Interlocutors' Report X-Rayed-I
Bhupender Yadav, MP
The recently released Report commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India “A new compact with the people of Jammu & Kashmir” submitted by interlocutors—eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner M M Ansari seems to have attracted a fair amount of criticism on their understanding of Jammu and Kashmir affairs.
The much-awaited 179-page report was commissioned with a mandate to “hold wide ranging discussions with all sections of opinion in Jammu & Kashmir in order to identify the political contours of a solution and the roadmap towards it.” However, the Report at the outset itself fails the mandate by not being able to penetrate the separatist point of view in Jammu & Kashmir or failing to identify the role of the State government. The mandate also clearly states the objective of the report to create roadmaps towards solutions for the grave problems besetting Jammu & Kashmir but they seemed to have failed the mandate here as well.
The premise of their roadmap is “to encourage Pakistan and Pakistani-administered Jammu & Kashmir to enter into dialogue…” The esteemed panel of interlocutors commissioned by the Government of India seems to have ignored that Jammu & Kashmir as seen by the Indian Constitution is an integral part of the country and all matters pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir is an ‘internal’ issue that cannot allow a third party to interfere and undermine India’s final authority in the matter.
Moreover so, the Report goes on to deplorably refer to Pakistan Occupied Areas of Jammu & Kashmir as Pakistan Administered Areas of Kashmir. After the division of India, newly formed Pakistan intruded into Kashmir and illegally occupied a large stretch of area – known as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). PoK belongs to the state of Jammu & Kashmir and as per the Instrument of Accession it is as part of India as all the other states are. The 1994 unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament acknowledges Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as an integral part of India. The resolution firmly declares that “a) the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been , is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempt to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means; b) India has the will and capacity to firmly counter all designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity; c) Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression; and resolves that- d) All attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely. The resolution was unanimously adopted, Mr Speaker: The resolution is unanimously passed.”
The callous change of terms by the interlocutors will have dire consequences on India’s position in the matter. It is a question of worry that a government initiated body has so loosely without consent of the nation manipulated the stand of the country. If in their definition of the matter, referring to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as Pakistan Administered Kashmir is a step towards a solution then the interlocutors need to reassess their knowledge of the gravity of the situation.
The Report also suggests “Freedom from all forces of religious extremism, ethnic or regional chauvinism and majoritarian conceits that disturb communal and inter-regional harmony”. Such utopian suggestions are welcomed but without a road map it is futile to discuss such purposeless suggestions. The interlocutors would have benefitted by giving a thought to a step by step process to achieve this goal. Furthermore, it has not taken into account that the very same country they are inviting to “open” dialogue with, has consistently indulged in State sponsored terrorism in order to create unrest in the region. There has been no mention of Pakistan’s role in aggravating religious tension and creating disharmony in Jammu & Kashmir, and neither has there been any discussion or solution driven recommendation on the situation of Hindus in the valley or the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits, West Pakistan Refugees, PoK refugees and those who are forcefully displaced by the act of terrorism. Some have even fled their homeland fearing religious persecution, terrorism, and a dysfunctional State machinery that has miserably and shamefully failed to protect its people.
The Report also offers no solution to the ongoing insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, it suggests a dilution of anti-terrorism steps. The report recommends a review of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) imposed in Kashmir and suggests amending the Public Safety Act (PSA) completely overlooking the objective of creating a road map that solves the central problem of years of unrest. These Acts themselves are not the problems. The interlocutors seem to forget the focal point of their mandate.
In sharp contradiction to the steps taken by the Government of India to counter terrorism in the state, the Report states; “the choking of dissenting forces through harsh laws, the detention of political prisoners without the due process of law; the failure to bring to book those guilty of violating human rights; and, not least, violence perpetrated by militants and by the security forces. That these are alleged violations of human rights…” It is outrageous to comprehend how the report looks at the Indian Army and the terrorists in the same light.
The Report also analyses the complete financial funding allotted by the Central Government to the State. In its recommendation it demands for “freedom from economic structures, policies and programs that frustrate efforts to promote inclusive economic growth and balanced development of all parts of the State”.
There are as many as sixteen Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), which are entirely or, in some cases largely, funded by the Centre. The implementation of relevant schemes for rural employment, health care, nutrition support, drinking water and sanitation, education for all, water management and productivity in the agricultural sector, have helped to reduce illiteracy and the incidence of poverty. However, an assessment of the programmes reveals that most schemes have not been fully implemented, as judged from the utilisation of resources.
In the MNREGA (Rural Employment Scheme), on an average, at least one-third of available grants could not be utilised, even though there was excess demand for jobs by the rural poor. In all the years the target fixed for completion of works undertaken, was missed, which indicates a lower level of performance than expected. Under the Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) scheme financial support is provided to the poor for construction of houses. In the years 2007 to 2011, on an average, only 65 per cent of the total available fund was utilised. The results demonstrate that neither were the funds fully utilised nor were the fixed targets achieved, which again reflect inefficiency in the implementation of the scheme. In the case of the Swarn Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY), where finance is provided for to self-help groups and self employed individuals who may be engaged in various economic activities, a major chunk of Central grants has lapsed due to non-utilisation of available funds. The story is the same in all the other schemes such as Prime Minister’s Grameen Sadak Yojna (PMGSY), the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), the Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP), etc. Clearly, an assessment of the utilisation of funds and realisation of targets reveals unsatisfactory progress ever since the launch of the flagship programmes, namely National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, JN National Urban Renewal Mission, and Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna. The meagre resources earmarked for providing socio-economic services have never been utilised in any financial year. Even the guaranteed entitlements for grant of pensions to widows, old and physically challenged persons have not been extended to all the eligible beneficiary groups.
Again when the Report demands for ‘local equal rights’ it fails to hold the State government accountable. They further observe that the Youth of the State is also frustrated and it is difficult to assess how many people have benefitted from youth aimed grants and schemes. Such conjectures are ineffective in finding resolutions. While the Report states that “If political status is key to a resolution, governance is key to its implementation” then the interlocutors must accept the fact that for the crisis it speaks about, the solutions must come from within. The State holds the power to effectively allocate funds allotted by the Centre. As the Report subsequently agrees that this is not the case, it needs to with no ambiguity hold the State government ineffective. Suggestion of such relaxed recommendations is not befitting of the problem we are faced with.
Finally, the report also discusses Article 370. But surprisingly, the interlocutors’ report advocates further strengthening of Article 370 to ensure “meaningful autonomy” for the state. The interlocutors’ report further suggests upgrading the article from a “temporary provision” to a “special provision”. However, the interlocutors have failed to justify their stand, on the special provision of Article 370. The comparison in their report between Article 370 and Article 371 is confused. The report has little comprehension of the spirit of the Constitution.
Unfortunately, ‘A New Compact with the People of Jammu and Kashmir’ is not path breaking. It does not provide a road map to a sustainable solution to the problem in Jammu and Kashmir and neither does it give new hope towards a resolution to the thousands of effected and displaced residents of the State living in uncertainty. The Report has been written either in a process to appease the State government or under trepidation of the reaction that the State government may have to criticism. Either way the prime objective of this team of interlocutors has been defeated.