A year in Jammu & Kashmir
In a first of its kind from the crown of India, a Jammu-based research centre -- Indus Research Foundation -- along with Gulshan Books provides a comprehensive annual report on the newsworthy events of 2011, complete with timelines and statistics. Can documenting the history of J&K promise a better tomorrow?
November 16, 2011
Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama visits Jammu. He is received by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and some of his cabinet colleagues. Talking to journalists, the Lama says, “Despite some aberrations here and there, rule of law is in place with open society and freedom of speech in Jammu and Kashmir. Every issue could be settled through dialogue. I think through talks, understanding and relations will improve.” Lauding India for spreading the message of peace, the Dalai Lama said its “message for hundreds of years has been Ahimsa, which means non-violence. This is something very relevant today and there is hope that the message of non-violence will help in promotion of unity and harmony among the people of the world.” On Chinese incursions he said, Bejing did not accept the border as it was with J&K, or Arunachal Pradesh. “Incursions are routine.”
BJP leaders led by its veteran LK Advani holds a massive public rally called Jan Chetna Yatra, in Jammu as part of the nation-wide campaign. Addressing supporters, Advani strongly opposes any attempt for restoration of pre-1953 position in Jammu and Kashmir and warns of sustained agitation. “There were two Prime Ministers and two Presidents in the country —one for the entire country and one for Jammu and Kashmir. The president of J&K was called Sadr-e-Riyasat. This entire practice ended with the agitation and martyrdom of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Today, there is one Prime Miniter, one President, one CAG, one Supreme Court and one Election Commissioner in the country. This was possible due to sacrifice of his life by Mukherjee,” Advani said.
Former Pakistan president Gen Pervez Musharraf tells a Delhi news channel that India and Pakistan were close stealing a deal with some contentious issues like Siachen and Sir Creek in 2007 and papers to settle Kashmir issue were exchanged at the highest level. On his four-point formula for Kashmir, he said, “Yes, we were, moving forward. And I must give equal credit to Prime Miniter Manmohan Singh for being very sincere, for being very flexible, in accommodating points of views from my side and me accommodating his points of view.” Replying to a question whether both the countries had exchanged notes on any of the issues, he said, “Yes, I think, that was on Kashmir mainly. On these two (Siachen and Sir Creek) also. Yes, indeed, whatever we carry out is on paper. On Kashmir also, we were trying to move forward in drafting the deal. In 2007, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s turn to come to Pakistan to seal the deals.” “We hadn’t reached that stage where the final paper of Kashmir had been drafted. We were drafting. There were disagreements but we were trying to resolve them with an open mind. But the other two (Siachen and Sir Creek), and I had said that whether you (Dr Singh) come we have to sign some deal, otherwise it will be totally a failed visit. And he (Dr Singh) agreed. It was Dr Singh’s turn to come to Pakistan. Had he come we would have signed some deal. Whether, it was only Saichen and Sir Creek or Kashmir also. But unfortunately he didn’t come,” he said.
Excerpts from an interview with Zafar Choudhary, director of Indus Research Foundation and editor of Jammu & Kashmir 2012 Annual Review
When was the Indus Research Foundation (IRF) set up and what is the aim of the thinktank?
IRF is a young organisation that’s barely six months old but it is a continuation of an idea that is over a decade old. It was in 2001-02 that I started collecting research resources — books, documents, papers, and statistics on Jammu and we decided to start a thinktank and research centre for J&K. The Indus Research Foundation is a small team of four members and has partnered with national and international organisations to pursue quality research in social sciences and contemporary issues and promote regional dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir.
Why is documentation of the events necessary and why has it taken so long for this kind of report?
Jammu and Kashmir has been a domain of research and inquiry into conflict, politics and a host of other areas in social sciences for decades. Hundreds of books, research papers and theses are written the world over on this region every year. The problem is in gathering objective information in the quickest way possible. This is where documentation is necessary and we are trying to specialise in it. With our collection of research papers, historical documents, agreements and news clippings covering nearly 80 years that will be uploaded on the web in the near future, this problem of information will be solved. The annual review book is part of this entire effort to update the inquisitive learner, scholar, writer and policy maker about the latest news in Jammu and Kashmir.
Why did you choose the diary format? Was it a task to accommodate all the information?
If you look at your daily newspaper, it has several news items across many pages. There is at least one such report, which can be labelled as lead news of the day, which is of longer relevance and worth noting down for future reference. The diary of events as you see in IRF’s annual review is a collection of one major event from almost every day across 2011.
Was there any backlash against the book report from any groups?
No, not really. This collection has been widely welcomed.
Since IRF is a non-political, non-governmental trust, were you concerned about bias creeping into the report?
Well, that is the biggest challenge for every thinktank. Firstly, you have to have conviction for certain issues of importance and then you have to appreciate that there are some people who have different ideas. It is important to stand by your convictions and explain your point without hurting others.
According to you, what was the biggest event of 2011 in Jammu and Kashmir?
The biggest thing about 2011 is that it was a peaceful year. The massive participation of people in elections to the Panchayats was certainly a watershed event. On other fronts the revival of India-Pakistan dialogue at the highest level was a good omen for Jammu and Kashmir.
At the start of the book, you have given the readers an overview of the history of the state that isn’t simply reportage. Why did you choose comment instead of a purely informative report?
IRF’s annual review is your annual newspaper. As you see in the newspaper, the edit page is reserved for free comment. Similarly, the opening overview in IRF’s annual review is an editorial comment.
There is a considerable lack of understanding among citizens of the country about the ground situation in the state. What are the presumptions that people have about J&K and how does this book attempt to change that?
It is true that people in the rest of India do not know much and sadly do not know the entire truth about Jammu and Kashmir. It is the separatist politics and conflict reportage that finds prominent space in the media.
The fact of the matter is that Jammu and Kashmir is moving fast enough as part of shining India. We hope that reportage and backgrounders like the IRF review book and other publications will help bridge this information gap.