Padgaonkar Committee Report Challenges And Opportunities In J&K
In its modern history; since 1930 the state politics has been full of deceit, mistrust and strife. However, in the overall analysis the internal environment remained within manageable dimensions till 1989. But this heaven on earth has turned into a cauldron for the last two decades. Is there any way to restore amity and mutual trust between the communities and between governing and the governed? There have been a number of committees and working groups to suggest ways and means but none have yielded any results. Padgaonkar Committee Report also looks old wine in a new bottle. Let us see what solution it brings to the J&K imbroglio.
Political dynamics in the country are extremely uncertain and vexed with the main players having diametrically opposite views about the status of Kashmir as a political entity. The need of the hour is to have a bipartisan approach to tackle the issues of supreme national importance. Can UPA II and NDA come together? The other factor which compounds the problem is the historic mistrust which the people of the Valley harbour against Delhi ever since Sher-e-Kashmir had been incarcerated in 1953. Successive Central Governments have been guilty of betraying the state by not honouring the political commitments that have been made from time to time. Will Padgaonkar Committee Report not fall into the same trap? It is easy to appoint a committee but it is a different ball game to implement the recommendations.
Why are we scared of discussing Azadi and Autonomy? These formulations have been a part of political lexicon in Kashmir since Independence and we should not get overly alarmed at their usage. The two main stream parties in J&K have their own views on autonomy which need to be analysed and discussed, none of these documents demand secession.
The ring side view of Kashmiri psyche is that, aam aadmi has no fascination for Azadi, he will only get agitated when provoked by unwanted harassment by the security forces, or when compelled by Hurriyat. What he really wants is to be treated with izzat and earn his rozi-roti with dignity. However, because of demographic dynamics, a major section of the population constitutes educated unemployed youth, who like elsewhere in the country, are aggressive and are looking for employment opportunities failing which can be easily misled by anti-national forces.
Edifice of any state rests on good governance. Unfortunately, this is the very aspect which has taken maximum beating during two decades of militancy. We have some of the finest officers in the higher echelons of the state administration but it is the babus, patwaris and thanedars operating at the grassroots level are highly corrupt, lazy and lack motivation. Yet they keep on serving in the places of their choice year after year, because of the patronage of local politicians. Omar did try to set things right in early days of his Chief Ministeship but gave it up since even he did not get the required support. Administration should empower the panchayats and bring transparency in governance at the grassroots level.
Prevailing scenario of peace and tranquility is proverbial ‘lull before the storm’. Come 2014, Pakistani Taliban, dreaded Haqani Group and Hafiz Sayeed’s LeT will be free from their commitments in Afghanistan and will converge on to J&K. We must be prepared for this contingency. Combating these battle-hardened terrorists will be far more challenging than what it has been so far. Internally, we may also get afflicted by “Arab Spring” virus which may be more dangerous. Is State Police prepared to handle such situations?
Our security forces have made tremendous sacrifices for the defence of the country and restoring normalcy in J&K which must be acknowledged. At the same time, security forces must be sensitive to human rights and uphold the honour and dignity of the people. In a professional Army, there is no place for rapes, fake encounters and custodial deaths. I can say with firm conviction that people-friendly strategy is superior to the coercive approach.
Except mentioning PoK as PAK Padgaonkar Report has not touched this topic of Indo-Pak Kashmir triangle. Solution to J&K problem supposedly lies in amicability of Indo-Pak relations. There seems to be favourable winds blowing via Wagha Trade Route but the hard fact is that unless there is a consensus within each of the countries on the proposed solutions no talks can take off or solution implemented. In India BJP will oppose any solution tooth and nail and in Pakistan Hafiz Sayeed backed by other militant factions will not let this happen. Hafiz Sayeed has gone to the extent of employing nuclear weapons to attain Independence of Kashmir.
Padgaonkar report will definitely generate more heat in the already charged political atmosphere in the country in the days to come. It is anybody’s guess what the reaction of various constituents of UPA II is and what the stance of the Ministry of Home Affairs will be. We need to act and not react to developing situation. Let us not just debate and dissect the Padgaonkar Committee Report but take it as starting point to initiate a nationwide discussion to build a bipartisan approach to this vexing problem. The internal dynamics demand political sagacity, good governance, economic renaissance, and gradual transition to autonomy as the only way forward to meet the challenges and en-cash the abundant opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir.
By Maj. Gen. RK Kaushal
(The author is former General Officer Commanding Victor Force which was deployed in the Kashmir Valley and was responsible for Counter Insurgency Grid from Banihal Tunnel to Zogila Pass during the Kargil Conflict. The views expressed are that of the author and not of the organisation he is serving in.)