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J&K: Time for gratitude, not petulance

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October 26, 2005 17:08 IST

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq is angry. So are Mehbooba Mufti and other political leaders in the Kashmir Valley. And so too is M J Akbar, the editor-in-chief of The Asian Age in Delhi. All of them are indignant in various degrees that the people of India have not done enough for their Kashmiri brethren struck by the earthquake of October 8.

All of them need to be taken head-on for holding such a thoughtless and unkind view of we Hindustanis outside the Valley.

Start with Mirwaiz Farooq. This leading Muslim cleric and chief of a faction of the Hurriyat does not recognise the sacred Constitution of India. He admits being an Indian citizen only under duress -- that's the only way, you see, that he can secure the nation's passport which enables him to travel to Pakistan and elsewhere.

He is not known to have ever criticised Pakistan's aid and abetment of jihadi terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere on mother India's soil. He is not known to have ever pleaded for funds to rehabilitate the 300,000-odd Kashmiri Hindus (aka Pandits) whom the Islamists hounded out of the Valley into the slums called refugee camps.

He is not known to have ever accepted the legal and constitutional accession of J&K to India. And here he is now, belittling our help, totally ignoring all that our government and its army quickly did and is doing for the earthquake victims in the Valley.

Why does he suddenly think that we are answerable to him and his Hurriyat and his J&K?

Take Mehbooba Mufti. The president of the ruling PDP in J&K and daughter of the state's chief minister had, during the National Democratic Alliance regime, complained on a television show that J&K had never had a free and fair election, that her state's aspirations for autonomy had been unfulfilled.

Meant to be a criticism of Delhi, this "unfair" election business is, at best, a half-truth, because the elections to the state's Constituent Assembly in 1951 and to the state assembly in 1957 were not held under the direction of the Election Commission of India whose jurisdiction was extended to J&K only in 1962.

Further, under Section 141 of the J&K State Constitution, all matters relating to elections to the state assembly, including preparation of electoral rules and the delimitation of constituencies, are governed by legal provisions enacted by the state legislature -- not by the Government of India as is the case with all other states of India. And what's "fair" about thousands of Hindu refugees from Pakistan settled for years in her state being eligible to vote in the Lok Sabha polls but denied the ballot paper for the state assembly elections by virtue of Section 140 of the J&K State Constitution?

As for denial of autonomy to J&K, this discrimination in denying voting rights to those who are not recognised as "permanent residents" of the state and J&K's freedom to reject the applicability in the state of any Parliamentary law or amendment to the national Constitution are but two of the various proofs that J&K is indeed the most autonomous state in India.

Three years ago, soon after coming to power in the state, Mehbooba pleaded with Bollywood to re-start film shooting in the Valley's locales. Has she ever made a plea to anyone in or outside the Valley to help improve the living conditions of refugees called Kashmiri Pandits? Did her state contribute anything at all to the tsunami victims last year or to Maharashtra's flood victims this year? What moral right then does she, her PDP or Farooq Abdullah's National Conference have to expect us outside the Valley to drip with the milk of human kindness for those who, all these decades, have perceived themselves as divine Kashmiris and us as mere Hindustanis from alien territory?

Akbar's grievance about the "abstemiousness" of our business houses in financial contributions to earthquake relief in J&K (The Asian Age, October 16) is particularly vicious because he raises the question as to whether corporate India is communal. He answers it deviously by stating that the primary instincts of our private sector have been anti-Muslim as evinced by the number of jobs given to that community.

This view of alleged bias cleverly ignores the educational and professional qualifications of those selected and excluded in private sector jobs. But that view was even otherwise demolished by two published letters in the press from common citizens.

One argued that liberal corporate donations for the Bhuj (Gujarat) earthquake relief poured in because it was in the interest of India Inc that there be a quick revival of business, commercial and industrial interests of that state; in contrast, J&K's exclusivist and inward-focussed approach had failed to create strong bonds with the rest of the country.

The second letter stated that since the latitude permitted under Article 370, so sacred for J&K politicians, enabled state legislation preventing outsiders from purchasing property in that state, the Kashmiris had now no right to expect munificent aid from ignored entrepreneurs in the rest of India.

Besides, India Inc and the tax-paying community of this country have already had an abysmally disproportionate share of their paid taxes given away by Delhi to J&K merely to keep that Muslim-majority state in good humour.

Thus, as calculated by Arun Shourie in 2000, the Central per capita assistance to Kashmir was 14 times that to Bihar, 11 times that to Tamil Nadu and 6 times to beleaguered Assam (Interview in The Times of India, July 8, 2000). Further, from 1990 to 2002, Central grants and assistance to Kashmir was the highest at Rs 35, 571 crores, and this trend of getting more Central assistance than any other State has continued since 1995 (India Today, Oct 14, 2002). In contrast, what has been J&K's contribution to the central pool of tax revenues?

If Mirwaiz Farooq, Mehbooba Mufti & Co are not to alienate the rest of India any more, they must look upon the current devastation in J&K as the apt moment for the Valley's political class -- and their thoughtless sympathisers in the media -- to express gratitude for all the financial help and armed security they've got all these years rather than continue with their habit of being petulant and grumpy. They must realise once and for all that Hindustanis are kind and generous, almost to a fault, but are certainly no fools.

Arvind Lavakare