J&K status: Farooq’s line might be wrong, but look at other blunders

 

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

I am neither on value judgment per se nor on appraisal or the possible repercussions on political logic, or lack of it, on the broader spectrum of the Indian nation state. I just wish to comment on the behavioural pattern of India’s ruling class on Jammu and Kashmir since its bona fide, legal, constitutional accession to the (then Dominion of) India (in October 1947). The fact that slowly unfolds as a stark revelation, somewhat shocking though as it gives rise to an unfortunate, regrettable doubt in the minds of some (not all) about the legal and constitutional status of the state. It also gives rise to the question that invariably goes unanswered. Has the collective wisdom of India’s ruling class blossomed (or bottomed) to (mis)lead us, the sporadic monumental lapses of the past seven decades notwithstanding?
My concern is for the South Asian geography of J&K. Why? Because J&K is a territory, adjacent to the Indian mainland, an extension and uninterrupted continuation of the terrain of Panipat, Punjab, Pathankot and then to the Pir Panjal ranges; a region which has always been an integral part of South Asia’s physical geography. It consists of a benign, enlightened populace, the DNA of which cannot be anything other than that of the sub-Himalayan geo-morphology and physiology. It is a region whose safety and security are indelibly linked to, and intertwined with, that of the north-west frontier of the Indian polity, society and geography. Yet a prominent section of India’s ruling class appears to suffer from self-doubt and loss and supreme lack of self-confidence.
It reveals the psyche of self-demeaning and self-defeating sections of the leadership, either suffering from an inferiority complex or arrogance. There is law, a demarcated and designated land, and yet there is a lack of vision, wisdom, aim and unity of purpose. To different people, J&K means different things. It continues to be a puzzle; to be raised, discussed, debated, fought over and defended. And doubted too! Why? There’s no foolproof answer to that. Under the Constitution of India, the J&K state constitution and Parliament’s unanimous resolution, case laws of the higher judiciary, diplomatic records and United Nations documents, J&K is an integral part of the Republic of India.
But then, more often than not, come strange utterances by politicians, like the erratic and defective weathervane of yesteryears. The more the status of J&K is played to the gallery, through rhetoric and demagogy, the better are the chances for decaying public faces to be in the news and float (however precariously) in the public eye. It is necessary for their declining political fortunes to try and extend their shaky shelf life to the north of the Pir Panjal ranges.
Thus, for Farooq Abdullah, J&K is “partly Indian” and “partly Pakistani” as, he says, “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)” belongs to Pakistan, just as “the rest of J&K belongs to India”. The senior Abdullah, president of the National Conference, is not exactly known to possess legal acumen or the official political status and strength to change, alter, mend or amend anything on or about the geography, topography or terrain of J&K, and hence his utterances don’t carry any weight at this point. His comments, at best, are random remarks that make “news”, but prima facie lack in substance, depth, credibility and relevance. Yet, it is “news” as he can jolly well turn around with a gait; and bait: “How dare you… I am the senior Abdullah of Srinagar!”
There are implications, intended or not. In one stroke, the senior Abdullah demolishes the local azaadi brigade and various Hurriyat splinter groups to smithereens as they are all sent packing, with a rejection of all demands and dreams about “independence” as a third party in J&K’s polity. Also, in an India-Pakistan bilateral, it smacks of loss of face, status and prestige; in front of their home crowd, on their home ground!
Clearly, whether Dr Abdullah gets bouquets or brickbats from New Delhi and/or Islamabad, he is certainly likely to get a mouthful of the choicest of expletives from the Hurriyat as it not only faces instant heat from the Indian heartland but also “hostility from within the home”. For New Delhi too, it comes as a total negation and rejection of India’s official stand on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “PoK belongs to Pakistan” means India stands demolished on the sovereignty issue pertaining to J&K. It becomes a victory for the Sino-Pakistani axis; a strategic, geopolitical, geo-strategic and overall diplomatic rebuff (or same-side goal) scored by a major Indian politician. That is unacceptable as it smacks of a foot-in-mouth disease. Whatever the provocation or perception difference, this is a very bad idea and a self-defeating utterance.
But I have another unpleasant question to ask here. Is Farooq Abdullah the first politician to make such “out-of-the-box” utterances without weighing the pros and cons? The answer, regrettably, is no. There have been several monumental blunders perpetrated by the rulers and leading figures in the Indian establishment in the past that not only undermined India’s politics, diplomacy and sovereignty in the world’s eyes, but also defeated or demolished India’s professed policy and positions, with Indian delegations challenging and reversing the very consistent stand of the Indian State that “the whole of J&K belongs to India, being an integral part thereof”.
I can only refer to the Tashkent Declaration (January 1966) and Shimla Agreement (July 1972) — at both the places, why did the Indian delegation, led by the then Prime Ministers, cede the hard-fought, hard-won (India’s own) land at the diplomatic table? What were the battery of high officials and advisers doing? Who are the people responsible for weakening (rather, breaking) the status of J&K as an integral part of India? Seen in this light, the utterances of Dr Abdullah, who has no official locus standi except to make an “out-of-the-box” statements in accordance with his mood swings, appear less grave. The actions of the Indian State in the past are unpardonable. It is true, of course, that his utterances are wrong and are against India’s professed stand on J&K, but the past actions of the Indian State were far worse. India’s rulers have themselves inflicted irreparable damage to India’s cause and stand, and made a dent on the geography and polity of India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir.