Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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Relevance of the ‘Vajpayee Doctrine’

Dr Ashok Bhan

Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee poured his heart out when he famously announced in a public rally in Srinagar in April 2003 that issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the principles of ‘Insaniyat’, ‘Jamhooriyat’ and ‘Kashmiriyat’. ‘Vajpayee doctrine’ has been quite often debated and variously interpreted. One unmistakable inference that can be drawn is that it was enthusiastically received by the people of the state. The statements emanating from Kashmir, including from separatists’ camp, mourning Vajpayee’s passing away is a testimony to the high esteem in which he was held. He had created a striking impact and generated hope. As we grapple with the complex situation in the State, his death brings into focus a need for revisiting the entire gamut of handling Jammu and Kashmir and relations with Pakistan.

Despite backstabbing by Pakistan through Kargil misadventure and heightened violence in its aftermath, the Vajpayee Government announced a unilateral ‘non initiation of combat operations’ (NICO) on November 28, 2000 which lasted 185 days. Vajpayee wanted to give peace a chance and initiated political dialogue through K.C.Pant. Militancy in the Valley at that time was largely driven by terrorists sent by Pakistan some of whom were battle-hardened fighters of the Afghan war. As in the case of ceasefire announced this year during holy month of Ramzan, NICO of 2000 did not yield the desired results.
Despite this India hosted Gen Musharraf for the Agra Summit in May 2001. The Srinagar assembly attack in October and Parliament attack in December 2001, whose origin was traced to Pakistan, did not deter Vajpayee from pursuing peace. India and Pakistan agreed to a ‘comprehensive ceasefire’ along IB, LoC and Siachen from November 25, 2003. This ceasefire brought to an end unlimited miseries to which border dwellers were subjected to and held for nearly five years. Vajpayee travelled to Islamabad in January 2004. Around the same time the first meeting between separatist leadership and then deputy prime minister L K Advani took place in New Delhi. The point being made is that peace process is a non-linear, step-by-step, long drawn exercise in a continuous sequence. It must include all key players and it should have consistency. The Vajpayee approach had all these ingredients and that is why it attracted all round attention and acclaim.

But there is a caveat. There needs to be willingness among key players to sit across the table. It is here that the separatists will have to do serious soul searching. They must realize that spurning offers of talks will only prolong the miseries of the people. Similarly, ‘Maximalist’ positions like ‘right of self determination’ or ‘Azaadi’ and ‘assimilation’ to the Union will not allow any forward movement. The competing regional aspirations on the two sides of Pir Panchal will need to be harmonized.

‘Insaniyat’ is best explained as a meeting of hearts and minds. This has to be achieved through both words and deeds. The unpardonable error of painting all with the same brush has created a serious trust deficit. While priority for the Government has to be to restore peace by targeting terrorist and their over ground support structure, it must simultaneously reach out to the people and take citizen-centric measures. A responsive Governor’s administration and a spell of all round development will help ‘cool the tempers’. Special attention to harness energies of youth in sports, education, skills development and employment in and outside Jammu and Kashmir can help reduce ‘hate’ and ‘anger’.

Successive Governments have given primacy to ‘Jamhooriyat’ by their commitment and consistency in holding free and fair elections uninterruptedly since 1996. This is made out by holding assembly elections despite a large number of incidents of terrorist violence and killings of political activists in 1996 and 2002; inter-regional tension and violence after Amarnath Land row in 2008; and devastating floods in 2014. Periodic elections to the Indian parliament and path breaking Panchayat elections in 2011, held after four decades, with a voter turnout of over 80 percent, supplemented this effort. The democratic deficit of the electoral variety had largely been diminished as people voted in large numbers in 2014 assembly elections, even from constituencies having sizeable separatist following. The faith in the Indian democracy was at its peak.

The announcement by the Governor’s administration of its intent to hold Municipal elections in September-October and Panchayat elections in October- December this year is a positive development for strengthening ‘Jamhooriyat’. It will help test the waters for future Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections. The Government will have to take all political parties into confidence to devise a well informed strategy so that these elections offset the dent in democratic process caused by poor turnout in Lok Sabha bye election in Srinagar in 2017 and inability to hold Anantnag PC bye poll. Any attempt to abuse the mandate of 2014 will damage faith in ‘Jamhooriyat’ achieved through credible elections and respect for popular mandate achieved since 1996.

‘Kashmiriyat’, the age old legacy of amity and brotherhood, received a serious blow under the onslaught of Pak sponsored terrorism. Kashmiri Pandits were forced into exile. Guns, killings and destruction were alien to ‘Kashmiriyat’. The influence of Sufi Islam was so strong that the puritans were kept at the fringes of Kashmir’s religious and social life despite introduction of ‘Salafi’ thought over a century back. But admittedly the ‘Salafi’ thought promoted by Jamiat-e-Ahle-Hadees has permanently dented the Sufi traditions of Kashmir. Kashmir’s unique identity has been eroded. This cultural shift, alongside many other causes, has promoted radicalization and added to alienation. It is primarily for Kashmiris to decide how ‘Sufi traditions’ that promoted ‘Kashmiriyat’ can again come to the centre stage.

The ‘Vajpayee doctrine’ envisages a pro-active reaching out to all stake holders by the Government. But it always takes two to tango. The ‘maximalist’ stands on both sides have to be put on the backburner. ‘Insaniyat’ can pave way to a breakthrough by assuaging the feeling of hurt and wronged. Strengthening of ‘Jamhooriyat’ will require State to continue holding free and fair elections and generate faith among the people to exercise their franchise. Every action of the Government will be closely scrutinized for following democratic values and traditions. The onus for creating atmospherics for return of ‘Kashmiriyat’ lies exclusively with the people. ‘Vajpayee doctrine’ is quite relevant and deserves to be given a chance for making a fresh beginning in Jammu and Kashmir.

(The author is Former Director General of Police and Former Member National Security Advisory Board)

(Disclaimer: The views, observations and opinions expressed in above write up of Scoop News are strictly author's own. Scoop News does not take any onus or liability for the veracity, accuracy, validity, completeness, suitability of any of information in the above given write up. The information, facts or figures appearing in the write up in no way manifest the position, standpoint or stance of Scoop News and the Scoop News does not assume any encumbrance or answerability of the same. All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of competent Courts and Forums in Jammu City Only)

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