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Kashmir: Dialogue – The only Course






The President delivered his speech with great vigour and gusto, and we must admire his performance. Unfortunately, he referred to everything under the sun excepting the most relevant and distressing features of our political situation at the moment. He referred to Andhra in passing without indicating as to what is the solution which Government intends to offer to this burning problem. It is unfortunate that he did not analyse or he did not even hint at the climate of violence which is generated in this country and for which one party alone, that is, the ruling party is responsible. The sheer logic of the way Government of India is behaving has created an impression that this Government which was brought to power by a massive mandate understands only one language, the language of violence. Violence does not erupt for nothing. It is not that people are seized of a mad instinct to destroy property. What happened in Andhra? Andhra was peaceful. Six months ago, an objective situation existed there. The Prime Minister and her colleagues with their prides and prejudices did not want to recognize and realities of the situation. That is what has given rise to such vast destruction of life and property in Andhra. It was a French student who said a few years after the disturbances: we have to burn a few buses and buildings so that they should take notice of us. This is exactly what the Government of India is telling the people: we will not listen to you howsoever reasonable and justified your demands unless you destroy railway coaches and buses and buildings. Every time there is an abatement of the movement in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress leaders come out with the statement that the movement has fizzled out because there is less violence. It is the Congress Government which has lent respectability and legitimacy to violence. It is unfortunate that the President has not referred to it.
In this context may I refer to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. There is a conspiracy of silence in every corner as for as the state of Kashmir is concerned. Neither the Members nor the parties in opposition nor the ruling party mention Kashmir, the reason being in Kashmir there is no violence. There has been a very healthy, significant historical development about the situation in Kashmir. We thought of a final solution to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir when we were talking to Mr. Bhutto of Pakistan. The Jam Sangh made a hue and cry of the final solution the Jan Sangh did not understand. I did understand. The final solution, not vis-à-vis Pakistan but a final solution vis-à-vis the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The fact has been recognized that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are not as happy or satisfied as they should have been and it was understood that a dialogue would start with the accredited leaders of Kashmir and this problem would be finally solved. A dialogue did take place and Mrs. Gandhi after having met Sheikh Abdullah talked of opening a new chapter. But that new chapter is a blank and it has been a monologue that has been going on. Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Beg have made their position clear; they accept the reality of accession and the finality of accession. There cannot be happier news for the country than this. What has been the response from the Government? The response has been this. The Vice Chancellor of a University, for whom I have great respect, has been allotted a tutorial; he would take a tutorial period with Mirza Afzel Beg and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. The Government of India does not even recognize the fact of dialogue why? The most popular, accredited leader of Kashmir says: I have to accept the reality of accession; I say that Kashmir should continue to be part of India. But there is no response because there is no violence in Kashmir. If tomorrow there is violence, the way we have in Andhra, Mrs. Gandhi and her colleagues would sit up..
Shri Piloo Mody: The movement in Andhra is not violent……..(Interruptions)
Shri S. A. Shamim: Whether it is the CRP people or the police people there, it is for Mr. Mody to judge.
Shri PilooMody: The only miscreants in Andhra are the CRP and the police.
Shri S. A. Shamim: …And a few who are not interrupting me. It was imperative; the Government understands only the logic of violence. Unfortunately for us who are in Kashmir, there is no railway property to destroy. Railway has been extended up to Jammu & the Jammu people are not interested in accommodating the leaders of Kashmir. It could have been very good news for the whole of the country. I do not think that the situation will remain as it is. The possibilities are that the people of Kashmir will get restive. The Govt. of India does not understand the language of peaceful dialogue and has more or less shown complete indifference to all our leaders have been saying. I should like Mrs Gandhi to show more of courage. It is all right, Mrs. Gandhi has prestige, pride, everything. But it is not greater than country’s prestige or honour. Should she not solve this problem for all times to come? This is the most auspicious occasion and it is time that Mrs. Gandhi starts a dialogue at her own level. Non-Political Vice-Chancellors, however well intentioned they may be, cannot solve a very knotty problem which has resulted in a war with Pakistan. The situation in Kashmir appears to be very peaceful actually. There has been talk of separation of Jammu from Kashmir. Separation of Andhra is not going to be the last. There are people who are deeply interested in upsetting the conditions in Kashmir. They have been talking of bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. The author of this theory was Dr. Karan Singh, who happens to be one of the important Ministers in Mrs. Gandhi’s cabinet.
I am glad Mrs. Gandhi is in the house and I want to repeat what I said earlier. The dialogue going on between Sheikh Abdullah and Mrs Gandhi’s emissary should be taken up at the level of the Prime Minister and Sheikh Abdullah himself. This is very happy news that Sheikh Abdullah has recognized the realities of the situation. I have a vested interest in this because I have contributed my bit in making the Sheikh realize the realities of the situation. After all what is he asking for? He is asking for nothing more, nothing less than what has been given to him by the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution, namely, internal autonomy within the framework of India, within the Indian Union. India is a vast country and the people of Kashmir acceded to India in spite of the fact that Pakistan was coaxing the people of Kashmir with Quran in their hands and trying to persuade them through religious bigotry and sentiments. We should be given credit for it our act of faith should be recognized and we should not be treated with contempt. Mrs. Gandhi has shown courage. But courage has no boundaries. Every time there is a new challenge, it has to be met with courage. Mrs. Gandhi must realize that this opportunity may never come. You can today ignore Sheikh Abdullah but once his is not more on the scene, the new generation will not understand the language of secularism and the language of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. It is high time you made use of the man who has fought shoulder to shoulder with you in the freedom struggle. You are today sending an SOS to Mr. Subba Reddy, you are inviting him, pocketing your pride because he is threatening to create havoc if Andhra is not separated. You only listen to the language of threat. May I remind you that the stage has come when we should understand the language of peace and understanding. I will be grateful to all the leaders of the opposition also if they break this conspiracy of silence and speak out the way they are speaking, about Andhra and Tamil Nadu and other States. Simply because Kashmir has been given a special status, there is this conspiracy of silence. It is time the people of Kashmir are taken into confidence and they are given a representative Government. I must take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude and sincere thanks to Syed Mir Qasim, the Chief Minister. He has really broken new ground and tried to normalize the atmosphere. For the first time the history of Jammu and Kashmir there were fair and free municipal elections. What has been done in the case of municipal elections, I am sure, will be done in the case of Assembly elections. And, let us hope there is going to be fair and free election for Parliament also in Jammu and Kashmir.
With these words, I would like to conclude by saying that the people of Kashmir are looking forward to a fruitful dialogue between Sheikh Abdullah and Mrs. Gandhi.

(This is the text of the speech made by late Shamim Ahmad Shamim on the floor of Lok Sabha on, Feb. 1973, advocating a credible dialogue with Kashmiris for a honourable solution of the problem)



Not in the Mahatma’s name

The Kashmir Monitor



By Apoorvanand

The recent uproar over the glorification of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, NathuramGodse, by the BharatiyaJanata Party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur has forced her party to tick her off. It should be a solace for us that there is at least one non-negotiable in Indian politics, that the political cost of the celebration of the murder of the Mahatma is formidably high! But now we would be told to let the matter rest as she has been chided even by her mentors.

Let us look at the implication of this approach, that Ms. Thakur, sans this statement, should be acceptable to us as a potential representative in Parliament. She continues to be the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, as she claimed Prime Minister NarendraModi had said of her. Our satisfaction over the condemnation of Ms. Thakur makes us forget that she is being audaciously presented as the most fitting answer to secular politics, which holds that a person accused of attacks on Muslims cannot be a people’s representative in India.


The idea that a Hindu can never indulge in a terror act is, in fact, another way of saying that terror acts are always committed by non-Hindus. Or, by Pakistan, which for BJP leaders is a proxy for Muslims. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while talking about the Samjhauta Express blast case acquittals, claimed that it was unimaginable to accept that Hindus could be involved in such acts, and that he believed that in all such crimes there was the hand of Pakistan. A crime has been committed, and since the Hindu suspects cannot (being Hindus) do it, it can only be Muslims even if they are not caught — this is the underlying assumption.

It is this theory which is being thrown at us by the BJP by presenting Ms. Thakur as its choice for the electorate of Bhopal. It has another sinister aspect. She was selected knowing well that she could not be a choice for Muslims. Her selection is therefore a message to Muslims that by not voting for her, they disregard the sentiments of Hindus, thus showing intolerance towards the majority.

By supporting her, the ‘symbol of Hinduism’, they have a chance to endear themselves to the Hindus. If they don’t, they would always be a suspect.

This argument is not new. Many pundits, while accepting that Mr.Modi was a divisive figure, urged Indians to choose him as he was the best bet for the economic development of India. So, can Muslims be so sectarian as to think only about themselves while the greater national interest is at stake?

The swift and determined move by the BJP to reject her statement on Godse is a clever ploy to make this issue irrelevant while judging her. It is as if we are asked to judge Godse, setting aside the act of murder of Gandhi by him. There are ‘respectable’ people who feel that Godse spoilt his case by murdering the Mahatma. They regret this folly as they believe that there was strong merit in his ideological stance. According to them, he rightly opposed the Muslim appeasement of Gandhi, his anger at the dangerous friendliness of Gandhi towards Pakistan is correct, and his impatience with the unwise and impractical pacifism of Gandhi is to be understood if we want to make India strong.

We are asked to understand that there was a reason Godse was forced to kill Gandhi. We are asked to not treat him as a simple criminal. He was driven by high ideas. To make him a man of ideas, he is constantly humanised. We have seen over the years people talking about his childhood, his education, his editorship. Gandhi must have done something really horrible to provoke a thoughtful human being to turn into an assassin. If anything, they imply, he was a just assassin!

So, we are asked to move away from the trivia, that is the act of the murder, to the substantive, the issues raised by Nathuram in his ‘brave defence’ in the court, which had moved people to tears even then.

The RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS), unlike the Islamic State and the Maoists, understands it well that an individual and identifiable act of violence makes it abhorrent and repulsive for the masses, whereas anonymous acts of violence are always more palatable. It was therefore important for Savarkar to distance himself from his disciple, Godse, to remain respectable. For the RSS it was necessary to disown Godse to be able to keep working on the majoritarian ideas he shared with or had learnt from Savarkar and the RSS. No known RSS hand soils his hands with blood; yet it is the politics of the RSS, not at all different from Godse’s, which makes blood flow.

Gandhi had said again and again that it would be better for him to die if India were to become inhospitable to Muslims. He was talking to those who were objecting to the recitation from the Koran at his prayer meetings. Death he could accept but not the narrowing of his heart! Neither bowing to threats or force! In the same invocation, he said, if you ask me to recite the Gita at gun point, I would refuse to obey you.

Gandhi told his audience, your heart is also large. Don’t constrict it. It is this challenge which needs to be accepted. It requires immense bravery of intelligence and humanity to be able to hear Gandhi. This intelligence would tell us that the distancing from the murder of the Mahatma by the co-travellers of Godse is in fact a strategy to enlarge the space for majoritarian ideas and draw more and more Hindus towards them, thus making Gandhi irrelevant while keeping his facade decorated.

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Why I want Pragya Thakur to win

The Kashmir Monitor



By Saba Naqvi

Regardless of whether NarendraModi remains Prime Minister or not I want terror accused Pragya Thakur to win from Bhopal. The esteemed leadership of India’s pre-eminent political party chose a terror accused as a candidate and they must endure her tenure as MP.

Pragya may be a poisonous vendor of hate and violence but she is not a hypocrite. Ever since she spoke her mind on describing NathuramGodse, the individual who shot MK Gandhi to death, as a patriot, the BJP national leadership has claimed to be disturbed. The Prime Minister spoke up after her statement, saying, he would never forgive her for what she had said and the party stated that it had initiated disciplinary action against her.


But by the time the party took this position, many members of the BJP had come up with twisted arguments somehow justifying Pragya’s validation of the assassin of a figure many revere as a Mahatma or Great Soul. Party members exposed their own problematic ideological heritage that included non-participation in the freedom movement led by Gandhi. Some of them could not help but reveal their own natural impulse to drop the veneer of falsehood and come clean on how they do indeed believe that Godse was a patriot despite having killed Gandhi.

The Godse remark in just two days exposed the ideological underbelly of the ruling party that does indeed have members who believe that Gandhi was a villain who loved Muslims and Pakistan. That’s why Godse, by his own account in a famous trial, shot him. A must-read for those who wish to engage with this debate is the book titled “The Men Who Killed Gandhi” by ManoharMalgonkar.

Seventy-one years after that crime on January 30, 1948, we have come to the point where a candidate contesting in an election for Parliament embraces the Godse world view. What’s more, a member of Modi’s council of ministers, AnantkumarHegde, endorsed her position. The MP from Karnataka had earlier kicked up a storm when he had said that “we are here to change the Constitution”. Yes, the same Constitution he took an oath to protect.

Hegde’s also received a show-cause notice to explain his position and on May 17 BJP president Amit Shah said the party’s disciplinary committee would submit a report on the matter in 10 days, after the election verdict, that is. There was more: the BJP media cell chief in Madhya Pradesh, the state from where Pragya is contesting, was brazen enough to say that Gandhi was the father of the nation of Pakistan. The BJP suspended him.

So how do we read the ideological contortions ever since Pragya uttered the “Godse is a patriot” words? One could say that the BJP is trying to occupy the space of both extreme and moderate in a national ideological pendulum that has shifted right-wards. It’s not a bad ploy—the ideological family plays to the more core beliefs, that are to be revealed step by step, and just in case some voters find them unpalatable, there are the “reasonable” elements as well.

And, voila! Modi becomes a moderate who is being stern with the fringe! That is a useful projection at a time when there is the possibility of needing some allies post-23 May. The BJP has made this ideological journey before, of being all things to all men. Earlier, former Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee was offered up as the moderate to LK Advani, the architect of the Ram temple movement, who brought the BJP to national prominence. Today Modi today is the moderate who is speaking up against the hardliners, who are called “fringe” by those who believe it’s all part of a great national purpose.

It’s not. The “fringe” has been mainstream for some years now. Much before Pragya was presented to the nation as a candidate for parliament, the BJP leadership chose an unabashed Muslim-hating monk of a religious order to be the chief minister of India’s most populous state. All these debates about ‘moderate’ and ‘hardliner’ are a farce designed to make the BJP constituency feel better about themselves. It’s part of the good cop/ bad cop tactic.

To conclude, therefore, I want a terror accused to win, just so that we can, as a nation, get a reality check on where we have landed up. And just in case someone wants to ask me about whether I am afraid, here is my reply: I am so certain about the courage of my convictions, that there is no fear, although I do feel some shame for those who have tied themselves into knots over something about which there should have been no ambiguity. Bring on Pragya and let’s see what happens next.

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The ‘unpeople’ of India

The Kashmir Monitor



By Abdul Khaliq

Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims.

I fear for our future as a secular, multicultural country that once celebrated a richness of culture and tradition. Till not long ago we affirmed our common humanity even as we celebrated our differences. Our nation represented diversity, kindness, compassion and a revulsion of extremist views. But, over time, our collective souls have been deadened by violence, deepening communal and caste divides and the most perverse thinking. The cosmopolitan spirit has been throttled by hyper nationalism, populism and a deep distrust of the liberal values of tolerance and inclusion. A creeping majoritarianism is spreading across the land.


In this overheated, protracted election season, Muslims are up against it, caught between a rock and a hard place. Theirs is an Orwellian world where they are the “unpeople”— a term coined by George Orwell in his scary masterpiece 1984, to define those whose names and existence had been erased because they had incurred “Big Brother’s” ire. Muslims now have to live with the bleak truth that the most powerful political party and its ideological parent, with tentacles spread across the country, are pathologically hostile to Muslims. What makes their plight infinitely worse, is the fact that even the major allegedly secular party has consigned Muslims to social invisibility. Can one trust a party that is afraid to even allude to the Muslims’ problems, let alone address them?

When the PM evoked the 1984 mass slaughter of Sikhs and quoted Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous justification about the inevitable effect of the falling of a big tree, why did the Congress president not hit back by recalling the 2002 Gujarat riots and Modi’s Newtonian observation justifying the killing of hundreds of Muslims as a reaction to an action? He refrained, not for any ethical reason, but simply for fear of being seen as empathetic to Muslims and their problems and of equating the two tragedies. Caught between the flagrant hostility of the right-wing and the fraudulent concern of the secular front, Muslims are India’s outcasts.

In today’s India, where all issues across the political spectrum are seen through the lens of identity politics, Muslims are vilified for their custom, dress and tradition. They are physically attacked for the food they eat, discriminated against in employment, housing, and even civic amenities, and, they are routinely victimised by law-enforcement authorities simply for being Muslim. Social media is awash with the most hateful, stereotypical portrayal of Muslims as terrorist sympathisers, baby producing factories and worse. Although India has been the home of Islam and its adherents for much more than a millennium, Muslims today are constantly pilloried about their loyalty to the nation.

All assessments about Muslims are universalised, in black and white and deeply problematic. In a conversation with two CRPF sub-inspectors who have recently returned from Kashmir (I did not reveal that I was Muslim), I was told that “these Muslims are a nuisance as even their women throw stones at us.” Please note that the stone-throwing by the disgruntled Kashmiris is perceived as a common trait of Muslims — all 190 million of them. Their other complaints were that Muslims support Pakistan and insist on eating only halal meat. When I asked how the civil unrest in Kashmir could be resolved, I got an answer that stunned me: “Make sure that the police force in Kashmir is recruited only from the Shia community and they will teach these Sunnis a lesson!” How well have the British taught us the art of “divide and rule” and of polarising communities! The conversation filled me with anguish at the gratuitous distrust and hatred for Muslims. The animosity runs deep and is expressed by ordinary citizens in a matter-of-fact tone that is unnerving.

I recall clearly the sense of cautious optimism among Muslims when NarendraModi assumed power in 2014. His swearing-in was a strikingly symbolic moment, epitomised by the presence of the Pakistani PM that signalled hope of rapprochement with Pakistan (Indian Muslims know through experience that their well-being is linked to this crucial relationship). The PM represented a more decisive polity that promised an equitable social order expressed most eloquently in the Socratic slogan, “Sabkasaathsabkavikas”. This slogan encapsulated this nation’s foremost mission of fostering social solidarity based on the principle that every human being matters. Minorities felt reassured by the PM’s emphatic assertion in 2015 that “my government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly.” He repeatedly made appeals to preserve our core values of diversity, tolerance and plurality, calling on Hindus and Muslims to work together to fight poverty instead of fighting one another. His stunning embrace of Nawaz Sharif on Christmas Day 2015 filled everyone with hope.

On the ground, however, India began witnessing a deepening cultural mutation as vigilante squads terrorised and lynched Muslims in the name of protecting the cow, launched “gharwapsi” campaigns that have all but ended the freedom to choose one’s faith and used “love jihad” to stifle any kind of solidarity between the two communities. Minorities began to believe that the present dispensation’s aim is to convert India into the Hindu Rashtra of Hindutva where Muslims and Christians would live as second-class citizens. The current election rhetoric has only exacerbated those fears. The BJP LokSabha candidate for Barabanki boasted that “NarendraModi has made attempts to break the morale of Muslims. Vote for Modi if you want to destroy the breed of Muslims.”

We are on the cusp of having a new government at the Centre. Opinion polls and the most reliable — the bookies — predict victory for the NDA, but with a reduced majority. Ironically, the return of Modi as PM is the best hope for peace within the country and the neighbourhood. Imran Khan was right when he said that only Modi could help resolve Kashmir. He is the only leader with the power to rein in the lunatics whose purpose in life is to polarise communities and engage in eternal war with Pakistan. In any case, the new government’s first task would be to combat the overpowering atmosphere of distrust and hate bedevilling society which constitutes the foremost threat to the nation, more so than terrorism. The creation of a truly secular society free of prejudice and discrimination must be the prime mission.

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