Prem Shankar Jha,
the author of ‘Kashmir 1947: The Origins of a Dispute’
is among the few Indian journalists who understand the complexities of the Kashmir conflict. The genesis of the conflict, he believes, lies in India's inability to understand Kashmir and Kashmiris. In an interaction with Rising Kashmir’s
Op-ed Editor Daanish Bin Nabi,
he talks of the flawed policies of New Delhi vis-à-vis Kashmir, Hurriyat, Musharff’s four-point formula and more. Excerpts:
- Yaseen and Ashfaq would have become part of an alternate political party if MUF had been allowed to win
- Hurriyat creation of Pakistan
- The moment Kashmiri leaders talk about Kashmir’s independence, ISI turns on them
- Pakistan discouraged Hurriyat from contesting 1996 and 2002 elections
- Geelani has great courtesy, backed by tremendous conviction and strength
- Musharraf had instructed his staff that he did not want to meet Geelani
- They had done too much to Masarat, so he had to come out
- PDP-BJP coalition bound to be attacked by the hawks
- Why has hostility been a recurring factor in the Kashmir-New Delhi relations?
We have to understand the past to understand the recurring hostility between Kashmir and New Delhi. It goes back to the partition, which had a traumatic impact on the people of every community. The Hindus believed that India was one. Until 1940, the RSS movement was exclusively aimed at countering the influence of the West upon the Hindus. But after 1940, RSS became an anti-Muslim movement. The partition deeply impacted our psyche. After that, the prevailing view was of Hindus versus Muslims. We lost track of the immense variety of shades of opinion, and the bonhomie between the two communities. Kashmir was being coveted by Pakistan because it had Muslim majority. And rest is history.
- Do you think that RSS was responsible for the tension in the sub-continent?
The prejudice within the BJP against Kashmir had increased so much that the party was convinced that Syama Prasad Mookerjee had been killed. I don’t think this was true. I studied the circumstances in which he died. It seems that he was not a very fit man, and was suffering from an acute stomach disease. He was not looked after when he was in jail, which is common. But nobody wanted him to die. Truly speaking, Syama Prasad’s Mookerjee’s death achieved far more than that he could achieve alive. He wanted to integrate Kashmir with India. Within one year of his death, the restrictions between India and Kashmir were relaxed, and trade began to start. BJP doesn’t realize that this martyr achieved his goals in his martyrdom. BJP carries its prejudice to this day. We must give credit to people like Ram Madhav, who have been able to fight this prejudice. Had we understood this problem, it would have been resolved long ago.
- Do you think India’s Kashmir policy has been flawed, and marked by blunders like rigging of elections, political coups and other unfair practices?
Yes, absolutely. We have done blunders regarding our Kashmir policy. The issue of rigging is the most serious one, and it is highly misunderstood in Kashmir. The elections were rigged not by the Government of India, but by the successive state governments. The State governments appointed their chosen officials at key positions to conduct elections. This malpractice ended only in 2002 elections. The then Chief Election Commissioner brought 50 percent of the Returning Officers from UP or Bihar. The CEC wanted to bring the entire electoral machinery from outside, but Farooq Abdullah objected very strongly to the move. So, the junior officers deputed with the Returning Officers were from the State services but the Returning Officer and his deputy were both from outside, so there was less rigging in 2002 elections.
- How do you view the 1987 elections? Do you think it was a turning point between New Delhi and Kashmir?
Yes, the 1987 poll were a turning point in the relation between New Delhi and Kashmir. Those elections changed everything. But again, we have to study the context which led to rigging in the 1987 elections. NC was the embodiment of Kashmir’s self-assertion. The sentiment was very strong at that time. This gradually came down as corrupted ate into the system. People like Yaseen and Ashfaq Majeed would have become part of an alternate political party if MUF had been allowed to win its 15 seats. They may even have won more seats. Had they won those 15 seats, Kashmir’s future would have been different. Kashmir is Indira Gandhi’s mistake. The real mistake was pulling down Farooq Abdullah’s legitimate government in 1984. Whatever she stood for, she made two major blunders, both within a span of two weeks. One was the attack on the Golden Temple, and the other was pulling down of Farooq Abdullah’s government.
- In 1990, you served as the Information Adviser to the prime minister, VP Singh. Militancy was at its peak in Kashmir at that time. Who was responsible for the eruption of militancy in Kashmir?
The constant factor is Pakistan, which would support anybody who opposed India. Their constant willingness to support those elements is a major reason for the eruption of militancy in Kashmir. There are other factors too. Governor’s rule, rigged elections, hanging of Maqbool Bhat, bringing back Farooq Abdullah’s government – all these are responsible for the eruption of militancy, and led to the situation that we see now.
Hurriyat was created by Pakistan, which wanted political representation in Kashmir. JKLF had completely fallen out with Pakistan. When Hashim Qureshi went there, they kept asking him to fight India and join Pakistan. After he told them that Kashmir wanted independence and did not want to be either with India or Pakistan, all help stopped. Every single leader who has gone across has had the same experience. The moment they talk about Kashmir’s independence, ISI turns on them like wolves. Pakistan was not prepared for this third option but wanted a party here which would represent that option. At that time, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) was in their control totally. Pakistan had stopped giving arms to JKLF, and was giving these to HM. Now they wanted a representative here, and Hurriyat was the best option. For the polls of 1996, there were discussions inside Hurriyat whether to contest or not. I think Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat was in favor of contesting the 1996 election but Pakistan did not want it. Then again in 2002, Pakistan discouraged the Hurriyat contesting the elections. This is the pattern here. IB discredits Kashmiri nationalist leaders by giving them money and exposing them. ISI gives them money and kills them. History is witness to both developments. In between, the leader for Kashmiriyat is lost. This is the combined effect of IB and ISI, which has created the terrible situation today. There is no single strong voice from Kashmir to represent the voice of the people. I don’t think of Geelani as the voice of Kashmir. I spent two days with him in 1992. He told me in great detail why he felt that it was completely wrong that Kashmir should be part of India. He said Pakistan was cheated of Kashmir as part of a conspiracy. Hence, his goal was that Kashmir should go to Pakistan. To this day, nothing has changed in him. I was tremendously impressed by Geelani when I sat with him then. I said to him that I love to hear you because you are so much like my grandfather. He has a great courtesy, backed by tremendous conviction and strength. I decided to research all that he had told me. That is how I started work on my book on Kashmir. When I looked at the original records in India House Library, I found all that he told me to be fake. These lies were fed to him by Pakistan.
- What are your views on Musharaff’s four-point formula? Do you think there is any other solution to the political issue of Kashmir?
Musharaff’s four-point formula is the best solution for Kashmir. There is absolutely no doubt about it. Such straightforwardness needs immense courage. I give credit to Musharraf for it. It is the only formula where Kashmir’s own identity is preserved in the fullest. The idea of softening borders was something amazing. It was a win-win situation for both countries but the failure of implementing such a formula falls on Government of India, which did not make immediate efforts to resolve the issue. Also, Musharaff only wanted to talk to Mirwaiz. He had long meetings with all the Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. Musharraf had instructed his staff that he did not want to meet Geelani again. Mushrraf had told Geelani he was not of this century and that he was an old man.
- There is a burning feeling in Kashmir that the extreme anti-Kashmir stance taken by the Indian electronic media and its constant fire-breathing has seriously jeopardized the chances of reconciliation between New Delhi and Kashmir. Do you agree?
You are absolutely right. Firstly, there is Arnab Goswami. Then there is that fellow in News X, who is trying to imitate Arnab Goswami. Some other Hindi news channels are their copy-cats of the same. They are not doing any good to India. These persons are very dangerous. I think there is going to be a crackdown at some point on such kind of media persons. Media has to play a constructive role in making a situation better.
- Was the reaction of Indian media on Masarat Alam’s release justified?
Absolutely not. On the other hand, releasing Masarat was such a big step. The ground needed to be prepared for releasing him. I don’t think you can have a person in jail forever. They had done too much to Masarat. So, he had to come out but his coming out had to be done in a proper manner. Mufti should have consulted the Deputy CM, who is from BJP, before releasing him and made him part of the decision. Masarat’s release came too soon.
- What is your take on the PDP-BJP government?
So far, they have done nothing. And so far, the BJP elements have not been very responsible. It is still very early to predict anything. Any such coalition was bound to be attacked by the hawks. That is what has happened so far. The budget released by Haseeb Drabu is extraordinary. The idea of a five-year budget is absolutely essential. In 1998, Farooq wanted to have a similar budget but he was not successful.