Way back in 2010, the Government of India appointed a team of three “Interlocutors”, Dileep Padgaonkar, Radhe Kumar and M.M. Ansari to study the situation in Jammu & Kashmir and submit a report with recommendations. The report was made public only recently – in May 2012 – but has ben poorly received. Hindustan Times (28 May) noted that while the report has been ‘panned’ by many, “it was never supposed to be a magic wand to solve the myriad issues that beset Kashmir and was meant to “understand what Kashmiris want and the way forward for resolving the State’s issues.” The paper thought that “while it is true that many of the suggestions are not mint-fresh and should have been part of a normal governing process, it (the report) must be seen as a beginning of the healing process”. It is, said the paper, “a step forward on the path everyone agreed to walk in 2010”.
Writing in The Free Press Journal, columnist Seema Mustafa came down heavily against the report, saying it “would have been laughable, had it not been so tragic”. She said that the voluminous report was addressed “to the audience in Delhi” and is “not at all an honest reflection of the ground situation in Jammu & Kashmir”. Noting that the Interlocutors “squabbled and fought often in the public limelight”, Mustafa said that the report is “a highly conservative document that does not deal honestly and truthfully with the situation on the ground”. She also said that the report has “fallen far short of the mandate” and “the most glaring omission lie in what they (interlocutors) have not said or acknowledged”. The conclusions arrived at, she said, “are faulty” and the entire exercise has turned out to be “meaningless and a waste of time, resources and money”. “The interlocutors” she said, “have stopped far short of what could be acceptable proposals for a solution of Jammu & Kashmir”.
Writing in Asian Age (26 June) Nirmala Sitharaman, the BJP spokesperson, said the Group “has appropriated more authority for itself than the country was given to believe”, that the Interlocutors have attempted to project “the Nehru-Sheikh Abdullah (1952) Accord as more sacrosanct than the Constitutional provisions”, that none of their recommendations have any specific suggestions “on how the so-called ‘displaced persons’ (the Kashmiri Pandits) should be enabled to return and how the Pandits have been ignored.” “It can be seen that through the proposed ‘new Compact’ the interlocutors have rejected the idea of greater integration and thrown out everything our Constitution-makers had envisaged”. Nirmala Sitharaman also questioned the Interlocutors’ reference to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as Pakistan Administered Kashmir, saying that this “nearly” conceded the territory to Pakistan.
Bharatiya Yagna (June 2012) damned the Interlocutors’ report wholesale. The journal published from Hyderabad said that the report is “totally objectionable” and that its “most obscene recommendation is to drop the word ‘temporary’ for Article 370 of the Constitution”. Their recommendations, said the journal, edited by a distinguished scholar/engineer Dr TH Chowdary, “are just gas, vapour”. “What is astounding is, while they want more autonomy for Kashmir, they do not want any autonomy for Jammu & Laddakh regions of the composite state” the journal said. As the journal saw it, if Kashmir Valley and Kashmiris can claim a separate identity, how can one “deny the same identity to the Buddhist Ladakh and Hindu Jammu?”. It said: “In their (Interlocutors’) view and that of most secularists and communists and Maoist intellectuals, Hindus and Buddhists can be ruled by Muslims, but Muslims should not be ruled by a Hindu or Buddhist majority”. Said the journal in conclusion: “The Interlocutors’ report should be thrown into a dustbin. Any further exercise on it would be waste of money and would keep the fires of terrorism and cessation live”. The Report had been strongly criticised by Gen. S.K. Sinha, a former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir in Asian Age (20 June). Dileep Padgaonkar, chairman of the Group of Interlocutors answered the charges made by Gen. Singh in detail. (30 June). Suggesting that the General had “discarded fact in paragraph after paragraph”, Padgaonkar conceded that the Report has “evoked a negative response from almost all stakeholders”, but added: “Was this not to be expected? The Report proposes a new narrative on Jammu & Kashmir which threatens entrenched mindsets and vested interests. That is why some have denounced it as a document that promotes the agenda of the Indian Establishment….while some others have rubbished it as pro-Valley, pro-Separatist, even anti-national”. In an earlier column, I had commented on the scant attention that many of our leading newspapers give to the passing away of distinguished citizens. An exception, of course, is The Hindu and I gave as an example how much attention that paper gave to the demise of Abid Hussain who, it said, “epitomised the liberal intellectual tradition”. It published a ‘tribute’ given to Hussain by Deepak Nayyar, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Distinguished University Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research, New York. One must however acknowledge the report in The Hans India (24 June) on Janah and, surprisingly, on the passing away of Burjor Karanjia, renowned film journalist and former chairman of National Films Development Corporation (NFDC). Karanjia’s death was taken not of even by the Guwahati-based The Sentinel. (24 June). All power to them.