Governor Jagmohan’s letter to Rajiv Gandhi on Kashmir: Potatoes one day, the Pope the next
Reproduced here, Thanks to Express News Service
‘Letter to Mr Rajiv Gandhi’, (former Prime Minister) written by Jagmohan, twice Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, on April 20, 1990. The letter, in retrospect, seems to have accurately predicted the Kashmir situation of now while warning against complacency, which, the author says, was ‘wholly ignored’ by the Congress government of the day. Excerpts..
Dear Shri Rajiv Gandhi
You have virtually forced me to write this open letter to you. For, all along I have persistently tried to keep myself away from party politics and to use whatever little talent and energy I might have to do some creative and constructive work, as was done recently in regard to the management and improvement of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine complex and to help in bringing about a sort of cultural renaissance without which our fast decaying institutions cannot be nursed back to health. At the moment, the nobler purposes of these institutions, be they in the sphere of executive, legislature or judiciary etc. have been sapped and the soul of justice and truth sucked out of them by the politics of expediency.
You and your friends like Dr. Farooq Abdullah are, however, bent upon painting a false picture before the nation with regard to Kashmir. Your senior party men like Shiv Shankar and N.K.P. Salve have, apparently at your behest, been using the forum of Parliament for building an atmosphere of prejudice against me. The former raked up a fourteen-year old incident of Turkman Gate and the latter a press interview, an interview that I never gave, to hurl a barrage of accusations of communalism against my person.
Mani Shankar Iyer, too, has been dipping his poisonous darts in the columns of some magazines. I, however, chose to suffer in silence all the slings and arrows of this outrageous armoury of disinformation. Only rarely did I try to correct gross distortions by sending letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines. My intention was to remain content with a book, an academic and historic venture which, I believed, I owed to the nation and to history.
But the other day some friends showed to me press clippings of your comments in the election meetings in Rajasthan. That, I thought, was the limit. I realised that unless I checked your intentional distortions, you would spread false impression about me throughout the country during the course of your election campaign.
Need I remind you that from the beginning of 1988, I had started sending “Warning Signals” to you about the gathering storm in Kashmir? But you and the power wielders around you had neither the time, nor the inclination, nor the vision, to see these signals. They were so clear, so pointed, that to ignore them was to commit sins of true historical proportions.
To recapitulate and to serve as illustrations, I would refer to a few of these signals. In August 1988, after analysing the current and undercurrents, I had summed up the position thus: “The drum-beaters of parochialism and fundamentalism are working overtime. Subversion is on the increase. The shadows of events from across the border are lengthening. Lethal weapons have come in. More may be on the way”.
In April 1989 I had desperately pleaded for immediate action. I said: “The situation is fast deteriorating. It has almost reached a point of no return. For the last five days there has been large-scale violence, arson, firing, hartals, casualties and what not. Things have truly fallen apart. Talking of the Irish crisis, British Prime Minister Disraeli had said: “It is potatoes one day and Pope the next.” Similar is the present position in Kashmir. Yesterday, it was Maqbool Butt; today it is Satanic Verses; Tomorrow it will be repression day and the day after it will be something else. The Chief Minister stands isolated. He has already fallen-politically as well as administratively; perhaps, only constitutional rites remain to be performed. His clutches are too soiled and rickety to support him. Personal aberrations have also eroded his public standing. The situation calls for effective intervention. Today may be timely, tomorrow may be too late”.
Again, in May, I expressed my growing anxiety: ‘What is still more worrying is that every victory of subversionists is swelling their ranks, and the animosity is being diverted against the central authorities.” But you chose not to do anything. Your inaction was mystifying. Equally mystifying was your reaction to my appointment for the second term. How could I suddenly become communal, anti-Muslim and what not?
When I resigned in July 1989 there was no rancour. You wanted me to fight as your party candidate for the South Delhi Lok Sabha seat. Since I had general revulsion for the type of politics which our country had, by and large, come to breed, I declined the offer. If you had any serious reservation about my accepting the offer of J&K Governorship for the second term, you could have adopted the straightforward course and apprised me of your views. I would have thought twice before going into a situation which had virtually reached a point of no return. There would have been no need for you to resort to false accusations.
May be you do not consider truth and consistency as virtues. May be you believe that the words inscribed on our national emblem — SatyamevaJayate — are mere words without meaning and significance for motivating the nation to proceed in the right direction and build a true and just India by true and just means. Perhaps power is all that matters to you — power by whichever means and at whatever cost.
With regard to the conditions prevailing before and after my arrival on the scene, you and your collaborators have been perverting reality. The truth is that before the imposition of Governor’s rule on January 19, 1990, there was a total mental surrender. Even prior to the day (December 8, 1989) of Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed’s kidnapping, when the eagle of terrorism swooped on the state with full fury, 1600 violent incidents, including 351 bomb blasts had taken place in eleven months. Then between January 1 and January 19, 1990, there were as many as 319 violent acts – 21 armed attacks, 114 bomb blasts, 112 arsons, and 72 incidents of mob violence.
You, perhaps, never cared to know that all the components of the power structure had been virtually taken over by the subversives. For example, when Shabir Ahmed Shah was arrested in September 1989 on the Intelligence Bureau’s tip-off, Srinagar Deputy Commissioner flatly refused to sign the warrant of detention. Anantnag Deputy Commissioner adopted the same attitude. The Advocate-General did not appear before the Court to represent the state case. He tried to pass on the responsibility to the Additional Advocate General and the Government council. They, too, did not appear.
Do you not remember what happened on the day of Lok Sabha poll in November 22, 1989 ? In a translating gesture, TV sets were placed near some of the polling booths with placards reading “anyone who will cast his vote will get this.” No one in the administration of Dr. Farooq Abdullah took any step to remove such symbols of defiance of authority.
Let me remind you that Sopore is the hometown of Gulam Rasool Kar, who was at that time a Cabinet Minister in the State Government. It is also the home town of the Chairman of the Legislative Council, Habibullah, and also of the former National Conference MP and Cabinet Minister, Abdul Shah Vakil. Yet only five votes were cast in Sopore town. In Pattan, an area supposedly under the influence of Iftikar Hussain Ansari, the then Congress (I) Minister, not a single vote was cast. Such was the commitment and standing of your leaders and collaborators in the State. And you still thought that subversion and terrorism could be fought with such political and administrative instruments.
Around that point of time, when the police set-up was getting demoralised, when intelligence was fast drying up, when infiltrators in Services were bringing stories of subversive plans like TOPAC, your protégé Dr Farooq Abdullah was either going abroad or releasing 70 hardcore and highly motivated terrorists who were trained in the handling of dangerous weapons, who had contacts at the highest level in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, who knew all the devious routes of going to and returning from Pakistan and whose detention had been approved by the three-member advisory board presided over by the Chief Justice.
Their simultaneous release enabled them to occupy key positions in the network of subversion and terrorism and to complete the chain which took them again to Pakistan to bring arms to indulge in killings and kidnappings and other acts of terrorism. One of the released persons Mohd. Daud Khan of Ganderbal became the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of a terrorist outfit, Al-Bakar, and took a leading part in organising a force of 2,500 Kashmiri youths. Who is to be blamed for all the subsequent heinous crimes committed by these released 70 terrorists? I would leave this question to be answered by the people to whom you are talking about the “Jagmohan Factor.”
The truth supported by the preponderence of evidence is that before January 19, 1990, the terrorist had become the real ruler. The ground had been yielded to him to such an extent that it dominated the public mind. He could virtually swim like a fish in the sea. Would it matter if the sea was subsequently surrounded?
In your attempt to hide all your sins of omission and commission in Kashmir and as a part of your small politics which cannot go beyond dividing people and creating vote banks, you took special pains to demolish all regard and respect which the Kashmiri masses, including the Muslim youth, had developed for me during my first term from April 26, 1984, to July 12, 1989. Against all facts, unassailable evidence and your own precious pronouncements, you started labelling me as anti-Muslim.
May I, in this connection, also invite your attention to three of the important suggestions made in my book, Rebuilding Shahjahanabad: The Walled City of Delhi. One pertained to the creation of the green velvet between Jama Masjid and Red Fort; the second to the construction of a road linking Parliament House with the Jama Masjid complex, and the third to the setting up of a second Shahajhanabad in the Mata Sundawri road-Minto road complex, reflecting the synthetic culture of the city, its traditional as well as its modern texture. Could such suggestions, I ask you, come of an anti-Muslim mind?
How you and your associates use the forum of Parliament to undermine my standing amongst the Kashmiri Muslims was evident from what N.KP. Salve, MP did in the Rajya Sabha on May 25, 1990.
Referring to the so called interview to the Bombay Weekly, THE CURRENT – an interview which I never gave – Salve chose wholly unjustified expressions; “There was a patent and palpable attitude of very disconcerting communal bias and, therefore, he (Governor) was happy under the garb of eliminating the terrorist, the saboteurs and the culprits, in eliminating the whole community as it were; now the Governor has himself given profuse and unabashed vent to his malicious malignity, hate and extreme dislike, branding every member of a particular community as a militant”.
I know Salve. I do not think that if left to himself he would have done what he did. Clearly, he was goaded to say something which was against his training and background. But the elementary precaution which any jurist, at least a jurist of Salve’s eminence would have taken, was to first check whether any such interview had been given by me, and if so, whether the remarks attributed to me were actually made. The unseemly haste was itself revealing. The issue was raised on May 25, while the weekly was dated May 26 June 2, 1990. You yourself rushed a letter to the President on May 25, on the basis of the interview that in reality did not exist. You explained that VP Singh had appointed a person with rabid communalist opinion as Governor. You also got your letter widely published on May 25.
ARTICLE 370 skins the poor, helps parasites’
You created a scene on March 7, 1990 at the time of the visit of the All Party Committee to Srinagar, and made it a point to convey to the people in 1986, that I wanted to have Article 370 abrogated. At that critical juncture, when I was fighting the forces of terrorism with my back to the wall and beginning to turn the corner after frustrating the sinister designs of the subversives from January 26, 1990 onwards, you thought it appropriate to cause hostility against me by tearing the facts out of context. Whether this act of yours was responsible or irresponsible, I would leave to the nation to decide.
What I had really pointed out in August-September 1986 was: ‘Article 370 is nothing but a breeding ground for the parasites at the heart of the paradise. It skins the poor. It deceives them with its mirage. It lines the pockets of the “power elites.” It fans the ego of the new sultans. In essence, it creates a land without justice, a land full of crudities and contradictions. It props up politics of deception, duplicity and demagogy.
It breeds the microbes of subversion. It keeps alive the unwholesome legacy of the two-nation theory. It suffocates the very idea of India and fogs the very vision of a great social and cultural crucible from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. It could be the epicentre of a violent earth-quake, the tremors of which would be felt all over the country with unforeseen consequences.
I had argued, ‘The fundamental aspect which has been lost sight of in the controversy for deletion or retention of Article 370 is its misuse. Over the years, it has become an instrument of exploitation in the hands of the ruling political elites and other vested interests in bureaucracy, business, judiciary and bar. Apart from the politicians, the richer classes have found it convenient to amass wealth and not allow healthy financial legislation to come to the State.
The provisions of the Wealth Tax, the Urban Land Ceiling Act, the Gift Tax etc, and other beneficial laws of the Union have not been allowed to be operated in the State under the cover of Article 370. The common people are prevented from realising that Article 370 is actually keeping them impoverished and denying them justice and also their due share in economic advancement.’
My stand was that the poor people of Kashmir had been exploited under the protective wall of Article 370 and that the correct position needed to be explained to them. I had made a number of suggestions in this regard and also in regard to the reform and reorganisation of the institutional framework. But all these were ignored. A great opportunity was missed.
Subsequent events have reinforced my views that Article 370 and it’s by-product, the separate Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir must go, not only because it is legally and constitutionally feasible to do so, but also because larger and more basic considerations of our past history and contemporary life require it. The Article merely facilitates the growth and continuation of corrupt oligarchies. It puts false notions in the minds of the youth. It gives rise to regional tensions and conflicts and even the autonomy assumed to be available is not attainable in practice.
The distinct personality and cultural identity of Kashmir can be safeguarded without this Article. It is socially regressive and causes situations in which women lose their right if they marry non-state subjects and persons staying for over 44 years in the State are denied elementary human and democratic rights. And, above all, it does not fit into the reality and requirement of India and its vast and varied span.
What India needs today is not petty sovereignty that would sap its spirit and aspirations and turn it into small “banana-republics” in the hands of ‘tin-pot dictators’, but a new social, political and cultural crucible in which values of truth and rectitude, of fairness and justice, and of compassion and catholicity, are melted, purified and moulded into a vigorous and vibrant set- up which provides real freedom, real democracy and real resurgence to all.
I must also point out that when other States in the Union ask for greater autonomy, they do not mean separation of identities. They really want decentralisation and devolution of power, so that administrative and development work is done speedily and the quality of service to the people improves. In Kashmir, the demand for retaining Article 370 with all its ‘pristine purity’, that is, without the alleged dilution that has taken place since 1953, stems from different motivation. It emanates from a clever strategy to remain away from the mainstream, to set up a separate fiefdom, to fly a separate flag, to have a Prime Minister rather than a Chief Minister, and Sadr-i-Riyasat instead of a Governor, and to secure greater power and patronage, not for the good of the masses, not for serving the cause of peace and progress or for attaining unity amidst diversity, but for serving the interests of ‘neo elites’, the ‘new Sheikhs.’
All those aspiring to be the custodians of the vote-banks continue to say that Article 370 is a matter of faith. But they do not proceed further. They do not ask themselves: What does this faith mean? What is its rationale? Would not bringing the State within the full framework of Indian Constitution give brighter lustre and sharper teeth to this faith and make it more just and meaningful?
In a similar strain, expressions like ‘historical necessity and ‘autonomy are talked about. What do these mean in practice? Does historical necessity mean that you include, on paper, Kashmir in the Indian Union by one hand at a huge cost and give it back, in practice, by another hand on the golden platter? And what does autonomy or so called pre-1953 or pre-1947 position imply? Would it not amount to the Kashmiri leadership say: ‘you will send and I will spend; you will have no say even if I build a corrupt and callous oligarchy and cause a situation in which Damocles’Sword of secession could be kept hanging on your head’?