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Will RSS Back Kashmir Autonomy?
|by Rajinder Puri|
Resolving the Kashmir dispute would require the completion of two phases of negotiation. There are diffeences between the Centre and the Valley. There are also differences between New Delhi and Islamabad. Defusing differences with the Valley is the first and urgent phase. Having achieved that defusing differences with Islamabad is the second but necessary phase. It would be unrealistic to believe that for a lasting and stable Kashmir solution Islamabad can be altogether ignored. So. how might the first phase be completed in order to facilitate initiation of the second phase?
This scribe in the past had made proposals for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Now, substantially conforming to the spirit of those proposals there have been expressed two views couched in terms more acceptable than mine. The two views were expressed respectively by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and RSS ideologue and former spokesperson MG Vaidya. Both views are not only compatible but are even complementary.
Omar Abdullah resorted to semantic quibbling by trying to draw a distinction between Kashmir's 'accession' to India from its 'merger'. But the central point of his complaint was valid. New Delhi did not honour the agreement between the central government and the National Conference in letter and in spirit. Omar's second point was unexceptionable. He urged the government to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan insead of continuing with the futile mollycoddling of Hurriyat separatists.
Vaidya of the RSS has proposed a radical solution that makes sense going by ground realities. He has proposed that the Valley be restored the pre-1953 autonomy that was granted to Sheikh Abdullah. He has insisted of course that first the Kashmiri Pandits must be honourably rehabilitated in the Valley. The Valley would have its own Prime Minister with powers over all subjects other than defence, currency, foreign affairs and telecommunications. The Valley would of course remain firmly under the President of India who would continue to appoint the Governor. He has recommended the retention of Article 356 to ensure national integrity but at the same time the strengthening of Article 370 to discourage separatism. He suggests the continuing role of the Election Commission and the Supreme Court. Vaidya has recommended that Jammu be given separate statehood and Ladakh be made a Union Territory. Vaidya wants the Centre to call a roundtable conference to discuss all these issues. All these views are contained in a paper circulated by Vaidya among his colleagues.
This is a startling departure from the known Sangh Parivar stand. Not surprisingly the BJP has rubbished Vaidya's proposals. It might be argued that Vaidya is no more an office bearer in the RSS and therefore may be considered a maverick. But Vaidya is too senior and important a leader to be dismissed as a loner. Quite likely the RSS has flown a kite through him. It may be recalled that the RSS had earlier proposed the division of J&K into three segments. It is the autonomy proposal for the Valley that is new. That the distance between the RSS and the BJP is growing became evident from the restrained view of the Ayodhya court judgment expressed by RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat in contrast to the utterances of LK Advani and other BJP leaders.
It is welcome that political leaders are beginning to think out of the box in search of solutions to long lasting problems.One hopes this breaks down the barriers that were erected between them by events of the past. A fusion of views between Omar Abdullah and Vaidya could well provide a middle path that leads to a solution in Kashmir. Interaction between them and among other political leaders seeking an end to the impasse in Kashmir is long over due.
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