Is the BJP guilty of stoking the separatism in Jammu and Kashmir by its chase of an electoral agenda? Has the BJP’s wrong timing helped fan separatist beliefs in the valley? Did the BJP not initiate the economic blockade of the valley and if yes, why? These were some of the questions Karan Thapar put to BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley on Devil’s Advocate.
Karan Thapar: Let us start with the BJP’s role in Jammu. How do you justify the fact that the party that preaches nationalism is deliberately pursuing a policy that is inflaming separatism in the Kashmir valley?
Arun Jaitley: I think you are being too naïve when you ask this question. Do you seriously think that the separatists in the Valley have re-launched the separatist movement because of the land issue?
Karan Thapar: Absolutely!
Arun Jaitley: Absolutely not!
Karan Thapar: They’ve been given the opportunity because of the land issue.
Arun Jaitley:Absolutely not and let’s not be naïve. We have been naïve for the last sixty years…those who subscribed to that thought and I won’t be naïve. Let me answer it. First, the separatists lied to the whole country and to the whole world, saying that Hindu colonisation would come up in the Valley. There was no body in the Valley, not even the state government or the Central government that countered that propaganda.
The separatists lied to the whole world saying that there was an economic blockade. Nobody was willing to counter that. We are ones who are countering it. And today we are the ones who are saying that the land transfer is pursuant to a law enacted by the state legislature, pursuant to a direction of the high court. Why should it not be implemented?
Karan Thapar: Alright, I let you speak and let you have your say in full without interrupting. Now let me reply. First of all, it wasn’t the separatists alone who reacted to the land transfer. The PDP and the National Conference, who are not separatists, were just as there.
Arun Jaitley:That’s the tragedy.
Karan Thapar: Well, that’s a fact.
Arun Jaitley:That’s a tragic fact.
Karan Thapar: But it’s a fact, all the same. The second point is that there was a blockade. Figures released by the Jammu and Kashmir horticultural department, which is a part of the official government, prove that between the first of August and the 17th of August this year, only 890 trucks bearing fruit came from Srinagar to the Banihal pass where as last year during the same dates, the figure was 2,148—a fall of nearly sixty per cent.
Arun Jaitley:Let’s be very clear. If there is a bandh and a curfew in Jammu for 50 days, if you have a curfew in the Valley for 30 days plus, business is bound to go down. Please, I have gone to the Valley myself. We asked the Army and the district administration as to what is the position. They gave us the daily figures. This was not the apple season.
They said, we have nothing lying in the stocks and today we have 90 trucks waiting at the sabzi mandis, and there is nothing to be loaded on it. It was a false propaganda. Any fall in traffic could be because of the bandh and the curfew. The fall in traffic was not because of any economic blockade.
Karan Thapar: The fall in the traffic was because your ministers of the Punjab government, Manoranjan Kalia and Mohanlal, were actively creating a blockade at Madhopur. Both of them camped at Pathankot. More importantly, they personally obstructed trucks from Jammu and Kashmir. You cannot deny that.
Arun Jaitley: That is totally incorrect.
Karan Thapar: They haven’t denied that, how can you?
Arun Jaitley:I am denying it for the reason—that there were protests in Jammu and in Punjab which led to the disruption of traffic. The BJP and the Akali Dal leadership in Punjab personally intervened and said: protest on any road but not on the highway because the highway would lead to a stoppage of traffic. Any stoppage on a road because of a protest is not a blockade.
Karan Thapar: You are wrong. Your own MLA Dinesh Kumar Babu said this, he boasted about it. He said, ‘I led the agitation and we will not allow Jammu and Kashmir trucks to ply in Punjab.’
Arun Jaitley:One day there was a problem due to a demonstration. They were told to keep their demonstrations outside the national highway.
Karan Thapar: The fact of the matter is that the drug controller had to appeal for the air-lifting of the drugs, he did it officially. The Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir wrote to the all India pharmaceutical manufacturers’ association to arrange supplies from other cities.
Arun Jaitley:Again half truth.
Karan Thapar: The complete truth!
Arun Jaitley:Half truth, because, the Drug Controller and the Divisional Commissioner, when they appeared before the All-party committee, said that the distributors of these medicines were in Jammu. Because there was a bandh and a curfew and a bandh in Jammu, they could not get it; therefore the manufacturers must directly supply it to the valley. Now it was not because of any blockade.
Karan Thapar: No. I am afraid that’s the half-truth.
Arun Jaitley:Well, I heard the Divisional Commissioner myself, you didn’t hear him. The Divisional Commissioner told the all-party delegation that this was obstructed due to the bandh and the curfew in Jammu so we asked the manufacturer and we have never had a short supply.
Karan Thapar: The reason why this is a half truth is you haven’t answered why was there an obstruction taking place and the reason is this. Drivers were scared to cross. At Rambhan, traffic stopped, which is why there is a blockade, which is why people’s livelihood is suffering.
Arun Jaitley:This is again a partial and tainted presentation of facts. Fact is that drivers on both sides were afraid to cross and therefore needed security and we were told security is being provided.
Karan Thapar: And that is why the Valley felt cut-off and that is why later on the separatism was inflamed.
Arun Jaitley:The Valley was never cut off. There was not a single packet of fruit lying there for the want of transportation out. The Divisional Commissioner said they had abundant supplies of medicines brought directly to the valley.
Karan Thapar: Excuse me but Mobin Shah, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, has said that if the fruit industry in Kashmir is worth Rupees 2,500 crores, it has suffered loss of a thousand crore. Well, that is almost 40 per cent.
Arun Jaitley:Well, Mobin Shah is a part of the Hurriyat. He refused to meet the all-party delegation. He was leading those trucks going to Muzaffarabad. He was preventing the trucks from loading up at the vegetable market, which the divisional commissioner had put up. Ninety trucks had been put up. He was preventing that from being done. Lets not take his statement as the gospel truth.
Karan Thapar: Alright , lets then go away from the ‘tu-tu-main-main’ (arguments and bickering) and let us look at other facts. You know that Kashmir is a different state from any other state in India. It is disputed territory between Indian and Pakistan. It is an unresolved matter if you take the Lahore declaration, which your government signed.
In those circumstances, to persist with the blockade when it had led to calls for the opening of the Muzaffarabad border was like pouring oil on fire. You did that. You inflamed sentiments that were latent. You created a secessionist movement.
Arun Jaitley:Do not give weight to the falsehood spread by the separatists that there was any economic blockade. The Army’s position is that there is no blockade; the government’s position is that there is no blockade and the Sanghash Samiti told us that there never was a blockade and there won’t be a blockade.
Karan Thapar: So how come shopkeepers are complaining of shortages of medicines and vegetable?
Arun Jaitley:We were told personally by the Divisional Commissioner that there was no shortage of medicines as far as the hospitals were concerned. The Governor maintained that. Let’s not go by the Hurriyat propaganda.
Karan Thapar: I am not going by the Hurriyat propaganda. I am going by what ‘The Indian Express’, ‘The Times of India’ and ‘Hindustan Times’.
Arun Jaitley:I am going by what the district administration, the hospital, the Army and administration have told us. Let me tell you one more thing. I do not accept this proposition of Kashmir being a disputed territory. It may be Pakistan’s unfinished agenda after partition and our Independence.
Karan Thapar: The Lahore declaration signed by your government says that it is an outstanding issue. So clearly, it means that it is unresolved. Your own government said so.
Arun Jaitley:The only outstanding issue, and I reiterate it, is Pakistan must accept that Kashmir is an integral part of India and India will not under any circumstances barter away or part with an inch of its territories.
Karan Thapar: That may be your interpretation but the fact of the matter is that the world recognises Kashmir as a disputed situation. The government on many occasions has said that it requires a final settlement.
Arun Jaitley: I am afraid that due to the erroneous policies of the government of India in the late forties and early fifties, there was some inter-nationalisation of the issue. The last few years, the world is not willing to internationalise the issue.
Karan Thapar: But your government has accepted it.
Arun Jaitley: Especially after 9/11, the world is not going to listen to separatist organisations like this which have used violence as an instrument of separatism.
Karan Thapar: Let me come to the core issue that you do not want to focus upon and it is this. For the last ten years increasingly, the separatist movement was dying down. This year there was a record turnout of tourists. And yet, what has the BJP implemented economic blockade in Jammu done? It has inflamed separatist tendencies to the point at which the separatists today are thanking you. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the most hard-lined Islamist, has publicly said, “I thank the BJP for reviving a movement which was lagging.”
Arun Jaitley:I do not think that we need that compliment or thanks from him. Let me make it clear. We are only supporting the demand of the Amarnath Sanghash Samiti in Jammu and the demand precisely is this. You have lakhs of tourists going, the shrine board has a duty under law to maintain pilgrim facilities.
The shrine board has legitimately been transferred some land which is to be used during the yatra. And if the Government of India starts to come under pressure from the separatists then it will not have legitimacy.
Karan Thapar: Its not the fact that you supported the Amarnath demand that I question, it’s the manner in which you did it and the consequences of your support. You have cut off the Valley; you have generated a feeling amongst the people of Kashmir that they do not belong.
As a result you have inspired in them a desire for azadi and secession. Movements were latent have now revived, Suddenly, you have the whole valley, in voice shouting ‘jeeye jeeye Pakistan, Bharat teri maut ayee! (Long live Pakistan; India, you are dead.). And your blockade is solely responsible for it.
Arun Jaitley:Well I reject this suggestion that you are making in total. Your saying and suggesting that there is a blockade only aids the false propaganda that is spread by the separatists. It is not I alone who reject this. This is supported by what the journalists flown by the Army helicopters have to say.
Karan Thapar: What about those journalists who live there?
Arun Jaitley:Cameras do not lie, people do. And therefore I have seen it on camera that there was no blockade.
Karan Thapar: Cameras have shown hundreds of thousands of Kahmiris waving Pakitani flags, demanding azadi; administration has collapsed. You are the cause.
Arun Jaitley:Cameras have also shown four lakh people holding the national flag and courting arrest in Jammu, peacefully saying that give us this land for pilgrim facility.
Karan Thapar: But could you have not demanded it without a blockade?
Arun Jaitley:There was no blockade. The blockade is a lie perpetuated by the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) and supported by Hurriyat. And that is why I will request every Indian journalist not to believe the lies spread by these organisation. I would request every Indian journalist to give no credibility to such lies.
Karan Thapar: Except the fact that it is believed by everyone in the Valley that and let me quote something.
Arun Jaitley:It is rebutted by the Army, the district administration and by the state government, the government of India. You have all these words against your word.
Karan Thapar: Except the fact that the information secretary of the Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba (LeT) is also among those who are thanking your party. Let me quote to you what he said.
Arun Jaitley: Hurriyat and LeT’s word may carry weight with you. They do not carry weight with me.
Karan Thapar: Unfortunately, they carry weight with the people of the valley.
Arun Jaitley:That is the tragedy. It should not carry weight with the people of the valley, that’s what we are to jointly decide.
Karan Thapar: You are creating a situation where it increasingly does. You are not undermining the influence, you are adding to it.
Arun Jaitley:We are only creating a situation where people in the Valley should not raise a demand that is separatist in character and the government of India should not cow down to a demand that is separatist in nature.
Karan Thapar: But look at the way that you have inflamed separatist sentiments. This is what the information secretary of the LeT has been saying. He says, ‘The BJP suits us. LeT is getting a good response due to the BJP’s sentiments.’ Then he says, ‘We pray to God they come to power again. Then we will emerge even stronger.’ What Pakistan failed to do in sixty years, you have done it in six weeks.
Arun Jaitley:We have been in power at the centre for six years. We initiated the peace process, and moved Kashmir in the direction of peace.
Karan Thapar: And now you are moving it all the way towards Pakistan.
Arun Jaitley:I am sorry, we are not doing that. All we are saying is that if separatists raise a demand; do not allow the aspirations of the nationalists to be cowed down.
Karan Thapar: Without thinking and just because you have the best interests of your party in mind, you are once again pushing Jammu into a divide with the Valley.
Even more unthinkable is the fact that in these very circumstances now your former party president Venkaiah Naidu is now claiming that Jammu is under-represented and unfairly treated by the political system. He said that Jammu has not adequate representation in the state assembly. Is this the right time at which to raise such political, sensitive issues?
Arun Jaitley:Well, first lets know the facts. Today, you have in Jammu, more number of voters, numerically and yet they are under represented in the assembly. They have lesser jobs as far as state government is concerned. They have lesser admissions as far as colleges are concerned. Now the entire movement in Jammu may be because of the land-issue but there is a huge sense of discrimination that the people have. The government should have addressed this sense of discrimination at some stage.
Karan Thapar: Once again I allowed you to present the facts as you see them but I am sorry that you got them all wrong. The truth is that if you go by the registered voters, no doubt Jammu has more registered voters but you and I know that due to militancy in the valley, there is a huge under-registration there. So instead, go by the total population. That’s how constituencies are divided.
Arun Jaitley:I find that ridiculous.
Karan Thapar: If you go by the total population, you discover that there are 46 MLAs in Kashmir and 37 in Jammu, but for every MLA, there is a total of 1,19,000 people in both regions. This means that the division has been done perfectly in accordance with the rules. It is not unfair, it is totally justified.
Arun Jaitley:Now that you have made your point, this appeared a story in Hindu. That is where you got your data. And now you must know the true facts. 1951, there was no census in Jammu and Kashmir. 1961, Kashmir had three lakh people more than Jammu, 1971 also it had three lakh people more. 1981, again it had four lakh people more. 1991, there was no census. So it was four lakhs more in 1981. But between 1981 and 2001 you had the Kashmiri pundits being pushed out, the Sikhs pushed out and even the wealthier Muslims pushed out because they found it unsafe.
So the population of Jammu would have increased. Instead, the 2001 census, a rigged census, I reiterate, showed eleven lakhs more in the valley. Should have been less. So the election commission said we will go door to door and conduct a registration of voters. In militancy, you can register people in terms of population, you can also register voters and suddenly you find that Jammu has more voters. Today, you find an incongruous situation where Valley has more registered people through that census of 2001 but effectively two and a half lakh less voters.
Karan Thapar: It is very interesting that today you are raising concerns about the 2001 census, which you call rigged. You happened to be the government in power at the time. Why did you not raise any concerns when it was declared? Why did you not raise these doubts earlier? Why are you conveniently raising them today?
Arun Jaitley:When the facts belie your contentions and claim, now you ask me why I did not raise these concerns before.
Karan Thapar: The fact is your interpretation. Its your interpretation, not figures.
Arun Jaitley:I am giving you figures from 1961 to 2002.
Karan Thapar: Population can change in twenty years.
Arun Jaitley:Population of Doda, Kishtwar and Bhadrawa, which were Muslim majority districts of Jammu did not change but population of valley changes.
Karan Thapar: If population of New York can change because of twelve hours of power failure, and you know that it has happened, surely the population can change.
Arun Jaitley:If you have been reading the papers, people have migrated from the Valley, not into the Valley. So population should have gone down and not gone up by eleven lakhs.
Karan Thapar: But why raise the concerns now, why not in your time when it was held?
Arun Jaitley:I am sorry. This issue has been raised at every stage. People of Jammu have been raising it. I was a part of the working group under the Prime Minister’s roundtable. I have raised it in writing, there.
Karan Thapar: Leave the facts aside because there is going to be a difference of interpretations.
Arun Jaitley:No interpretations. It is statistics.
Karan Thapar: You know what Churchill said of statistics…they come after lies and damned lies.
Arun Jaitley:Well the voters in Jammu are two and a half lakh more, how come the Valley has more people?
Karan Thapar: But why at such a sensitive time when the Valley is inflamed and the divide between Jammu and Kashmir is huge. Why raise it now?
Arun Jaitley:Well, it looks like your heart bleeds not for Jammu and only for the Valley.
Karan Thapar: My heart bleeds for India. Yours doesn’t. Yours bleeds only for the BJP.
Arun Jaitley:Your vision and policies have been responsible for what has happened in Kashmir. As far as Jammu is concerned, it is crying due to discrimination and this is a strong ground of discrimination and you want to shut a popular debate out on this discrimination?
Karan Thapar: It is not a popular debate. It is that BJP deliberately exploiting a political situation to gain electoral benefits.
Arun Jaitley:I am afraid that it hurts people if statistics suit Jammu.
Karan Thapar: You are so blinded by the belief that by jumping onto the Jammu bandwagon, you improve your electoral prospects for the next elections. You do not care what happens to the country. I am accusing you of putting the BJP before the country.
Arun Jaitley:I am putting the country before and that is why I am deeply concerned about 60 years of policy—the separate policy on Kashmir—has led to a movement of separatism. I think history will make a cruel judgment one day whether Nehruvian vision on Kashmir was right or was Dr (Shyama Prasad) Mukherjee’s vision on Kashmir right? I am sure both of us will await that judgment.
Karan Thapar: I am glad you brought up the history today. Many people think that India could be on the brink of losing the Valley forever. If that were to happen, history will judge that the BJP were the first persons that gave Kashmir the first push into the arms of Islamabad.
Arun Jaitley:This will not happen because I am one of those who firmly believe that Azadi is not even a distant dream for those separatists, it is an impossible thing. India will not and should not compromise with even an inch of its territory.
Karan Thapar: The tragedy is that it may not be a distant dream but a reality
Arun Jaitley:I am not even getting into the blame game though I firmly believe that the Congress must today correct 60 years of its error into which it has fallen.
Karan Thapar: Alright Mr Jaitley, I’ll let you have the last word on that. A pleasure talking to you on Devil’s Advocate.