Calling for a “unique political solution” in violence-hit Kashmir, former Union home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said the government should revert to the “original terms” under which the state acceded to India in 1947 and allow Kashmiris to frame their own laws within the ambit of the country’s Constitution.
“We ignored the grand bargain under which J&K acceded to India... we broke our promises, we broke our faith and we paid a price for 40 years... Turn the clock back all the way to 1947 and the original terms of accession to the extent that is today possible,” the senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP said in an interview to India Today.
His remarks came as the Valley entered day 12 of a curfew imposed after protesters took to the streets against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. More than 40 people have been killed in the ensuing clashes with security forces and scores have been admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries.
“I think, I may be right or wrong, what is necessary is to give the people of Kashmir the assurance that the grand bargain under which they acceded to India will be fully honoured. They will be part of India, but the bargain will be honoured,” Chidambaram said.
He also called on the government to practice what it had preached to Sri Lanka for Tamil areas and urged the devolution of asymmetric powers. He warned the situation in the Valley “can sharply deteriorate” if Kashmiris are not allowed a greater say in governance and administration.
Within hours, the BJP hit back saying it was the Congress-led UPA government which had failed to handle the Kashmir issue. “Raking up the accession issue reflects the Congress mindset, the genesis of which began with Pt Jawaharlal Nehru’s handling of J&K, which could not align with the rest of India like other states that merged under the leadership of Sardar Patel,” BJP secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said.
During the interview, Chidambaram, referring to the act that gives the army special powers of detention, said: “I must confess that we were not willing to overrule the defence establishment. Opinion within the government was sharply divided. There was hardly any support to repeal or amend AFSPA.”
He, however, said the ruling BJP-PDP combine in J&K and the Centre were worsening the situation in the Valley. “Now governments both in Delhi and Srinagar are mishandling it very, very badly. Kashmir is not about the land… we are completely misunderstanding them.”
Taking on the BJP, he said: “If there is anything that the Kashmir people loathe, it is the BJP’s ascendency. The legitimacy of the government does not take away from the fact that it sends a threat among the people,” he said.
Asked whether his suggestions would receive a favourable reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said: “I don’t know what his fundamentals beliefs are. If his fundamental belief is that India must be a majoritarian state, whatever I said will be a complete waste on him.”