Friday, May 4, 2001, Chandigarh, India


J A M M U   &   K A S H M I R

Pant has to talk to all

Jammu, May 3
Who or which political group can claim to represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Is there any individual or any political conglomerate which can be called the genuine representative of the people of the Kashmir valley?

This question has to be answered by those who on the desirability of holding talks with the representative or representatives of the people of the state. As far as the political stature of various organisations and individuals is concerned, not a single person or political party can claim to be the true representative of the people of the state.

With over one crore population, the state has seven major ethnic groups: Muslims, Hindus, Shias, Gujjars, Pandits, Buddhists and Sikhs. Besides, more than 10 political organisations have some standing in the state. They include the National Conference, All-Party Hurriyat Conference, the BJP, Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party, Awami National Conference, BSP, Democratic Freedom Party, Ladakh Buddhist Association and Janata Dal.

As far as the ethnic groups are concerned not a single community is united. 


  In the Muslim majority state, the majority community members are scattered with their loyalty to the National Conference, the APHC, PDP, Awami National Conference, DFP, BSP, the Congress, the BJP and the JD. Hindus are divided in the same fashion as far as their loyalty to political groups is concerned. Shias, like the Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Buddhists are also a divided lot.

The two prominent minority communities — the Sikhs and the Kashmiri Pandits — are divided among six main political organisations within the community ranks.

In such a situation there is hardly any political group or any individual that can claim to be the genuine representative of the people of the state. Since the cry against the state’s accession with India is mainly confined to the Kashmir valley and some pockets of the Jammu region, one cannot allow any separatist group or the APHC conglomerate of 23 organisations to act as the representatives of one crore people.

The late Sheikh Abdullah represented a major section of the people whenever he went to Delhi for hammering out any agreement. But more important was his personality and there was neither any political organisation nor any individual who had the political stature and strength to oppose the Sheikh. Such a type of leadership is absent these days.

It is in this context that several political leaders question the claim of the APHC that represents the sentiments of the people of Kashmir. Kashmir valley, they say, is not the entire state and there are several lakh people even in the valley who have been silent spectators of the game of wits between the separatists and the mainstream political organisation, especially the government. As such, the APHC has no right to say that it represents the sentiments of the Kashmiris.

The ruling National Conference can stake its claim to being a genuine representative of the people of the state on the strength of the argument that it won a two-third majority in the 67-member Assembly in 1996. However, opponents of the National Conference argue that since the polling percentage in 1996 Assembly elections in the Kashmir valley ranged between 6 and 20, the NC has no right to be the representative of the people of the state because in the Jammu region it bagged only 15 out of 37 seats.

The President of the National Conference and the Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, had rightly suggested to the APHC leaders to contest the elections and test their strength among the masses. The APHC has not accepted the challenge leaving the issue of peoples’ representative unsettled.

In the presence of peculiar diversity and in the absence of unity one cannot accept the argument of the BSP Chief, Sheikh Abdul Rehman that the APHC is not the sole representative of the people or his vituperative “Who is Shabir Shah?”

In such a situation Mr K.C. Pant or for that matter any other negotiator has to talks to the “crowd.” The APHC Chairman, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, does not want to board the bus with the crowd, but he has to do it when there is no single, individual or political party that can represent people of the state during the proposed talk. The government has to talk to the crowd because the overall opinion is divided among various ideologies.Top

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