Ill-conceived dialogue

…played into the Hurriyat’s hands

Praveen Swami’s indictment is damning: “New Delhi’s well-meaning but ill-conceived dialogue process communalised Jammu and Kashmir and laid the ground for the ongoing crisis”

Experts have been telling New Delhi that the solution to this Islamist upsurge lies in negotiations which will give power—if not independence—to secessionists. Both the premise of this received-wisdom and the prescriptions it lends itself to are false. In fact, the crisis now unfolding in Jammu and Kashmir can also be read as the consequence of New Delhi’s peace process. In its effort to make peace with the Islamist-led secessionist movement in Kashmir, this counter-intuitive argument suggests, India ended up fuelling competitive communalism in each of the State’s three regions.

New Delhi deferred the (round table conference) dialogue process until after the Assembly elections scheduled for October. Islamists in Kashmir, though, feared that the elections would lead to their annihilation, and began sharpening their knives. To anyone other than Prime Minister Singh’s house-intellectuals, whose eyes seemed to have been paper-clipped shut, the brewing crisis was evident. [The Hindu emphasis added]

The dialogue process in Jammu & Kashmir was in piece with the UPA government’s policy DNA: entitlements based on communal socialism, accepting competitive intolerance and yielding to the resulting political violence.

19 thoughts on “Ill-conceived dialogue”

  1. >> The dialogue process in Jammu & Kashmir was in piece with the UPA government’s policy DNA: entitlements based on communal socialism, accepting competitive intolerance and yielding to the resulting political violence. >>

    Bravo !

    I would change it to :
    >> UPA government’s policy DNA: entitlements based on communal socialism and keeping such entitlements from rational scrutiny

    I think the Congress party is trying to reinvent itself as a nationwide escrow for forces that represent narrow caste interests (specifically RJD, SP, DMK). They get seat sharing and unconditional support in exchange for a guarantee of immunity from auditing their entitlements.

  2. To quote Praveen Swami: ‘the brewing crisis was evident.’

    Presuming that you endorse his view, is there evidence of anyone (publicly) warning against this polarization?

    In fact, Swami himself doesn’t cite any evidence for his claims about ‘Hindutva campaign’ in Jammu. Are these claims well-known information?

    To hit the nail on its head, the correct strategy from day one (atleast from what we know from public sources) would have been to remove the special status and treat Kashmir just like any other place in India. That way we would’ve probably even had better field intelligence from settlers there by now. It’s not too late to do this even now.

  3. Photonman,

    This blog has long argued against getting overly caught up with negotiating with the Hurriyat. Here’s a list of some of the previous posts on the subject.

    Here’s a post from July 2004, citing a piece by Asma Khan Lone, saying precisely the same thing—engaging the Hurriyat will strengthen secessionists. Mr Swami himself has written on this subject in many of his reports: here are a couple of posts that cite his reportage.

    Finally: the entry-level constable in a police department knows that election time is the time you need to be particularly watchful. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that if those elections are in Jammu & Kashmir you need to be even more so. It is perhaps excusable that the government decided to take a particularly rosy-eyed approach towards J&K. But there is nothing to justify not being vigilant and managing the risks of a hopeful/wishful policy.

  4. photonman: would have been to remove the special status and treat Kashmir just like any other place in India.

    Stand up and take a bow! If Manmohan really really wanted to get the UPA back in 2009 here’s how he could do it: push a bill to scrap 370 in J&K. The NDA will be compelled to support it. And that would ensure a 2/3 majority. Bingo!

  5. The problem, I believe, in removing that special status is that it requires approval from the state assembly also. Thats not going to happen soon.

  6. NotReallyAnonymous: it requires approval from the state assembly also

    Not clear that that’s the case. In this article it states the foll: A political section is of the opinion that this Article cannot be abrogated. But according to Dr. Babu Ram Chauhan, an expert on international law and the Constitution of India, this Article can be scrapped even without the concurrence and approval of the state Assembly. The President of India and the Indian Parliament can repeal it. It is clear from Articles 3 and 5 of the State Constitution that Jammu and Kashmir state will remain an “inseparable” part of India. The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir has been framed under the Constitution of India. Why cannot the Government abrogate the Article in the interest of the nation when the same Government has allowed the State to frame its constitution ?

    If the current government were to ram this through Parliament, what would be the legal recourse to challenge this? Indian courts? Kashmir High Court? The Hague?

  7. libertarian:
    Havent read that yet but I hope its the case of “one who can give life can it away too.”

    Still, if that was true, wouldnt GoI have done that already if it was as simple as abrogating the one thing that has been preventing integration?

    My guess is there must be some ambiguity if GoI doesnt even want to risk having the decision to abrogate taken court lest it be struck down and then some other legal problems tumble out of the closet, though I dont know what kind of problems at this point.

  8. NotReallyAnonymous: Havent read that yet but I hope its the case of “one who can give life can it away too.”

    I’m no constitutional or legal expert, but I would expect that there is a “superior” Constitution and an “inferior” one – in the sense that when in conflict the hierarchy is clear. So my simplistic reasoning is that if Article 370 is abrogated by Parliament, it potentially pits the Kashmir Constitution against the Indian Constitution on all subjects except “Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications” (instrument of accession).

    Seems J&K is the only state with its own constitution. My searches for constitutions of other states in India turned up nothing. Which, if true, would imply that all states (other than J&K) are constituted under the Indian Constitution. This is not the case in the US where each state has its own constitution. Here is more on the idea of superior and inferior constitutions.

  9. This one had me in splits:

    In May 1973, massive protests broke out after an Anantnag college student discovered a supposedly blasphemous picture in a colonial-era encyclopaedia. Protesters demanded that the long deceased author of the encyclopaedia be hanged. The police eventually had to use fire to disperse the violent crowds, leading to four fatalities.

    Its one thing to pursue dialogue with people who can see and understand reason… but what do you do with nutcases like these? The police did the right thing. The only alternate course would’ve been to take them to mental hospital.

  10. The tendency of Muslims to get outraged so easily and for trivial reasons had always fascinated me. I wish I could use genetic engineering to transfer some of their outrage-causing genes into my genetic make up – so that I can engineer myself to be more proactive and vocal.

    🙂 Just kidding… I dont want to add to the already numerous stereotypes of Muslims…

  11. Nitin,

    Can you request Lex to do a post on Article 370 and the legal implications of its abrogation?

    The impression that I carry from having studied such matters long ago is that legal opinion (professional, not the arm-chair variety like mine) is divided on whether the abrogation of Article 370 would nullify the accession of J&K to India or not.

    I was given to understand that this (and not coalition dharma) was the fundamental reason why NDA didn’t do much about it. But that was just political gossip, so feel free to try some salt with it.

  12. BOK,

    As I wrote in my op-ed this week, abrogation of Article 370 need not come in the way of crossing the affective divide. It has become a political symbol and a rallying cry, causing people to unduly focus on a textual/legalistic issue, and completely ignore how the same policies/effects can be achieved (to the extent possible) without abrogating it.

    Can the Centre and State governments, for instance, arrive at an understanding on a “common minimum programme” (a phrase that might be more meaningful in this context) that encompasses economic and social programmes? This should be possible without abrogating the article. What should the CMP consist of: as I said, expansion of individual and economic freedoms, and protection of individual rights.

    Clearly, fleshing out a CMP is tougher, even for bloggers and policy wonks, than to reflexively repeat the mantra “repeal Article 370” as if that would suddenly replace the need to have such policies in the first place. Little wonder why politicians find the mantra useful, though.

    Getting rid of articles and clauses that destroy the letter and spirit of the constitution is a good thing. That goes for taking out “socialism” as much as it does for repealing Article 370. But there is a lot that can be done short of that.

  13. libertarian and NotReallyAnonymous,

    Article 370 can be made ineffective by two means:

    1. The President declares its inoperative.

    Article 370 has an explicit provision by which the President of India can declare the Article as inoperative. However, this can be done by the President only on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of J&K.

    2. Article 370 is abolished.

    Each and every article in the Constitution of India can be amended (which includes abolition) by the Parliament, including the Preamble. In India, the people are the sovereign authority and Parliament represents that sovereignty. Article 370 is the result of the exercise of these sovereign powers conferred on the Parliament by the People of India through elections and therefore, the Parliament has every right to decide the fate of this Article, even its abrogation.

    India is a sovereign nation and no international authority, including the Hague, can exercise the force of law in this country without the permission of the Indian state. The only avenue where the abolition of Article 370 can be challenged is the Supreme Court of India. Abolition of Article 370 requires a Constitutional Amendment Act and the constitutional validity of this Act can be challenged in Supreme Court. The SC may uphold its validity based on the following provisions:

    1. Article 15 – the State (the Indian State) cannot discriminate solely on place of birth.
    2. Article 16 – equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of employment or appointment to any office under the State; prohibition of discrimination in this regard based solely on place of birth or residence.
    3. Article 19(d) – Right to move freely throughout the territory of India.
    4. Article 19(e) – Right to reside and settle in any part or territory of India.
    5. Article 44 – the State should secure for all citizens a uniform civil code throughout the country.

    The State can argue that Article 370 is an obstacle to all these provisions. The SC may accept the argument and uphold the validity of the amendment.

    On the other hand, the Supreme Court can declare the amendment as void since it violates the provision in Article 370 which requires the recommendation of Constituent Assembly of J&K (discussed above) before it is made inoperative.

    Then, what the Parliament can do is:

    1. First amend the Article 370 in part. Discard the provision which requires the President to seek the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of J&K before declaring Article 370 inoperative.

    2. Abolish the entire article in the second phase, this time with no opposition in court on the grounds of violating the above-said provisions.

    Voila! Its over 🙂

    Of course, all this would be accompanied by violent and vociferous protests in the Valley (you may see Rage Boy even more outraged than before), bucketsful of tears from our pseudo-liberal intelligentsia, outrage from all anti-national forces and strong international criticism. As you can see, legislation is the easier part of abolishing Article 370.

    J&K is the only state in India with its own constitution. Ten other states do enjoy special status but on small matters. For example, there is a special provision for Andhra Pradesh according to which the state government can ask for residence in Andhra Pradesh as a precondition for employment in the state’s public service.

    I’m no constitutional or legal expert, but I would expect that there is a “superior” Constitution and an “inferior” one – in the sense that when in conflict the hierarchy is clear.

    There is no hierarchy. The Union, the States and Local Governments are all supreme in their respective spheres, which are specified in the Seventh Schedule. For example, law and order, agriculture and irrigation are state subjects and communication, defence etc are all union subjects.

    It is only during conflict that a hierarchy arises. During the three Emergencies (National Emergency, President’s Rule and Financial Emergency), the Union Government takes over and the state governments are either abolished or have their authority superseded. All these emergencies can be brought in Jammu and Kashmir.

  14. Nitin:
    I agree that “abrogation of Article 370 need not come in the way of crossing the affective divide” but I hope you’ll agree that there are some initiatives which when taken at the level of the PM attract a lot more attention than a “series of small steps” taken at the local government level and that is where abrogation can come in handy.

    Atlantean:
    Thanks for in-depth info.

    So it is clear that as of now we can only take the two-phase approach to abrogation but I have to admit that it will need a special type of leader who can instill the institutional capacity into our system to see the whole process through. Sadly, I dont see a Gerry Adams among our leadership at this point.

  15. Atlantean: thanks for answering the questions posed. My education is now complete – I’m armed and dangerous now 🙂

    Nitin: in your Op-Ed you state “More than self-determination for the disaffected, India as a whole needs a dispensation where individual rights and freedoms are truly respected. The crisis in Kashmir is a urgent reminder of the need for a process of national reconciliation based on principles that are already enshrined in the Indian constitution.”

    Problem with this approach is it needs the center to be proactive on sharing its own powers with the states. That is unlikely for 2 obvious reasons: the center has basked in economic glow and has been asleep at the wheel on political activism; and there is a natural conflict of interest in diluting its role/powers. If certain states (I’m thinking the ones who contribute more than what they receive in return) were to demand, instead, greater federalism for all – and considerably less for J&K to bring it in line with the other states – that might be more likely to succeed. The CMP approach – as you noted – is complex, not easy to package and sell to the public, and has dubious political value. One simple way to get a foot in the door is for states to demand a share of income tax collected from state subjects (not that I’m a fan of any tax). Once a state has access to that revenue stream, the hunger for great federalism is only a matter of time.

  16. @Nitin: I agree that abrogation of Article 370 need not come in the way of taking measures to bridge the divide. I am just curious about Article 370’s legal status.

    About the CMP.. it boils down to doing things that GoI should be doing anyway, for all citizens of India, regardless of the situation in J&K. It’s a pity that more isn’t being done in that direction, and the government moves from fire-fighting on one issue to the next rather than taking a holistic view of things.

  17. Nitin,

    Thanks. But then my question was slightly different – basically I was wondering if evidence of ‘communal polarization’ between Jammu and the Valley was published in the mainstream media back then (say 5 years ago).

    Interestingly none of the governments really had either the foresight or the political will to effectively liquidate the Hurriyat through inducements and covert operations.

  18. fotonman

    >>Interestingly none of the governments really had either the foresight or the political will to effectively liquidate the Hurriyat through inducements and covert operations.<<

    Thats like saying no sarkar in dilli ever had the will to liquidate Pakistan.
    The analogy is about the fact that both these artificial entities which any reasonable mind would expect to die natural deaths never did simply because they’re both being propped up repeatedly and against all odds by the same outside power (unkil sam) with repeated infusions of cash, controversy, publicity, duplicity, media and ‘intellectual’ coverage, etc.

    Whilst part of me wants to use the Surrendered militant wings (‘our SOBs’) in the region to physcially eliminate these obstacles, a clamer part warns against setting domestic black-ops precedents for political assasinations.

    Better to do what unkil did to a certain Chicago based Dawood back in the 30s – haul them to a comfy jail on civil charges such as tax evasion.

    of course, unkil will launch a ‘free Biayak Sen’ type op globally to free them but there are few other options available to dilli at this time.

    JMTs etc.

  19. Like what you have done with the place, Nitin. For a moment, I thought I walked into the wrong place.

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