Another missed opportunity
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From beginning to end, the interlocutors' report overlooks the fundamentals about Kashmir
When Kashmir was simmering with angry protests for the third consecutive year in 2010, the Centre appointed a group of three interlocutors — Dilip Padgaonkar, M.M. Ansari and Radha Kumar — "to interact with all shades of political opinion" and "suggest a way forward that truly reflects the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir." Based on year-long consultations, the interlocutors report — made public last month — has become another imprudent exercise aimed at further complicating the problem.
One of the major causes for the anger in Kashmir has been the government's consistent failure to acknowledge the basic reason for the political dispute, and tackling only the symptoms. If the interlocutors were not ready to engage with the fundamental political issue, there was no chance of drawing a credible roadmap for a resolution. "The New Compact with the People of Jammu and Kashmir" is an incoherent 179-page summary of issues that have arisen because of the political conflict.
The report talks about "a sense of victimhood" in the Kashmir valley, arising from the systematic denial of democratic rights, rigged elections, arrests of leaders and the choking of dissent through harsh laws. The interlocutors conclude that at the heart of all the "dirges" — they use this term to describe the "demand for Azadi and an Islamic state''and "autonomy, self-rule, achievable nationhood and other such alternatives'' — is the "sentiment that the woes of Kashmir are due to the emasculation of the substance of its distinctive status enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution of India". This is a flawed diagnosis: the post-1952 constitutional erosion is only an outcome of New Delhi's mistrust caused by the dispute, not the reason for the dispute.
Nobody expected the home ministry-appointed interlocutors to suggest a plebiscite to figure out the future of J&K or recommend any remedy outside the ambit of the Indian Constitution. However, it was surprising that the report has not even seriously acknowledged that the demand for secession exists. By calling the political demand for Azadi a dirge, and associating it only with the establishment of an Islamic state, the interlocutors have mocked Kashmir's entire political struggle, the meaning of Azadi and even the political agendas of J&K's two major pro-India parties, the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP).