People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 41

October 10, 2010


On All Party Parliamentary

Delegation’s Visit To Kashmir


Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami


THE visit of the 39-member all party parliamentary delegation to Jammu and Kashmir, last month, to a large extent proved successful in breaking the three-month long stalemate in violence hit Kashmir. The political analysts here believe that visiting parliamentarians ‘broke the ice’ by calling on Kashmiri pro-freedom leadership who had earlier declined invitations to meet them. Assessing situation that too from the ground zero, in the backdrop of an ongoing political upheaval in which over 110 people have been killed in firing by the police and paramilitary forces, the parliamentary delegation, although on the insistence of CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, sought to break away from the stereotypical image associated with such initiatives by a unilateral overture to senior separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik. Yechury had suggested that three delegations should be formed to meet the three separatist leaders separately. Three five-member teams from the delegation called separately on Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik at their residences with an appeal to allow peace a chance in untangling the Kashmir imbroglio.

 Yechury himself led the delegation which later met Geelani. However, indicating her reservations at some members of the all-party delegation meeting separatists, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj later said that the move was not part of the team's “mandate” and suggested the decision was not a collective one. “That was their own decision, not that of the delegation. If some want to go, how can we stop them? They went but our decision was not to go. So we didn't go,” Sushma said to media persons. She made these remarks when asked by journalists for her response to discussions that three groups from the all-party team had with the separatist leaders.

The not-so-expected move could well have redeemed to some extent what is otherwise generally considered to be an orchestrated exercise meant to reinforce hard-set views in vogue in New Delhi. “We met them as members of the parliamentary delegation. We knew their positions, and they knew ours. But we wanted to break the ice,” Yechury said.

Geelani in his meeting with the Yechury led delegation had stressed on implementing the five point proposals advanced by him earlier, saying that he would not come to the negotiating table otherwise. “When these people carry our views to New Delhi, the central government does not consider them at all,” Geelani told reporters later. “But if our proposals are considered seriously this time, the situation can definitely change for the better,” he said.

In his turn, Mirwaiz told the delegation that killings and talks could not go together, and that India should seriously pursue a realistic solution to the Kashmir issue without further waste of time.

The chairman of the JKLF, Muhammad Yasin Malik, asked the delegation to set up a Kashmir committee, and appraised it on his stand with regard to the Kashmir issue. Earlier, on arriving in Srinagar, the union home minister, P Chidambaram had thrown broad hints on being prepared to talk on autonomy, and said that the centre would take all necessary steps to restore peace in the valley. He had said that a detailed report on the wide ranging interactions with Kashmiri groups would be presented to the prime minister for serious steps to be taken in the context of Kashmir. “The central government will take serious steps in resolving issues linked to Kashmir and the grievances of the youth,” he said, adding that violence should come to an end to pave the way for talks.

The all party meeting convened by the prime minister at New Delhi on September 15, 2010 arrived at a consensus that an all party delegation would visit the troubled state to assess the ground situation and interact with all political parties, including the separatists, all sections of people and place their opinion. The feedback from the all party delegation would be an important input in understanding the situation and response on various issues concerning the state.

Nevertheless, there is a growing opinion in Kashmir as well as in the rest of the country that India can’t be complacent about Kashmir. Political analysts here believe that just because Kashmir isn’t generating as big a headline in the global media as was the case in the past, India should not take solace from the world’s relative indifference to Kashmir in comparison to its obsession with Afghanistan.

The question that remains unanswered: Will the visit of the all party delegation help in Kashmir peace solution?  Chidambaram during the visit said the all party delegation has come to Jammu and Kashmir with an 'open mind' and hopes to 'carve out a path for taking the region out of its present cycle of violence'. "The team has come with an open mind and the main purpose was to interact with people, listen to them patiently," said Chidambaram. "We are here to listen to your views, we will give you a patient hearing, what you think we need to do, in order to bring to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the hope and the belief that their honour and dignity and their future are secure as part of India," he added.

Political analysts here believe that the efforts of the CPI (M) vis-à-vis the union government’s overture to respond to the telling situation in Kashmir have paved way and provided an opportunity to the central government to settle this long pending political problem. The CPI (M)’s efforts include its move to approach the prime minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh to motivate him to send an all party parliamentary delegation to Kashmir, also by Yechury raising the issue in parliament as early as in July, besides the visit of its general secretary Prakash Karat who was the first among the national level mainstream leaders to have the first hand account of the ground situation in Kashmir.

The delegation’s visit to Kashmir which culminated into the eight point proposals mooted out by the central government may not have depicted the seriousness to resolve the crisis in Kashmir comprehensively, but nevertheless it has given a ray of hope that the centre wants to address the political imbroglio and simultaneously wants to address the economic losses the state has suffered in the last four months. Pertinently, the past four months of unrest till September 19, has resulted Kashmir valley in a loss of over Rs 26,000 crore worth of business, valuable academic session and public property worth crores.

The education system in the Valley has suffered a collateral damage in the cycle of protests and strikes called by the hardline Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and curfew imposed by the state government to thwart these programmes. The students of National Institute of Technology (NIT) have gone on a hunger strike from September 14 as many of them feel that they have been robbed of the chance to find a decent placement due to the ongoing strike. The state is losing Rs 161 crore per day of shutdown in taxes and other levies, which amounts to Rs 16,100 crore for the 100-day shutdown.

The hotels, houseboats and those associated with tourism including transporters and travel agents have been the worst affected.  More than four lakh tourists had visited the Valley even before the season had begun but the hopes of a 'bumper harvest' for tourism were dashed with the beginning of the agitation. As a direct fall out of lack of revenues, the hotels and restaurants began laying off their staff to minimise the losses. More than 60,000 jobs have been cut in the hotel sector alone while another two lakh skilled and unskilled workmen are not able to earn livelihood.

The Kashmir issue is as emotive in Pakistan as in India, that is why the Left leaders had suggested the prime minister to form an all Party parliamentary delegation who will impart credibility to the dialogue process besides providing a platform which cannot shy away from its responsibilities by succumbing to the domestic political compulsions of different major political parties in India. The electoral and political compulsions of major political parties at all India level, the J&K people in Kashmir, believe are responsible for the widening trust deficit in Kashmir.

Over the last six years, prime minister Manmohan Singh’s two governing coalitions have shown no initiative to take forward an opportunity to mend the fraught relationship with the people of Kashmir valley. Delhi’s response to the latest turmoil has been a combination of hand-wringing, indecision and the familiar, although well-founded, claims of Pakistani instigation.

One can only hope that the slow movement of political opinions and alignments will lead to unintended statesmanship. But this government has frittered away its political capital on so many issues that this hope seems remote. In such a scenario when the central government has taken a feedback from its all party parliamentarians, the people in Kashmir have pinned their hopes on the government of India to respond to their sensitivities attached to their sacrifices.

(As told to Mushtaq Ahmad)