Manmohan Singh in valley

  • Publish Date: Oct 3 2017 8:16PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Oct 3 2017 8:16PM
Manmohan Singh in valley
Valley will certainly look forward to Dr Singh’s report, particularly what it has to say about safeguarding the Valley’s special status and a solution to the current turmoil
At one level, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s evoked a degree of nostalgia in Kashmir. The past three years of the NDA-led rule in New Delhi have kept Kashmir on edge.  Relentless efforts and noises to strip Kashmir of its special status, the latest of which being the legal challenge to  Article 35A by an allegedly RSS-allied  NGO, have built a largely favourable opinion about Singh’s ten year rule.
So when the Congress delegation headed by him arrived in Kashmir last week and talked to reporters about their engagements in the Valley, a frail Singh with his barely audible voice made for a reassuring presence.
Soon after their arrival, the group held an executive committee meeting of Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee at Hari Niwas. Dr Singh went about his activities in his familiar inconspicuous way while Ghulam Nabi Azad did most of the talking. He batted for the talks with the separatists, saying the option shouldn't be closed. He drew a comparison between his term as the Chief Minister and the situation now.
"We had made south Kashmir militancy-free during my term as chief minister in 2007. But, where is south Kashmir today? It has deteriorated. No one is coming to Kashmir, no tourist. The number of ceasefire violations in these three years is more than the total in 10 years of UPA," he said. "So many soldiers have been killed, common people injured ...And the way small kids including girls have lost their eyes, it did not happen during our time”.
He, however, refused to be drawn into the controversy over the Article 35A saying the issue  had only recently come into limelight and therefore not been incorporated into  their group's agenda when it was formed in April. In Valley Azad’s evasion was understood as a deliberate attempt not to take a public position on the issue as it was approached differently in the state’s two major provinces, Kashmir Valley and Jammu. However, the Valley desperately wanted the Congress to take an unambiguous position on the issue as it is  the major source of the current unease among people, the home minister Rajnath Singh’s recent assurance notwithstanding.
 Tariq Hameed Karra, top J&K Congress leader, however, said that Congress was committed to safeguarding the Article 35A. “There is no way we will allow its withdrawal. We can’t be ambiguous about this. It is Congress which gave special status and the Article 35A to J&K and how can we allow it to be taken away. There are no two opinions about it,” Karra said. “State subject law in J&K already existed at the time of the independence. Article 35A guaranteed its continuance and was negotiated between the state and the Congress government at the centre”.
Karra said the teammet around 54  delegations to get a sense of the prevailing situation in the state. He, however, said the Congress hadn’t invited anyone for the meeting and that everybody was free to meet them, even the separatists if they wanted to.
“It was a voluntary participation by the civil society groups. We didn’t extend invitation  to anybody,” Karra said adding the current Congress engagement with the state was an ongoing process and will continue in future. “This is only our first round. We have to go to Ladakh now. The process will continue and at the conclusion of it we will present a report to the party president”.
Among the civil society groups which met the delegation was Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies headed by Dr Hameedah Nayeem, the wife of Hurriyat leader Nayeem Khan.  The organization urged Congress to float “a proposal in parliament for the restoration of the pre 1953 position as a grand CBM to be followed by the final resolution through meaningful time bound tripartite negotiations”.
Dr Singh, on his part, chose to only listen and not issue any statement, nor talk to media. But he struck a chord as a throwback to a time when centre apparently tried to be sensitive if not accommodative  towards the issues facing the state.
“At least in Dr Singh’s time, the central government wasn’t seen explicitly involved in or conniving with the forces out to undermine Article 370, albeit insecurities on these fronts  persisted," said the local columnist Naseer Ahmad. "And also the discourse was about the resolution of Kashmir, not its forcible  integration into the country".
Singh's ten years at the helm had also witnessed the most promising peace process between India and Pakistan which had nearly culminated into  the resolution  of Kashmir.  At one point of time as the Kashmir solution seemed within reach, Singh had famously talked of a time when people in India would be able to have “breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul”.
There was some criticism of Dr Singh too. Some people argued that despite making attempts and starting many initiatives on internal and external fronts to resolve Kashmir, Singh had baulked at taking these to their logical conclusion. Besides holding substantive  negotiations with Pakistan over the then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf's four point formula for Kashmir resolution, Singh had also set up five working groups and the three-member group of interlocutors to evolve a comprehensive response to the state's problems but  none of their recommendations was followed through.
However, Valley will certainly look forward to Dr Singh’s report, particularly what it has to say about safeguarding the Valley’s special status and a solution to the current turmoil.