|Early Times Report
Jammu, Dec 23: It was on November 4, 1995 that the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao had declared at Burkina Faso, formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, that Sky was the limit as far as the demand in Kashmir for autonomy was concerned. "From a long distance away from home, I am addressing an appeal through this statement to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, at a time which could well turn their destiny once again in glorious manner, so as to make that lovely land a peer to paradise -jannatnishaan, as it has been called for centuries".
It, according to autonomywallas in Kashmir, "outlined his package and set the stage to fulfill his commitment to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that 'short of azadi', sky is the limit?" The statement of Narasimha Rao was an attempt to appease the Kashmiri secessionists and to induce the people of Kashmir to take part in the democratic processes. It, as was expected of the Congress, didn't address the issue that faced the people of Jammu province and Ladakh region. The case in point is the urge of the people of these two regions to merge their identity with the larger Indian identity.
Before Narasimha Rao, his Congress predecessors - Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi - had also adopted a similar approach. They all recognized Kashmiri Muslim sub-nationalism. Article 370 and the 1977 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord under which the deflated Sheikh was brought back to power after a gap of 22 years were the immediate fallouts of their Kashmir-centric and essentially communal approach. Indira Gandhi even brought down her own party's Government in J&K in February 1975 to pamper believers (read Sheikh Abdullah & Co) in the concept of plebiscite.
And the Congress man who succeeded Narasimha Rao after eight years in New Delhi as Prime Minister also took the same line. The man was none other than Manmohan Singh. He also endorsed the sky was the limit commitment. Manmohan Singh headed the Congress-led UPA Government for ten long years.
Credit goes to former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid who has revealed that Manmohan Singh also made a similar commitment. In his new book :The other side of the mountain", he writes that Manmohan Singh had made this commitment with his Pakistani counterpart Mian Nawaz Sharif in late September 2013 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Manmohan Singh, according to him, told Mian Nawaz Sharif ""Mian Saheb, no Indian Prime Minister can sign away Kashmir, and nor can I. Subject to that, the sky is the limit".
What does all this show? It shows continuity in the Congress policy towards Kashmir and it also shows that Jammu and Ladakh have no place in the Congress; scheme of things. But more than that, it shows that the Congress doesn't consider J&K an integral part of India like other States.
Paradoxically, the BJP, which claimed that it was a nationalist party committed to integrating J&K fully into India, has also been treading the same path. In fact, the BJP has been pursuing a more dangerous line and this can be seen from the agenda of alliance on the basis of which the present coalition Government was formed almost ten months ago. It is disturbing that the Indian political class has failed the nation in J&K and rendered the nationalists in the State weak.