By Shafi Rather
A leader paves the way for a movement to be launched, sets its goals, inspires and shows the roadmap to his followers. A leader either gains the objectives of a movement launched or creates an explicit difference in the already existing structure.
The excruciating state of Jammu & Kashmir has been struggling with political instability and leadership crisis since 1947, when India and Pakistan took over it. Hari Singh, the local Dogra ruler at the time of partition of India wanted Jammu & Kashmir to become independent. It was only with the help of Sheikh Abdullah (the founder of the National Conference and arguably, the unparalleled leader of Kashmir during Dogra rule) that India successfully made Hari Singh to sign the requisite instrument to accede the state of Jammu & Kashmir to Indian dominion.
Instrument of accession was provisional, pending a plebiscite to determine the will of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. At numerous other occasions Pandit Nehru had made the same promises not only to the people of Jammu & Kashmir but to the international community as well. As a ruler of Jammu & Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah always stressed Pandit Nehru to ignore UN resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir and make its accession to India permanent.
Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad further strengthened the accession of Jammu & Kashmir with India ignoring the demand of people for a plebiscite. The Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir under the leadership of Bakshi ratified the accession of Jammu & Kashmir with India.
Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq was the next Kashmiri leader who wanted the pace of the process of integration of Jammu & Kashmir with India to be quickened to end the constitutional ambiguity once for all. Abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which gave special position to Jammu & Kashmir within India, was one of his political objectives. With Sadiq’s assistance, New Delhi successfully replaced the position of Jammu & Kashmir’s Sadar-e-Riyasat by the governor and that of Prime Minister by the Chief Minister.
During this period, Sheikh Abdullah had reduced himself to the level where he had little choice except to follow the dictation from India. As the demand from Kashmir for a plebiscite was gaining momentum, Sheikh Abdullah in 1975 at Shimla signed an Accord with Indira Gandhi (the then Prime Minister of India) dropping his demand that the people of Jammu & Kashmir be given the right to self-determination. This is considered as one of the worst political blunders of Sheikh Abdullah. His demand for the restoration of the pre-1953 relationship between Jammu & Kashmir and India was also not accepted.
After selling all innards of Article 370 to India and reducing it to a skeleton, Sheikh Abdullah did not stop there. On March 02, 1981, a bill to abrogate Article 370 was tabled in State Assembly by the Sheikh Abdullah led government. On the same day, Sheikh Abdullah in the state Assembly said, “there is a clear mention of this in the constitution that Article 370 is not a last word nor it is a gospel that in no way can be amended or fiddled with…If we want betterment in our relations with the Indian Union, discussing the relevance of Article 370 is imperative”.
After Sheikh Abdullah’s death, the National Conference now led by Farooq Abdullah, “a completely untrustworthy man”, as called by Indira Gandhi, dominated the politics of Jammu & Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah, though unreliable but admired by his party workers throughout the state, never made any sincere endeavour for the restoration of pre-1953 position of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Instead, Farooq Abdullah often termed the state of Jammu & Kashmir as “atoot aang” (integral part) of India. Omar Abdullah, after ascending to power as Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir (thanks to the dynastic politics) also failed in bringing any change in the political structure of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Although Omar Abdullah talked about Autonomy of Jammu & Kashmir during his election campaigns & at other occasions, but during his term as the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir he never made any sincere effort to take up the matter with New Delhi.
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, India’s first Muslim home minister and a two-time chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir formed the People’s Democratic Party in 1999 on the ideology of Self-rule. He spoke of soft borders, free trans-LoC travel & trade, cultural and academic exchanges with PoK as processes that will lead to Self-rule. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed advocated “Vajpayee Way” as the fundamentals of a solution to the long pending dispute of Jammu & Kashmir. After his initial endeavours in this direction, he also failed in making any explicit difference in the political structure of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
During his 2014 election Campaign, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed termed Bharatiya Janata Party’s slogan of “Mission 44 plus” as dangerous for the state of Jammu & Kashmir but ended up forming a coalition government in the state with the same party. After Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death, callow and callous Mehbooba Mufti, took up the mantle of the first woman chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Like her father, Mehbooba Mufti believed in “Vajpayee’s Kashmir policy” and asked India and Pakistan to rise above their political compulsions and initiate a dialogue for the resolution of Kashmir issue but her voice always went unheard. During her tenure, over one hundred civilians were killed and thousands injured when in July 2016, Kashmir erupted with protests over the death of militant commander Burhan Wani. “Milk & toffee” statement made by Mehbooba Mufti in a press conference during 2016 Kashmir Unrest in presence of Rajnath Singh, the then Home Minister of India, still haunts the people of Kashmir. Although Mufti later apologised for the same but the statement is now recalled time and again by Mufti’s rivals and commoners.
Both, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party dominated by Abdullahs and Muftis respectively, never urged New Delhi for the resolution of protracted Kashmir dispute. Instead, all the leaders of both these parties collaborated with New Delhi from time to time and enriched themselves.
On the other end, All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was formed in 1993 as a political front to further the cause of Kashmir. The persuasion of All Party Hurriyat Conference to resolve the prolonged Kashmir dispute as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir is genuine but has taken a backseat.
People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an alliance formed by various mainstream political parties is seen as yet another betrayal from the mainstream leadership. Although the alliance claims safeguarding of the special identity of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and restoring of Article 370 and Article 35-A; continuous holding of the membership of Indian Parliament (the institution that abrogated Article 370 and Article 35-A) by the members of two main political parties of this alliance, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, makes it hard for the people of Jammu & Kashmir to trust its leadership.
As the state of Jammu & Kashmir has a history of betrayals and a track record of unreliable leadership, restoration of Article 370 and Article 35-A seems an uphill task. The very concepts of the National Conference’s Autonomy and the People’s Democratic Party’s Self-rule also seem utopian now.
Jammu & Kashmir is yet to come across an astute and principled leadership which people can look at with trust and belief. Jammu & Kashmir needs such a leadership that will act on its own and makes India, Pakistan and international community realise that Jammu & Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Jammu & Kashmir are the main stakeholders of this dispute.
The author can be reached at [email protected]
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