Problem Children

Journalists, intellectuals and academicians have a crucial role in creating informed public awareness about issues and problems confronting nations and the world. Unlike politicians, who have myopic objectives and petty political interests to pursue, the approach of an intellectual should be secular, cosmopolitan and pragmatic. Many intellectuals in India, sailing as they are in politicians’ boats, have bigoted approaches and are yet to grow to that stature.

Incessant commentaries and discussions on different facets of Indo-Pak relations that the electronic media carried parallel to the Agra summit had one thing in common; misplaced nationalism and patriotism had pride of place in most of them. None of the participants was ready to accept historical realities and the centrality of the Kashmir issue in relations between the two countries. Instead of apprising people about historical realities on Kashmir, they resorted to concealing and distorting facts. The existence of the Kashmir problem cannot be wished away, neither can its potential to bring South Asia to the brink of a nuclear disaster. There is no scope for disagreement on the historical realities of the Kashmir dispute.

The dispute was born out of the last Dogra ruler’s initial vacillation on the future of the state, his signing a controversial and conditional instrument of accession with India, and his invitation to the Indian army to put down a rebellion within his own troops and to fight back the tribes from the northern areas. The complexity of the issue was compounded after the then prime minister, out of his passionate attachment to his native land, took the matter to the United Nations. It is a historical fact that from day one, people of the state have been up in arms against the instrument of accession and have been demanding the right to self-determination. Notwithstanding the popular belief that Sheikh Abdullah enjoyed popular support for endorsing the instrument of accession, the hard reality is that he had used shock and terror to suppress all voices of dissent and put more than ten thousand people behind bars. The support that he had was more for his economic and agrarian reforms than for his politics. Intellectuals, journalists, academicians and former bureaucrats who have dominated Doordarshan, private television channels and newspaper space for the past few days have not only ignored the historical realities but have added to the confusion of the common man. People need to be told that the Kashmir problem is eating into the vitals of the country’s economy and has to be resolved for the betterment of the public.

Ever since he assumed office, prime minister Vajpayee has been striving for ushering in an era of peace in the South Asian region. It has been his deep urge to see India and Pakistan resolve their disputes. He certainly requires no tutorial that the main stumbling block in the relationship between the two countries is the Kashmir dispute and that other issues are only its offshoots. It was this realization that made him invite the Pakistani president, General Musharraf, for talks on all issues including Kashmir. But the verbal tempest whipped up by the intelligentsia in the country over Kashmir can severely hamper the prime minister in talking bolder steps. The Agra summit has provided prime minister Vajpayee and president Musharraf an opportunity to understand each other’s point of view very clearly. This understanding needs to be strengthened by very frequent meetings. To see this understanding culminate into a solution of the Kashmir problem, intellectuals in the country will not only have to accept realities about Kashmir but help the prime minister in resolving the issue.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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