Former law minister of India, noted lawyer and the self-styled head of the so-called Kashmir Committee is showing signs of ageing. The `lofty’ ideals and principles he stood for seem to have been bartered away for post-retardation rehabilitation.
Nothing wrong in this, but in the process, a movement nurtured by the blood of thousands of human beings cannot be, and should not be, maligned.
During his recent visit to Kashmir, Ram Jethmalani seemed desperate to praise the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his right-wing BJP. He had some relief material for flood victims, and chose to distribute it through an NGO headed and owned by a BJP activist.
At a press conference on Saturday, Jethmalani backtracked from his previous (known) stand on Kashmir. He said that the people of Kashmir had elected their own Constituent Assembly which had subsequently ratified the state’s accession to India. This, according to him, was plebiscite. “Now there is no need of a plebiscite,” he said.
Jethmalani did not use the phrase ‘alternative to plebiscite’. What he said was ‘this is a plebiscite.’ Even the Government of India refrains from using such loaded terminology. All that it has ever dared to say is that people of Kashmir have participated in elections and expressed willingness to stay with India. But Jethmalani calls this a plebiscite. He has a right to his opinion, but we in Kashmir reject such mendacity.
Jethmalani must be aware of the legality and credibility of the Constituent Assembly. Seventy-three out of seventy-five members were elected un-opposed. Nomination papers of opposition candidates were rejected without any reasons being assigned. Kashmir’s most popular leader, who was also the Prime Minister of the state, was put behind bars. The motion for ratification was passed with only one vote of dissent.
And after voicing this, Abdul Ghani Goni, responded to a comment by a member by stressing that the reports presented in the House were not only against the principles of New Kashmir ((Naya Kashmir) but also “smack of Indian imperialist mentality.”
“We are handing everything to the Indian union,” he said. (JK Constituent Assembly Official Report, vol 1, page 739)
Goni also reminded the House of the speech of BN Rau, the head of the Indian delegation at the UN, who told the Security Council on March 29, 1951: “Some of the members of the Security Council fear lest the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir may give its opinion on the accession question. If the Assembly wishes to give its opinion on this subject, it can do so, but this opinion of the Assembly can neither be a binding on the Government of India nor can it be a binding on the Security Council ….”
Goni’s long speech made no difference. At one point, he said: “It seems that members are here only to nod their heads.”
Deviously, Jethmalani accused a section of the Hurriyat leadership of harbouring or nurturing pro-India tendencies. “Do not call them separatists. I am happy to inform you that they are pro-India and want to stay with India,” he told reporters. And as expected, he did not identify them. This has been perceived as yet another attempt to malign the leadership.
The late Abdul Ghani Lone once said that the people of Kashmir never believe Indians, or their radio and television. “But when they say Hurriyat leaders receive money and misappropriate it, they believe it in a jiffy.” Similarly, people used to believe whatever was said against the Hurriyat leaders. But now, they (barring vested interests) have matured, and weigh each and every statement before accepting or believing it. People asked Syed Ali Geelani to withdraw a statement he made during the 2008 Shrine Board agitation. And Geelani Sahib did so without hesitation. He even tendered an apology.
Ram Jethmalani had won respect from a section of the leadership for his stand on Kashmir. Today, he has not only backtracked, but also accused some leaders of being pro-India. Nothing can be more derogatory and insulting in contemporary Kashmir.
The leadership must take a decision at this crucial juncture: keep unscrupulous elements at a distance. Do not entertain them in future. The time spent on this can be utilized better in remote villages helping half-widows, rape survivors and other sufferers. This would connect the latter to the movement and the leadership and ensure their continued participation in the struggle. The people of Kashmir, particularly victims and sufferers, constitute the soul of this movement and the leadership must reach out to them. Of course, those who come from outside need to be heard, but they must sit face-to-face with the leadership, not on its head.