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Also in the series (Friday Backgrounder)

IPRI # 91, 14 August 2020
J&K: Integration and Assimilation are not synonymous

IPRI # 89, 7 August 2020
J&K: One year later, is it time to change gears?

IPRI # 86, 31 July 2020
J&K: Omar Abdullah complains, there is no space for mainstream leaders. Should there be one?

IPRI # 83, 24 July 2020
J&K: After the Hurriyat, is the PDP relevant in Kashmir politics today?

IPRI # 79, 10 July 2020
J&K: Four years after Burhan Wani

IPRI # 77, 3 July 2020
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Print Bookmark

IPRI # 91, 14 August 2020

Friday Backgrounder
J&K: Integration and Assimilation are not synonymous.

  D Suba Chandran

I
Facts on the ground

 The following three developments took place in J&K this week.

New Lt Governor on Assimilation

On 14 August, the new Lt General of J&K, on the eve of Indian Independence day made a statement reflecting on what went wrong in J&K, and also projected five targets. Looking back, Mr Manoj Sinha, a politician, who has replaced GC Murmu, a career diplomat, observed: “Unfortunately, some wrong decisions were taken after Independence and these decisions inevitably led to resentment in the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and distanced them from the rest. Generation after generation was sacrificed at the altar of hatred. Instead of countless doors that should have opened for the people in Independent India, numerous doors closed upon the people, and distances increased.” (The Tribune, 14 August 2020)

Looking ahead, explaining the “new journey” he has identified five targets for the government. The Tribune quoted him: “The first target is to put in place a just and transparent system of governance. Secondly, we want to establish a thriving grassroots-level democracy. Thirdly, we wish to ensure maximum welfare by ensuring that every person benefits from government schemes. Fourthly, we are committed to accelerate the development of Jammu and Kashmir. Lastly, economic development, creation of employment opportunities and livelihood will be our primary priority.”

The Hindu quoted the new Lt Gen of J&K making two more observations: on the assimilation of cultures in J&K, and a reference to Vajapayee’s statement on Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat. On assimilation, the new Lt Governor said: “J&K has a time-honoured tradition of assimilating and embracing every religion and tradition right from Kalhan’s Rajtarangini to Shankaracharya’s Advaita, Sufi Islam to the Buddhist philosophy of Mahayana. And this peaceful and syncretic co-existence is reflected in the lives of the inhabitants of this land.” 

On Vajpayee’s statement, he said: “humanity conceded defeat to terrorism for decades in Kashmir, democracy suffered at the hands of vested interests, and Kashmiriyat was massacred to appease the hatred that ensued.”

Shah Faesal quits the party that he founded in 2019

The second major development of the week was related to Shah Faesal, the Chief of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM). Faesal is a former member of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS); he topped the Civil Services Examinations in 2010. He was appointed as an Assistant Commissioner in J&K subsequently in 2012. He served in different departments for the next seven years. He submitted his resignation in January 2019 and mentioned the following as reason: “To protest against the unabated killings in Kashmir, and lack of any sincere reach-out from the Union Government; the marginalization and invisiblization of around 200 million Indian Muslims at the hands of Hindutva forces reducing them to second-class citizens; insidious attacks on the special identity of the J&K State and growing culture of intolerance and hate in the mainland India in the name of hypernationalism, I have decided to resign from Indian Administrative Service.” (The Hindu, 9 January 2019). Subsequently, he floated a new party and attracted many Kashmiri youths to join him.

In August 2019, Faesal was detained along with other political leaders with the changes. On 10 August 2020, he announced stepping down from the JKPM. In an interview to Arun Joshi of the Tribune, he has stated, “That now the facts on the ground have changed, the politics must change accordingly. Those who can adapt will find success.” (The Tribune, 13 August 2020). To the question on violating the service rules, he answered: “All I have done is made some statements and I do regret some of these. Political discourse is such that many times we forget the line between what is necessary and what is absurd. But then I was a new comer and we learn with time.” To another question on the same subject on rejoining the services, he responded: “This is an extraordinary situation and I don’t know what’s in the government’s mind. I am approaching this situation with an open mind. I don’t think the government has taken any decision about it yet.”

The Hindu on the subject also mentioned young faces leaving the party, as there “is a sense of disillusionment after Faesal’s exit and his recent statements.” (The Hindu, 13 August 2020). Is he planning to rejoin the services? According to the Hindu, Faesal has deleted all references to the party, and also the earlier posts. He is quoted to have stated: “I do not want to talk about things I have no power to change. As a member of IAS I have been a stakeholder in the future of this country. I deeply value that connection.”

Violence led by the militants continue in Kashmir Valley, while an investigation ordered on an encounter in July 2020

The third development during the week was related to violence. Attacks by the militants continued. On 12 August, a soldier and a local Hizbul commander were killed in a gunfight. (The Tribune, 12 August 2020). 

On 13 August 2020, the J&K Police have started collecting DNA samples from three families in Rajouri, according to a report published in the Hindu. These families have claimed that the three youths who were killed in an encounter on 18 July in Shopian district in Kashmir valley were not militants. The Hindu (18 July 2020), then quoted “the identity and the affiliations of the slain militants could not be ascertained immediately,” but referred to police official referring them militants “killed in the operation and their bodies were recovered from a cowshed, where they were hiding.” An investigation has been started by the Army, according to another report by the Hindu. It referred to an army spokesman saying: “We have noted the social media inputs linked to the operation at Shopian on 18 July, 2020. The three terrorists killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols. The Army is investigating the matter.”

On 9 August, the Tribune reported resignation of BJP office bearers in the Budgam district of Kashmir valley, following the threat from the militants. During the last one month, according to the Tribune, four leaders of the BJP have been killed.

 

II
Focus Questions in the background

First, the issue of difference between assimilation and integration. This has been a larger question in recent years in Europe vis-à-vis the debate on immigrants. There is adequate literature now on the difference between the two, and whether multi-ethnic and multi-federal nations should pursue a process of assimilation or integration.

The process of assimilation expects absorption of one into the other completely. Integration, on the other hand, looks at co-existence without losing one’s own identity. In this context, the new Lt Governor’s statement on J&K assumes importance. India should aim at the integration of J&K with itself, and also the integration of different regions within. J&K not only has regional distinctions in terms of geography but also in terms of culture, history, religion and other social demarcations. From eating habits to religious worships and spoken languages, J&K is truly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. 

Even the sub-regions – Jammu and Kashmir Valley – are not monolithic within. One could see a visible change, for example in the Jammu region alone, as one travels from Pathankot in Punjab to the westernmost point - Poonch along the Highway. Inside Kashmir, one could observe a similar difference, as one leaves the Jawahar Tunnel, and reach Gurez in the north across the Valley. In between the two regions, along the Pir Panjal, the Doda-Kishtwar-Bhaderwah triangle also has distinct cultures within. 

Is assimilation possible? And is it desirable?

With increasing focus on another idea – the issue of “identity” and its importance to individuals today, the State should look at integration and not assimilation within J&K and with the rest of India. 

Second, the issue of youth leadership. The resignation of Shah Faesal from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS), the formation of a political party in 2019, and quitting that in 2020 would underline the need to stay the course. The youth leaders need patience, especially when they are in a position to influence others. When Shah Faesal topped the Civil Services Examinations and became an IAS officer, there was a narrative from the rest of India. When he resigned and started a party, there was another narrative from the Valley. 

Young leaders like Faesal should have patience and stay the course. Especially when they are seen as a role model. Disruptions come on a single day; changes would take time. Young leaders should have the patience and courage to face both.


Also in the series (Friday Backgrounder)

IPRI # 91, 14 August 2020
J&K: Integration and Assimilation are not synonymous

IPRI # 89, 7 August 2020
J&K: One year later, is it time to change gears?

IPRI # 86, 31 July 2020
J&K: Omar Abdullah complains, there is no space for mainstream leaders. Should there be one?

IPRI # 83, 24 July 2020
J&K: After the Hurriyat, is the PDP relevant in Kashmir politics today?

IPRI # 79, 10 July 2020
J&K: Four years after Burhan Wani

IPRI # 77, 3 July 2020
The Rise, Fall and Irrelevance of Geelani. And the Hurriyat

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