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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

BELATED UNNECESSARY ADVICE ON KASHMIR BY MR CHIDAMBARAM Belated brainstorm Editorial 27 July 2016 It is always amazing, at times amusing as well, how a brief spell out of ministerial office causes a great deal of sagacity to descend on the person with “nothing official” to do. And when that new-found wisdom is broadcast by someone as articulate as P Chidambaram, there is decided hypocrisy injected into the discourse. There is nothing particularly new to his “take” on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and there would be many who would agree that “greater autonomy” would contribute towards a solution of the question that has cost the nation so much these past several decades. Yet, as a “core” minister and member of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi’s inner circle he must explain his inability to “sell” previous governments his current “pitch”. There would certainly be several Kashmir-watchers who would endorse Chidambaram’s argument that, “we have ignored the grand bargain under which Kashmir acceded to India.I think we broke faith, we broke promises and therefore we paid a heavy price”. Would he have the moral and political courage to include Nehru and Indira Gandhi among those guilty? Why go that far back in history, for surely Rajiv, PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh (not to mention puppeteer Sonia) are put squarely in the dock when he observes that “we look at Kashmir as an issue of land, but this is a problem of people instead.” And since it could be a while before he finds himself in a position of ‘sarkari’ authority again it is easy to pontificate “let the people of Kashmir frame their laws within the ambit of the Constitution. We have to assure that we will respect identity, history, culture, religion”. The scholar in Chidambaram would do well to scan the host of accords, recommendations of expert groups etc and tell us if all that has not been advocated in the past but “registered” little in New Delhi irrespective of who was in power. He was certainly around when the switch from “azadi” to “autonomy” was hailed as positive in some quarters, but again backed off from leading the political class down a remedial avenue. Even today the Congress party appears reluctant to adopt the Chidambaram position as its official stance probably because it apprehends that it would be risking its electoral prospects elsewhere if it did so. In an immediate context BJP-bashing on Kashmir might be deemed opportune, but there is very little about the ugly scenario of today that has not been seen before. The former home and finance minister must either toil within his party to adopt “greater autonomy” as its Kashmir anthem, or desist from sermonising. Or accept the charge of being a hollow charlatan.

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