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Hurriyat will talk to the Pandits
On January 22, the Hurriyat leaders and the Deputy Prime Minister met in New Delhi. Both sides euphorically described their two and a half hour long meeting very successful. To the satisfaction of the Hurriyat leaders, the Prime Minister also received them briefly the next day.
Not much was disclosed to the media of what precisely was talked about, agreed upon or just promised. A shade of impression most observers took was that the process could take quite a long time to reach some decisive stage.
Maulavi Omar Frooq was rather forthcoming on the overall proceedings of this meeting. Even a week prior to the meeting, he had published a carefully worded and absolutely non-provocative article in the Hindustan Times. The general impression, which these antics created, was that the Maulavi was more hopeful of a satisfactory outcome of the talks at the end of the day. By and large he has been considered more moderate than others in the Ansari-led group. It was he who, in a televised interview said that the Hurriyat would invite the Kashmiri Pandits to talks.
In the meanwhile the press gave the news that it was the DPM who had broached the matter of Hurriyat talking to the Pandits. This indirectly meant that he wanted the Hurriyat to substantiate the claim to its representative character.
There is no Hindu, Sikh or Christian member in the Hurriyat Executive Council. There is no member from the Muslim community of Jammu region as well particularly from Poonch and Rajouri. Yes, there are a few minority community members who feel elated when identified with the Hurriyat ideology of separatism. But that is because of their own and not of Hurriyat’s choosing.
Should Advani ask the Hurriyat to talk to Pandits? Isn’t he passing the buck? The dispute essentially is not between the Hurriyat and the Pandits. It is between the Hurriyat-led Kashmiri Muslims and the Indians. The Hurriyat does not lead the Pandits even though they are Kashmiris. The Pandits have become a victim of the conflict between the Hurriyat-led Kashmiri Muslim majority and the Indian state.
In ideological term there is no meeting ground between the Hurriyat and the Pandits. The Hurriyat wants freedom from India and the Pandits want freedom from Hurriyat. If the Indians are oppressive to the Hurriyat, the Hurriyat, in action reaction syndrome, has to be more oppressive to the Pandits. If Advani is prepared to give the Hurriyat their desired freedom, then of course the Pandits have already taken their decision and left the valley. It is that simple. And if Advani is not prepared to give freedom to the Hurriyat, then it is he, a nationalist, who must decide what he wants to do with the Pandits. The ball is in his court and not in the court of the Hurriyat or the Pandits. As far as the demand of the Pandits of a separate homeland in Kashmir is concerned, Advani has declared on the floor of the Parliament that the NDA government opposes it tooth and nail.
Now the situation is that if Advani is not going to agree to the freedom option of the Hurriyat what far does the Hurriyat want to talk to the Pandits? Are Pandits having any power or position to give them freedom? Advani is not going to agree to the homeland demand of the Pandits. He is talking to the Hurriyat but is unwilling to talk to the Pandits leaving them to be handled by the Hurriyat, which comprises elements that engineered the ouster of the Pandits from Kashmir. Doesn’t it appear a bizarre form of neo-colonialism of a de-colonized state? In order to ‘democratize’ this new political prescription, Advani, in his game plan, wants the Pandits to walk behind the Hurriyat. And lo and behold, the Hurriyat says it is highly satisfied with its talks.
The Hurriyat and the Pandits are moving in ideologically opposite directions. The Hurriyat disowns Indian Union but Pandits own it. Hurriyat wants the Islamic theocratic system called nizam-e-mustafa of the 7th century A.D to be the role model of ‘independent Kashmir’ but the Pandits want secularism of modern contours and character as the foundation of a State in which they want to live. The Hurriyat wants Islamic rule with Muslim predominance but the Pandits are for democratic and pluralistic dispensation. The Hurriyat recommends limited rights for women including the imposition of gender discrimination, purdah, segregation etc. as prescribed by the sharia. But the Pandits uphold full rights for the women, their full participation in all walks of life, no imposition of gender segregation or dress regime. The Hurriyat orders closure of cinema houses and wine shops on the basis of sharia injunctions but the Pandits are avid cine goers and the bar is their favourite rendezvous. Their faith does not forbid wine to them. Hurriyat exclusively depends on Muslim constituency in political and administrative sphere but the Pandits have not a single political constituency to return a single member to the assembly, thanks to Gerrymandering by erstwhile J&K governments -- all secular and democratic in name, and to non-communal politics of the Pandits. The Hurriyat wants to be close to Pakistan (if not replace India by Pakistan) because of religious affinity but the Pandits want to be close to India for the same reason.
Given this socio-political chemistry, the question is whether there is a meeting ground between the two for talks. I do not see there is one. But assuming that the Hurriyat, alludes to the pre-insurgency days, and wants to revive that relationship, then in that case it has to concentrate on two essential points.
One is that there is nothing by the name of Kashmiriyat in the lexicon of the Pandits. They have been subjected to persecution and repression ever since the advent of Muslim rule in Kashmir in 1339. This is what Muslim historians tell us. Except for one hundred years of Dogra rule, the Pandits never had a night of peaceful sleep or a day without fear. Pandits are not prepared to exist as second - class (dhimmi) citizens any more And if the Hurriyat promises to be secularist and democratic -- that is precisely why Kashmir had acceded to India and not to Pakistan -- why not institute an impartial commission of inquiry into the rise of insurgency in Kashmir in 1990 and the resultant ethnic cleansing of the Pandits?
Secondly, before beginning talks with the Pandits the Hurriyat must spell out its concept of “independent J&K State”. What would be the political shape of that state? What will be the character of the constitution they would frame? What will be the administrative structure they would raise? What constitutional and institutional safeguards would they propose for the minorities? What will be the representation of the minorities in the law making and the law enforcing structure of that regime, and what will be the nature of permissible relationship between the Pandits and their co-religionists outside the State? These and other questions will have to be answered by the Hurriyat before they embark on a dialogue with the Pandits.
Furthermore, there is a very important and technical question. In case the Hurriyat is able to take the State out of the Indian Union pursuant upon their so-called struggle for “azaadi”, would it not mean that all the crucial laws enacted by the hitherto elected legislative bodies of Jammu and Kashmir State over the five decades become null and void? In that process does it not mean that the landed properties taken away from their original owners without any compensation under the Land Reform Acts revert back to their original owners because the laws have become invalid. Will the Hurriyat say that the land reform laws passed by those assemblies should remain, but the accession to the Indian Union passed by those assemblies should be declared null and void? Will the Hurriyat,in that case, accept the return of the descendent of the Dogra dynasty as the new Maharaja of the State?
In final analysis, one feels that both the Indian government and the Hurriyat are playing tricks with each other. The Indian government is wearing them out. The Hurriyat having realized that it has lost much of the ground in Kashmir wants to have a face saving and, therefore, the antics of moderate stance, or talking to Pakistanis etc. Consequently the Pandits are under no compulsion to rush to the talks even if the Hurriyat formally invites them. Let the Hurriyat make its position clear on the questions raised above and let the Indian government also clarify its position towards an exiled community, which, unfortunately is no vote-bank for any political party.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir)