(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 10 , 2008
Douse The Incendiary Flames
HEARING the prime minister report to the all-party meeting that he convened on the very grave and serious situation in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, it was clear that such an initiative should have been taken earlier. All the parties represented in the parliament were present at this meeting. The unanimous resolution adopted is being reproduced alongside.
The agitation spearheaded by the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti entered its 38th day as we go to press. Through these columns in the past, we had stated our position on the land dispute which is central to this agitation. The situation has worsened to the extent that there is a virtual economic blockade of the Kashmir valley with the traffic on the national highway being disrupted. This highway is the lifeline of the Kashmir valley providing it all the essential goods and medicines. Likewise the produce of Kashmir like apples and other perishable products is not being able to reach the plains. This has adversely affected the livelihood of the Kashmiri people. The agitation has already seen a high degree of violence.
The dispute centres round a widely circulated belief that land allocated to the Amarnath Shrine Board was withdrawn under pressure from the people of the valley. The facts, however, are completely to the contrary. Ownership of forest land cannot be transferred under law. However, the government can permit a change in the land use. Earlier, the state government had allocated some land to the Board to provide facilities to the yatra pilgrims. Since this had become a controversy, the new governor of the state withdrew his predecessor's decision with an assurance from the state government that it would undertake the responsibility of providing all the required facilities for the pilgrims. These are, indeed, being provided now by the Jammu & Kashmir government and the yatra continues to proceed smoothly today. In fact, in 2005, a similar situation occurred when the government allocated land for the Board, whose ex-officio chairman is the governor, which was rescinded with the state government undertaking the responsibility for providing all facilities. At that time, the issue never became a controversy. The fact that it has led to a raging agitation today clearly points to the fact that this has been mounted keeping in view the forthcoming elections to the state assembly in October 2008 and the general elections early 2009. Communal passions are being sharply aroused with rumours spreading like wildfire about the Hindus not being allowed to undertake the yatra etc. Likewise, extremist elements in the valley are also whipping up passions.
Such a conflagration with a very dangerous potential that undermines the unity and integrity of India is being created in order to reap electoral and political benefits. This has serious implications threatening the very security of our country in this border state and creating a fertile ground for cross-border terrorism to raise its ugly head. The fact that the RSS/BJP has given a call for a three-day all-India bandh on this issue is indicative of its desire to utilise this issue to whip up communal passions further in order to try and consolidate its `Hindu vote bank'.
In the interests of our country's unity and integrity, in the interests of our country's communal and social harmony and in the interests of safeguarding and strengthening the secular democratic character of the modern Indian republic, it is imperative that the incendiary flames of this communally-charged movement must be doused urgently. As the all-party meeting suggested, with the active participation of the BJP leadership, the UPA government must immediately initiate a process of dialogue with the Sangharsh Samiti which must be accompanied by the suspension of the agitation till a solution is arrived at.