they cannot simply sustain them and ate secured in that manner. It is imperative to have a government worth sustenance in a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir where it can now be said that the coalition culture is not in the interest of the state.” At the same venue, while referring to Mehbooba, he also said, “She should tell people what confidence building measures she wants from the government of India. Let us all know”.

Looking through the binoculars of Indian interests, any unbiased analyst would opine that the socio-political culture, if not deteriorated (particularly in Valley),has surely not improved after 1st March 2015 and people in all three regions of J&K have started having more faith in the Governor’s rule. In spite of BJP leadership repeatedly suggesting that BJP-PDP Government formation will be taking place any time, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti has stalled the process every single time stating that she first needs certain assurances from the government before taking the oath. If people really are looking for peace and stability in J&K, the need to rise above political gimmicks and political affiliations has come. It was a sigh of relief to hear Late Mr. Mufti Sayeed say that the two parties had come together for the development of the State and all efforts will be made to bring peace and stability in J&K. There cannot be any economic development without peace and stability. But in spite of assurances, PDP and BJP openly displayed differences in aspirations as well as ideologies even with regards to the accession of J&K with India on 26th Oct 1947. 

Going by the contents of the PDP’s Self Rule Framework 2008, the differences between PDP and BJP are not over working approach and policies but are basically due to different beliefs about sensitive issues like Nationality. It was due to these differences that PDP could politically dismantle Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference after a period of less than 5 years. Since the ideologies professed by PDP were not taken seriously by Congress or BJP, common people in J&K gave their full support to the PDP which led to a Self-Rule Framework in 2008.I had hoped that at least those who were handling the alliance with PDP must have studied PDP’s ideology as drafted in “J&K-The Self-Rule Framework for Resolution” (JKSRFR) and the political approach of PDP towards J&K related issues concerning India and Pakistan. Once this formulation of self-rule is accepted in and by India, it can be discussed with Pakistan for seeking a similar dispensation for the people living in Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Northern Areas. But it can be said that the BJP leadership has not done so as the controversies on political and national issues would not have arisen otherwise. With political and administrative stalemate prevailing in the Indian state of J&K right since day one of PDP-BJP coalition, PDP seized the opportunity provided by the demise of Mr. Mufti Sayeed to settle the scores with BJP as well as to re-justify its commitment to the contents professed in the Self Rule Framework. PDP took political shelter under rhetoric of ‘Sacred’ Agenda for Alliance and CBMs. Does Mehbooba Mufti mean that BJP leadership should express some confidence in the likely way forward for bringing  “peace & stability” to  the people of J&K under the Self Rule Framework as drafted by PDP ?

I believe that they have not even gone through the contents of PDP Self Rule Framework. Self-rule, being a trans-border concept, has a pan-Kashmir dimension but at the same time seeks to regionalise power across J&K. This will require devising an improved constitutional, political and economic relationship between the two parts of the State and their respective main lands. Further, instead of looking for a monetary union, a new system of “Dual Currency” will be created, where the Indian and Pakistani currencies are both made legitimate legal tenders in the geographical areas of J&K. To be more precise, it means allowing circulation of the Pakistani rupee in the Indian administered Kashmir and circulation of Indian rupee in the Pakistan administered Kashmir. The Indian nation must make up its mind that the only way forward is the non-military way. There is no room for armed intervention in J&K. At a practical level, it should be obvious that the J&K issue has not been and cannot be solved on exclusively an intrastate level (i.e. within India or within Pakistan). It requires a combination of intra-state measures (across India and Pakistan) with inter-state and supra-state (international) measures. Had the BJP consultants looked seriously into this ,PDP would have received a reply on the demands made for CBMs and a government would have been in place.

I would suggest that before any further action is taken, the Self Rule Framework Document of 2008 (JKSRFR) must be carefully studied by the BJP leadership and then only decisions be taken since PDP cannot survive political onslaughts by National Conference unless it holds its stand. In case it does not review its JKSRFR, the controversies will again crop up thereby making any future coalition between PDP-BJP collapse. No doubt it is also in the greater interest of PDP to rework on its JKSRFR and find ways and means to devise new strategies against NC other than “Autonomy for J&K from Indian Nation State” as professed in its Self-Rule Framework. Mehbooba Ji should sense the advice in Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s words and act upon it.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that Mehbooba Mufti is facing some questions from within her own party as well regarding the alliance with BJP because had it not been so, she would have attended the Budget Session of Parliament in Delhi instead of spending all the time in J&K. The PDP cadres and junior leadership are not scared of questions concerning AFSPA or power projects, they are scared of future political fights with the National Conference without revising of the contents of Self Rule Framework. What sets the self-rule apart from “autonomy” is the political context in which they are conceived and operate. Self-rule refers to Autonomy from the Nation-state of India, whereas Autonomy connotes relative autonomy from the Government of India. The two are vastly different in substance and style. The change from “autonomy” to “self-rule” means a fundamental shift in the terrain of political discourse and the existing status of the Kashmir issue. Autonomy refers to empowerment of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir via the Government of India. As such, it becomes a part of the centre-state debate in the Indian federal set up. Self-rule, on the other hand, refers to the empowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Further, autonomy is for an institution of governance, self-rule is for a region or geography. Since PDP faces ample questions on future of PDP JKSRFR by its valley voter list, with its present limited approach it will not be that easy for PDP to strong arm itself over NC in the coming times.

I doubt that PDP will do so unless Mehbooba Ji targets long term gains or pressure is put by BJP. The PDP Self Rule Framework Document also mentions that Constituent Assembly of the State ratified Accession on 15 of February, 1954 and also resolved that Article 370 should be retained in its present form whereas Union Government in Rajya Sabha on 11 March 2015 said that Article 370 provides for ‘Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Such controversies should not be supported at least by those who are in government.

The confidence building measures (CBMs) that Mehbooba Mufti Ji is talking about surely goes beyond the contents of ‘agenda for alliance’. PDP has not ruffled NC in Kashmir Valley simply with the slogans against AFSPAor by demanding handing over Power Projects to J&K but with talks to focus more on “Kashmir Issue” and not issues in Kashmir. Mehbooba Ji very truthfully made her party’s approach clear while speaking in Lok Sabha on 16th June 2014.May be by CBMs, Mehbooba Ji means that ‘Modi’ government must assure her that in case PDP leadership refers to suggestions as contained in the PDP Self Rule Framework for Resolution under compulsion, BJP will not object to it while in government as has happened from 1st March 2015 onwards with regards to the State Flag, Special Status of J&K in Constitution of India, Article-370, Article 35A, PRC issues related to 1947 West Pakistan refugees in J&K.

Mehbooba’s “Kashmir issue” needs to be understood and addressed by the Government in Delhi. PDP too should truthfully work for the good of the common people. People of J&K must take electoral politics seriously, otherwise the State would distance itself further from peace and stability. 

 

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