Dr. Ajay Chrungoo 

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Third Round Table Conference

 

By Dr. Ajay Chrungoo

When the government made its intention to hold the Third Round Table Conference in New Delhi, it appeared to be in undue haste. Out of the five Working Groups constituted by Govt. of India during the IInd Round Table Conference held in Srinagar, only four had submitted their reports. The fifth, and the politically most crucial group, was yet to complete its work.  In fact it was not even half way through with its agenda. Out of the four Working Groups which had submitted their reports, the group dealing with Confidence Building Measures headed by Mr. Hamid Ansari (Now the Vice-President of India) had miserably failed to build the consensus.

Dr. Agnishekhar who represented Kashmiri Pandits in this group had dissociated with its recommendations after duly registering his objections. None of the participants had received the reports of the Working Groups even till just before midnight on the eve of the conference. The delegates were handed over the Working Group reports immediately after the dinner hosted by the Chief Minister of the Jammu and Kashmir State, Sh. Ghulam Nabi Azad. The Third Round Table Conference as per the agenda had to discuss these very reports so that they could be duly adopted. It was humanly impossible for the delegates even to have a cursory look on the reports, not to speak of developing a firm opinion on the contents and the recommendations made. Was it the intention of the Govt. of India not to allow time to the delegates to evolve a firm opinion? Perhaps the intention of Govt. of India was to push through the recommendations during the Third Round Table Conference without a due consideration by the delegates.

I tried to have a look on the recommendations of the Working Group dealing with the agenda of Confidence Building Measures. Dr. Agnishekhar had already briefed us about the deliberations of the Working Group as also his written objections and observations to the Working Group report. For me to make some opinion about the recommendations of this Working Group in the short time available appeared little less daunting. As I went through the contents and recommendations of this Working Group headed by none other than the eminent Hamid Ansari I was alarmed. I felt that Govt. of India had embarked on a course of adopting measures for tackling Kashmir problem which would gradually unhinge not only the sovereignty of the nation over Jammu and Kashmir but also cripple nation's efforts to defeat terrorism and separatism. The delay in providing the copies of the reports to the delegates started assuming a new meaning in my mind. The chairman of the Working Group on 'Confidence Building Measures' declares on Page 3 of its report, "The Working Group concerns itself only with the rehabilitation and improvement of conditions of the militancy victims and did not go deeper into the causes or the genesis of militancy in the state":. I wondered how the chairman could devise a framework for helping the victims of militancy without going into the genesis of militancy. Could any body devise measures to help the victims without understanding the causes why they were targetted?

Perhaps a more relevant question which comes to mind is why in the entire report, not once, has the issue of 'terrorism' been mentioned, not to speak of addressing it. Could the victims of terrorism be helped without addressing the issue of terrorism? The report very meticulously and deliberately avoids or circumvents the issue of terrorism. And what is the understanding of the chairman about what constitutes militancy in the state is reflected very clearly by going through its observations on the--'Measures to improve the condition of people affected by militancy". The report observes, "The necessity of curbing human rights violations was stressed by most members of the Working Group. Emphasis was placed on Prime Minister's assurance of 'zero tolerance' for human rights violations as on India's international commitments and international image. It was considered imperative to develop a mechanism in which responsibility for specific human rights violations can be fixed and derelict officials identified and proceeded against". The observations clearly indicate that the report identifies militancy primarily as state accuses, dereliction or acts of commission and ommission. It does not at all consider the issue of terrorism as the prime cause of violence in the state. The report recommends measures to improve the conditions of people affected by militancy like inculcating Human Rights awareness 'in all civil and military government functionaries and in the public' and reviewing and revoking of 'certain laws made operational during the period of militancy e.g., Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Area Act".

With this type of understanding of militancy, advocated by the report of Working Group on 'confidence building measures across the Segments of Society' in the state we were going to the Third Round Table Conference. My apprehensions deepened about the entire gamut of exercises conducted in other Working Groups as well. An attempt seemed to be afoot to set a course for national policy on Jammu and Kashmir, with serious implications--international, regional and local. This could be clearly gauged from the concluding remarks in the same report--

..."It has to be recognized that the problem of militancy and alienation of some sections of the society has to be tackled in a very broad framework in this behalf. Central and State government may consider application of internationally accepted policies in consultation with experts.

...."An unconditional dialogue process should be started with militant groups for finding a sustainable solution to the problem of militancy in the state".

...."The probable role of media should be examined in generating an image of the people of the State so as to lessen the indignity and suspicion youth face outside the state..."

Will the delegates in the Third Round Table Conference be able to grasp and respond to formulation and recommendations of Working Groups which can harm national interest? Will the highest at the helm in Govt. of India including the Prime Minister, Home Minister, National Security Advisor and others attending the Third Round Table Conference see through any measure or recommendation by the Working Group which will damage the national cause in Jammu and Kashmir and will they put their foot down? I had these questions in my mind while I prepared to attend the Third Round Table Conference. The experience of the deliberations of the Third Round Table Conference was mixed. Many delegates rose up to the occasion, called a spade a spade and emphatically cautioned Govt. of India against falling into trap of such perspectives couched in Worked Group reports as observations or recommendations which were detrimental to national interests. The deliberations, did not reflect a unanimous view while the Govt. of India tried hard to ...  a unanimity which could not be arrived at during the conference. However, Govt. of India role during the conference was far from reassuring. It seemed almost helpless and in a state of abject surrender to all such views which undermined and damaged national interests in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. More dismaying was that many a times Govt. of India looked more eager to facilitate these views.

 

Report Submitted by HM Ansari Working Group is disappointing

by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo

Excerpts of the speech made by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo in the Third Round Table Conference at PM House New Delhi.

"Honourable Prime Minister, Sh. Manmohan Singh Ji, Honourable Union Home Minister Sh. Shiv Raj Patil, Honourable Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Sh Ghulam Nabi Azad, To be frank I was little surprised about the haste with which this Third Round Table Conference has been convened. You must be aware that one of the crucial working groups looking into the issue of strengthening Centre State relations has not yet completed its task and is still far away from compiling a report.”

“The reports of other working groups were submitted to us only yesterday at around 10 O'clock in the night immediately after the   dinner hosted by the Honourable Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The participants at IIIrd Round Table Conference  got very little time to study these reports. I hope you will bear with us if we fall short of responding comprehensively to these reports in this conference which has been organised to discuss in detail these very reports.”

"Sir I have gone through the report of the Working Group which addressed the issue of 'Confidence Building Measures’, during the little time which was available to me. This group had to specifically address the issue of Employment and also Rehabilitation of Displaced Kashmiri Pandits".

 

"I must say without inhibition that the report which has been submitted by Mr HM Ansari in this conference is disappointing. It has failed to address the issues for which this working group was constituted, in a proper and comprehensive way".

“The report tends to trivialise substantial issues. Its recommendations are disjointed and many times trespass the specific agenda which it had to address.”

"The Working Group Chairman has tended to address the issue of unemployment and rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri Pandits divorced from the reasons which lead to the exodus and their marginalisation from all spheres of life in the state. Sir, take for example the issue of unemployment amongst the  displaced Kashmiri Hindus. There has been almost a blanket ban on their recruitment in the government services while lakhs from the majority community have been provided employment under special employment packages. Former deputy Chief Minister, Pt. Mangat Ram Sharma tried to bring this issue to the fore by asking the then government that the number of Kashmiri Pandits in the government services be brought to the level as it existed in 1989, just before the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Valley. He repeated the same issue in the Ist and IInd Round Table Conferences. Your goodself appointed an interministerial committee which also recommended almost on similar lines. You yourself put the issue on the national agenda by putting the issue of employment and rehabilitation as one of the main issues to be addressed by the working group ‘on confidence building measures’, in the Second Round Table Conference. You must be aware that immediately after the IInd Round Table Conference the State government responded not by moving in the direction of creating an employment package but by making permanent all the adhoc appointments made in Valley against the posts of the displaced Kashmiri Hindu employees.”

 

“Sir, the problem of denial of employment to Kashmiri Hindus is not a mere callous aberration of the system. It is a very frank symptom of the process of exclusion unleashed by the communal forces entrenched in the government and the political establishment. At the point of gun and terrorist blackmail we were pushed out. Our properties, temples and shrines were plundered after we left. Hundreds of our temples lie in shambles after the loot and plunder unleashed on them. Thousands of our houses have been burnt and destroyed. Leftover properties have been fraudulently encroached and usurped. Through a process of distress sales our homes and hearths are being procured as normal sale deeds. I am mentioning these things only to stress that our  physical cleansing was followed by residential cleansing. And through denial  of employment a form of administrative cleansing of Kahsmiri Hindus has been unleashed. Muslim communal forces in the state do not want us to stay even in Jammu. They have launched a policy of sequeeze to force our diaspora and expulsion from the state. Has the working group addressed these issues? No. To the contrary it has trivalised these issues. The working group has made recommendations on employment and upgradation of camps only in a way that further delay and proctastrination is possible. After so many debates the recommendations of the Working Group still talk about further dialogue and discussion. Why? Our problems have been bracketed with the problems of those who have perpetrated violence in Valley? Did the chairman of Working Group look into the international perspectives and experiences on internal displacements? Recognising the dire necessity of addressing the issue of internal displacement, United Nations Human Rights Commission assigned the task to the Representative of Secretary-General on Internally Displaced persons in 1992. Several years of study by a group of experts under the auspices of this representative took place. The Representative on Internally displaced persons after being requested to develop an appropriate 'Normative framework' recommended drafting of 'guiding principles’ rather than a convention which he suggested would have taken 10-20 yrs to conclude. Sir, 30 Guiding Principles were spelt out. Did the chairman of the Working Group look into these guiding principles before making recommendations for displaced Kashmiri Pandits.”

"Experts of international repute have likened the response to internal displacement to a tripod, with relief, development and protection each forming a leg. Sir government response has so far only concerned itself only with relief aspect and that too in a half hearted way. Concept of protection, and development is absent from the conceptual framework of the government approach. So the government response to internal displacement of Kashmiri Hindus stands almost without legs."

"We cannot devise the concepts of protection, development and even relief, if we do not try to understand and identify the forces at play in the state who perpetrated genocide on Kashmiri Hindus and are hell bent upon their expulsion from the state. The chairman of the Working Group has ignored this aspect totally. Principle 1 of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement affirm that internally displaced persons enjoy in full equality the same rights and freedoms under international and domestic law as do other persons in their country and stresses that such internally displaced persons shall not be discriminated against in the enjoyment of any rights and freedoms on the ground that they are displaced. Successive governments have denied Kashmiri Hindus employment and set into place a process of blatant discrimination which is the violation of the basic rights and freedoms and the principle of equality.”

 

"Sir, in the context of rehabilitation the successive state governments have followed a policy of symbolic, coercive return. They have relied on a process of enforced deprivation and denial to force the Hindus to return and submit to the will of dominant opinion in the Valley. The State government visualises the return by relocating the camps in Valley one way or the other. Principle 14 of the Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons reaffirms the right of every human being to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his or her residence and then specifies that for internally displaced persons this includes a right to move freely in and out of camps and settlements. Successive state governments while building tenements for displaced persons in certain parts of Valley have ignored the entire spirit of this principle. Simply creating a set up for persons whose physical security is under threat at a place only neglects their protection needs. Relocating camps in such places where their security is threatened and where they cannot enjoy the basic freedoms can actually exacerbate and perpetuate their plight. It can create a false sense of security and international experts have warned against such a situation. They have also cautioned that such a process can shore up a repressive regime, create a situation of a long-term dependency and result in creating 'well-fed dead.’ Working Group recommendations appear to be totally ignorant about such perspectives.”

"Sir, State government attitude on return continues to border on a perspective of forceful repatriation. We all know how backlash massacres of Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir Valley were triggered by such return campaigns. International experts have always stressed to look into the refugee law by analogy while developing a framework of the return for internally displaced persons. They have stressed the need to adhere and uphold the principle of non-refoulment which provides protection for refugees against forced return to a situation where they would be at risk of persecution or physical harm. The reference in the Working Group recommendation on return and rehabilitation is devoid of any sensitive understanding of the critical issues involved.”

“Sir, I have repeatedly come across the views of Muslim leaders on the displacement of Kashmiri Hindus in the Round Table Conferences and the Working Group meetings. Today also some of them have spoken on this issue. They want our return because Kashmiriyat has to be repaired. They want the return of teachers and doctors because Kashmiri Muslims want them. Always and everytime when they speak they only discuss Kashmiri Hindus in terms of their utility. And almost always they avoid to discuss the issue of the destruction of a community. It is most unfortunate that the Working Group recommendations emphasise the need to recognise the right of our return and not to ensure our right to live in Kashmir.”

"Sir, Kashmiri Pandits have been subjected to genocide. And we want its comprehensive and permanent reversal. Creation of Panun Kashmir as we have many times stressed is the only way to ensure such a reversal. Government wants to avoid to address the basic issue of genocide and deal with peripheral and superficial issues. It is for these reasons I think that I should not endorse the recommendations of the Working Group dealing with these issues. And I feel it my responsibility to dissociate myself from these recommendations.”

"This Working Group has not addressed the issue of Terrorism at all. In fact it has chosen to describe this heinous crime against humanity as militancy. Under the heading ‘measures to improve the condition of the victims of militancy’ the Working Group on confidence building measures recommends foremost the measures like developing mechanism in which responsibility for specific human rights violation can be fixed and derelict officials identified and prosecuted. It appears that the chairman of the Working Group identifies human rights violation by the government agencies as the foremost concern. It also appears from the recommendations that the militancy in Kashmir is primarily the result of government action or government action is in fact the real militancy in the state. Terrorism as a human rights issue with all its implications seems to be a peripheral concern. Another main recommendation under the same head is the reviewing and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Disturbed Areas Act). It is the primary impingement on the fundamental rights-the report suggests. How terrorism tears apart the civil society, destroys fundamental freedoms and creates a civil society which acts as a sanctuary for violence has not been the concern guiding the recommendations for helping the victims of militancy.”

Sir, we have seen how big powers have used human rights as a vehicle to intervene and subvert the independence of those countries who came out of the colonial yoke and won freedom. With imperial motives such countries devised a selective paradigm of human rights which concerned itself primarily with state abuse and excesses. It appears our own govt has the same paradigm of human rights. Entire human rights concern of the government seems to be aimed to generate a selective state specific sensitivity. It is an apologetic and masochist approach. Sir, Universal Charter on Human Rights clearly and unambiguously states that human rights should be upheld by the state, organs of the society and the individuals. Nothing so far has been done to sensitise the civil society about the menace of terrorism. There has been no education of the organs of society whatsoever as to what are the implications when terrorism takes roots in a civil society. People need to be told why terrorism cannot be justified whatever be its value basis and motivation. Organs of the society need to be sensitised so that they mobilise civil society against terrorism. Process of accountability needs to be created for those organs of society which legitimise terrorism, glorify it or act as indirect abettors”.

“Government has chosen to fight terrorism tying its one hand. I am sure if people are adequately educated about the crippling strains terrorism, generates on the law and order situation it will widen the moral space for government action against terrorism. The excesses which get committed during state action will then be placed in proper perspective while government disciplines its own instruments to stop excesses. In such a way public over-reaction will be minimised.”

"Sir, the government has time and again talked about the dangerous situation at the ground created by terrorism. It has talked about subversion of government agencies by the terrorist sympathisers. It has talked about the atmosphere of intimidation at the ground. How can local enquiry commissions operate fairly in such an atmosphere. Can a witness or an evidence which is in favour of government or security forces muster courage and voluntarily put forward its views to the enquiry commissions. The security forces penalised for human rights violations have yet to get a fair trial".

"Sir, the recent campaigns unleashed in Kashmir valley on custodial killings, Afzal Guru verdict and demilitarisation are aimed to reduce the moral space for state action, demonise the state and present Kashmir as an occupied territory. Out of more than one thousand and five hundred alleged cases of excesses by the security forces and other government agencies more than 95% have proven to be false. Have we ever tried to look into as to who rakes up these false allegations. What is the motivation of such forces? What are their resources? The campaign on Afzal Guru has been no less than a contempt of Supreme Court. Why does government prefer to remain as a mute spectator to overground secessionist campaigns? The working group dealing with issue of militancy has chosen to broadly ignore these issues. It is intriguing that the recommendations of the Working Group on confidence building measures emanate from a paradigm which is alien.”

I have chosen to speak briefly on the recommendations of only one Working Group for the reasons already explained.

I once again reiterate that I dissociate from the recommendations of the Working Group on confidence building measures”.

Thank You.

Dr. Ajay Chrungoo

Chairman

Panun Kashmir

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 
 

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