Redefining Trust Deficit

  • By Shailendra Aima
  • 19 August 2010
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In an Independence Day-eve bonanza, Jammu & Kashmir  Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced that his government will recruit  50,000 youths in the next few months, and pitched for restoration of autonomy  to the state to bridge the “trust deficit” between the people and the Centre.

The Chief Minister proclaimed that people in Jammu &  Kashmir have cynicism about the promises made by the Centre in the past, and  there is a need for the Central Government to initiate action to remove all  doubts from the minds of the people and bridge the gap that has emerged over  the last six decades. “I think by restoring the autonomy, this trust deficit  will be removed. I request the government of India to take urgent measures in this regard,” he said. The CM said no economic or  employment packages can heal the wounds.

It was widely speculated in the Valley that the Prime  Minister, in his Independence Day Address to the Nation, would make some  pronouncement to this effect. Some Kashmir observers believed that this would  assuage the Azadi-wallas of all shades – NC’s Autonomy,  PDP’s Self-Rule, Omar Farooq’s Referendum, and Geelani’s Self-determination.  Some lobbyists in Delhi had exercised considerable pressure on him. So what  stopped him? 

When Omar Abdullah spoke so vehemently about a trust  deficit, the minds of the people, and bridging the gap, what was in his mind  and who were the people he was talking about?   Definitely he was not speaking about Jammu, Ladakh, or the segment of  Kashmiri society which had been expelled from its homeland. He thus excluded  more than half the population and more than two-thirds of the state’s area from  his perspective. He created mistrust or a trust deficit with all these people,  outside his immediate constituency. At the same time, his trust within Kashmir  has become quite questionable.

The acts of omission and commission of the Kashmiri  leadership have been glaringly blatant since 1947 and are responsible for  building mistrust among the people of the state at one hand, and between the  Indian people and Kashmiri leaders on the other. Take for example the situation  in 1953, when the tallest leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, had to be  arrested.

In 1978, when the  Henderson Papers were made public, it appeared that in September 1950 the  United States Ambassador to India, Loy Henderson, had secretly visited Sheikh  Abdullah. The Sheikh had told Henderson that the majority of Kashmir leaders favored  an Independent state and that some Azad Kashmir leaders also supported the  idea. Then, in May 1953, Sheikh spoke to American Democratic leader Stevenson  in Srinagar on similar lines. The Sheikh not only betrayed Nehru’s trust, he  created a chasm between New Delhi and Kashmir.

Even before that,  when in 1951 preparations for the elections to the Constituent Assembly began  the parties and candidates seeking election to the Assembly in opposition to  the official candidates of the National Conference complained of intimidation  and interference. They charged the NC of using force and pressure to drive them  out of the fray by preventing them from filing their nomination papers. For the  41 of the 43 constituencies in Kashmir Province, not a single nomination paper  was filed by opposition candidates. In the two remaining constituencies of  Habbakadal in the city of Srinagar and of Baramulla Township, nomination papers  were filed by Pandit Shiv Narayan Fotedar and Sardar Sant Singh Tegh, an Akali  Sikh leader of the State. However, the two leaders did not remain in the fray  for long and both withdrew in protest. Sant Singh Tegh complained of official  interference in the elections and alleged that the colour of his ballot boxes  was changed in his absence and his voters prevented from attending his election  meetings by unfair and foul means.

In Jammu province,  Praja Parishad nominated candidates for 27 constituencies of the province,  generally filing nomination papers of more than one candidate for each  constituency. Forty-one of the forty-six nominations filed by the Parishad were  rejected in 27 constituencies, leaving the Parishad to contest elections in  only three constituencies. On 22 September 1951, the Working Committee of the  Parishad adopted a resolution condemning the rejection of the nomination papers  of Parishad candidates and gave an ultimatum to the Government to reverse the  rejections, failing which the Parishad threatened to boycott the elections. The  President of the Praja Parishad, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, issued a press  statement in Delhi on 6 October 1951, alleging that:

-The elections in the two provinces of Jammu and Kashmir  were scheduled to be held on different dates to provide the National Conference  an advantage over the other parties;

-The delimitation of constituencies was undertaken in a  manner which used gerrymandering to turn many Hindu-majority constituencies  into Muslim-majority constituencies;

-Forty-one of the 46 nomination papers filed by the Praja  Parishad candidates were rejected on false and flimsy grounds;

-Official interference in the elections was widespread and  the entire official machinery was geared to help the National Conference.

Trust is a  container concept used in a broad variety of disciplines. Trust and suspicions  are often well-founded. In potentially uncertain, dangerous and risky  environments, we need to know who we can and who we cannot trust, and in which  circumstances we can do what. The essence of trust management is not to trust,  but to decide to what extent we can trust and how to develop and create trust  relationships. Building trust has a special meaning.

Did the Kashmiri  leadership ever care to create and nurture the trust which Omar Abdullah  bemoans has been eroded. On the Amarnath Land row, he deliberately created  mistrust when he described the Agitation in the Valley as an expression of  “Kashmiri Nationalism”. In the national Parliament, he categorically asserted,  “this was an issue of our land; and we fought for our land; and shall fight to  the last”. His communal bias was at the forefront and the entire nation stood  shocked over his fulminations. 

On October 2, 1988,  Mahatma Gandhi’s statue was to be installed in the new High Court complex in  Srinagar and the Chief Justice of India was to inaugurate it. A few anti-India  lawyers objected and threatened to disrupt the function. The Chief Minister  gave in and it was none other than an active member of the National Conference  who created this trouble. Was Gandhi an alien in Kashmir or a symbol of  imperialist India? But who cared to explain, and hence the Trust Deficit.

There are numerous  such instances. Why did J&K Assembly pass the controversial Resettlement  Bill which was never approved by the Centre? The Bill proposed that Muslims of  J&K who had fled to Pakistan or PoK during Partition be allowed back in  Indian Kashmir and resettled here with honour and dignity. The land they had  left behind was to be restored to them. At the same time, the State Government  did nothing with regard to the settlement of Hindu Refugees of 1947 from West  Pakistan who came to J&K.

In 1987, Farooq  Abdullah announced cancellation of Darbar Move to the winter capital of the  state, Jammu, a century-old practice. A month long agitation in Jammu was  required to annul the anti-Jammu decision of the CM. Was Farooq aiming to build  trust?

After 1996, when Dr. Farooq Abdullah reclaimed power after six years of violent  operations and Governor’s Rule, he proclaimed that peace had returned. He  pronounced return plans for displaced Hindus. These proposals were coercive in  nature; and he went to the extent of threatening to stop relief in Jammu. The  Displaced Diaspora and Employees Unions, besides staging hartals and  demonstrations, were forced to seek court intervention. Farooq Abdullah’s  Government opposed the case of exiled Kashmiris for grant of IDP status before  the NHRC. And even after the Displaced Employees won the case against the  Government for grant of House Rent Allowance in the High Court, and now in the  Supreme Court of India, the state government is procrastinating in implementation  of the same.

The attrition on  exiles has assumed the legal form guided by the perpetrators and collaborators  of genocide within the government and the political establishment. The  phenomenon is manifest glaringly in the Return Policy of the government. The  policy is being used to force the victim to conform and submit, or face the  spectre of abject destitution and perish. The recruitment drive for ‘Kashmiri  Migrants’ is basically a process to strip them of their right to live with  dignity and honor.

What the government  is doing is brazen, its methods diabolic. Joseph Goebbels once talked about his  methods in a confidential meeting with German Journalists, “Up to now we have  succeeded in leaving the enemy in the dark concerning Germany’s real goals...  just 1932 our domestic foes never saw where we were going or that our oath of  legality was just a trick… we wanted to come to power legally, but we did not  use power legally… they could have suppressed us... They could have arrested a  couple of us in 1925 and that would have been that, the end. No they let us  through the danger zone… They let us alone and let us slip through the risky  zone and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs.” Kashmiri Hindus are  being subjected to a new phase of genocidal attrition by an enemy (read J&K  Government) who is thinking it has crossed the ‘danger zone’ and can now wage  the war with more confidence.

On March 8, 2010,  PDP legislator Murtaza Khan introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the State  Legislative Council, seeking to deprive the daughters of J&K of their  natural right to marry persons of their choice outside the state, and thereby  snatch their right to own immovable property or inherit ancestral property in  J&K, or obtain jobs with the State Government in case they marry persons  other than State Subjects. The Bill sought to restore the pre-October 7, 2002  position that had been challenged in J&K High Court and reversed on the  Court’s Orders. The State Government should not have allowed introduction of  the Bill in view of the storm that the similar official Bill had created across  the country in 2004. But the Kashmir-centric Government hardly cared for the  alienation of Jammu or else and hence the suspicion and lack of trust.

As it is well known  how the State Assembly passed the Greater Autonomy Bill, we shall spare  discussion on the subject in this article. But it is proper to mention that the  State Legislative representation is skewed and heavily in favor of Kashmiris,  that too, a particular section of the Valley due to gerrymandering and biased  delimitation. Again, National Conference through deceit and chicanery obtained  a highly biased Justice Saghir Ahmad Report on Centre-State Relations.  The Justice Saghir Ahmad Committee was  constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of his Round-Table  initiative. I refer to these two instances since Jammu and Ladakh have time and  again rejected these proposals outright and want full integration of J&K  with the Indian Union.  Did the State  government care? It went ahead and alienated these two regions further and  hence the trust deficit.

It is quite clear that successive Governments in Jammu & Kashmir  have cared little about the sensitivities of its people in Jammu and Ladakh or  those in Kashmir who don’t stand together with the handful Azadi-wallas. And they have least regard for the sensitivities of  the Indian public and their representatives.

When someone asked  why the Prime Minister did not mention a word about Autonomy etcetera in his  Independence Day address, sharp came the reply that the Indian Prime Minister  spoke what was expected of him. It should be clear that public opinion in India  is ready to accommodate but is not ready to either GIVE IN or GIVE AWAY. True,  a shade of public opinion does empathize with the Azadi-wallas in Kashmir, but a majority of Indians don’t support  their vision and misplaced priorities and sentimentality. Indian opinion is  strong on J&K being an integral part of India, and can never support any  fiddling with the nation’s sovereignty. 

It shall be a  travesty to believe that the Indian mind is naive enough to believe that entire  J&K wants to secede, because some youth are hurling stones and are ready to  kill and get killed there. Indians widely believe that the movement in the  Valley is patently communal and that besides public properties and the security  forces, the Azadi-wallas have  targetted and vandalized Hindus and other minorities of Kashmir who are living  as exiles outside their Homeland; they must be rehabilitated back in Kashmir.

  It is a firm opinion that Pakistan, which is badly embroiled in sectarian  strife, international terrorism, poverty, illiteracy and bankruptcy, is the  epicenter of terror, an ideological state and a dying state. By acceding to Azadi-wallas, neither the State and nor  the people of India would let Pakistan get a fillip or a breather.

Isn’t it obvious  that the opinion expressed by Kashmiri leaders of all hues on TV channels has  been quite supportive of Azadi-wallas and that the government as well as other mainstream politicians of Kashmir have  abdicated and left the field open for Hurriyat faction lead by Syed Ali Shah  Geelani? Indian public opinion therefore is antagonized on the issue; hence the  trust deficit.
  A strong opinion is  emerging that Kashmir of today is an entry point for Taliban in a big way; that Kashmir is fast getting sucked into an  AfPak kind of syndrome; and that Azadi-wallas have made a mockery of it and pushed the beloved land into an impending  disaster. Opinion makers and observers recollect with horror what  Ayatollah Khomeini did to his communist supporters. It is believed that Islamic  fundamentalism is not a banner of victim people. It is a banner of declaration  of a war on all types of freedom.

Observers and  security establishment understand that terror operatives will reappear as they  are waiting across the border, if state government’s plea of bringing them back  is accepted by Delhi. They are being branded as innocent youth misled by wrong  people, who have to be brought back.   What an appealing argument! The so-called healing touch policy is now  being mocked at as a bleeding-touch policy. This is the trust deficit.

Whether Sheikh  Abdullah had really sought help from the United State for translating his dream  of Independent and Sovereign Kashmir into reality is now a matter of history;  but what is being enacted on the streets of Srinagar has only widened the gap  between the communities and regions within Jammu and Kashmir on one hand, and  between New Delhi and Srinagar on the other. The nation is watching in the hope  that Kashmiris would realize the futility of their masters’ designs and come  forward to bridge the trust deficit.

The writer is Editor, Kashmir Sentinel, and  a prominent educationist of Jammu

Also read –
1.History of Jammu & Kashmir
2.Daughters of J&K India’s most unwanted
3.Kashmir solution – Chidambaram wilfuly ignorant