By Nimesh Bansal
Kashmir has always been an issue that simultaneously divides and unites the nation. Everyone opines on how to handle the perpetually delicate issue of Kashmir, while everyone agrees that it is, unequivocally, a part of India and must remain as such. Tensions flare every time the issue is brought up and every time a political leader deigns to provide two cents on the incendiary issue.
Azadi implying autonomy for P. Chidambaram
Addressing a gathering in Rajkot, Congress leader and former Union Minister, P. Chidambaram advocated greater autonomy for Kashmir saying, “The demand in the Kashmir Valley is to respect the letter and spirit of Article 370, that means they want greater autonomy. My interactions in J&K led me to the conclusion that when they ask for azadi, mostly, I am not saying all, the overwhelming majority, they want autonomy. Therefore, I think that we should seriously consider in what areas we can give autonomy to J&K.” He also questioned the government’s appointment of former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as the interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir. Calling it a “diversionary” tactic, Chidambaram said, “The appointment of the interlocutor should not lead us to think that there is a change of heart of the government. I don’t believe that there is a change of heart or change of approach. I still believe that they will continue to hold on to the muscular policy and military solution.”
Condemnation from across party lines
Chidambaram’s comments have drawn the ire of not just the ruling government but even his own party. Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala distanced the Congress from P. Chidambaram’s statement saying, “An opinion of an individual is not necessarily the opinion of the party.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi mounted perhaps the sharpest attack on Chidambaram for “shamelessly using the same language that separatists use in Kashmir and the language used in Pakistan.” He added, “Those in power till yesterday suddenly take a U-turn and shamelessly raise their voice for Kashmir’s azadi. We will not compromise with the country’s unity and integrity nor allow anyone else to.”
Modi proceeded to take a jab at the Congress as a whole, saying, “This is an insult to our brave soldiers. Now I can imagine why Congress leaders were angry after surgical strikes.” The Prime Minister questioned whether the Congress can do any good for the country as they are determined to politicise sacrifices of soldiers. The Congress had condemned last year’s surgical strikes at terrorist camps across the line of control in Pakistan. Party leaders had termed the strikes as “fake” and demanded proof, while party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi alleged that Narendra Modi was profiting from the blood of soldiers.
Chidambaram maintains his “disgusting” stance
Unmoved, P. Chidambaram offered a rebuttal saying, “The prime minister is imagining a ghost and attacking it. It is obvious the prime minister has not read the whole answer to the question put to me on Jammu and Kashmir. Those who criticise must read the whole answer and tell me, which word in the answer was wrong.” This, however, did not stop Union Minister Smriti Irani from terming Chidambaram’s comments as “disgusting”. She said, “It is quite shocking and disgusting that P. Chidambaram today speaks about breaking the Union of India into pieces, and supports those who actually murdered our security forces just so they can play havoc with the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir.” She added that she was not surprised by Chidambaram’s comments as they “reflect the Congress’s mentality”. Irani went on to say, “What is the message Congress is trying to give, that at their doorstep of political gain, they are willing to sacrifice nationhood?”
Easier said than done
The relentless flak for P. Chidambaram may be justified with a quick look at history. He served as the finance minister and home minister during the UPA government, who during its 10-years term, appointed three interlocutors and five working groups for Kashmir. While all the working groups and interlocutors had submitted their reports, none of them was ever presented. After failing to address the issue during his time in office, Chidambaram is taking the easy route in criticising the incumbent government in its efforts to resolve conflict in India’s most contentious state.
The issue is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, especially with the opposition unnecessarily stirring things up. But with the general elections on the horizon, one should not expect either the ruling party or the opposition to miss a chance to score some political points whatever the cost.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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