ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kashmir : How Not to Debate Issue of Autonomy

The incapacity to debate the demand for autonomy raised by Kashmir's chief minister Farooq Abdullah in a mature and rational manner has exposed major weaknesses in Indian democracy, federalism and media.

Whatever be the prospects of talks between the government of India and the Hizbul Mujahideen, the debate on the issue of the autonomy of J and K state that chief minister Farooq Abdullah had initiated not only with the centre but with the national leaders all over the country may remain relevant. For, an internal consensus may help in conducting negotiations with those who demand change in the external status of the state. More relevant, in both cases, are the negotiating skill, the degree of maturity and intelligence in dealing with those with a different viewpoint, the ability to find an area of agreement and graceful agreement to disagree. In this sense the autonomy debate hardly does credit to either side.

The reaction in the country to the demand of autonomy ranged from its straight rejection by a specially convened meeting of the union cabinet to the near hysteria over threat to the integrity of the country and its possible balkanisation that some people perceived in the demand. The media hype over the issue so polarised opinions in a for and against form that all moderate voices were eliminated. The incapacity to debate the issue in a mature and rational manner has exposed certain weaknesses in Indian politics, Indian democracy, Indian federalism and Indian media. Farooq Abdullah can certainly be faulted for a number of acts of omission and commission. But they do not add up to an iota of evidence to brand him an ISI agent or an anti-national; for which he should have been dismissed or arrested, as demanded in some quarters. Likewise there are a number of flaws in the resolution on the greater autonomy of the state that the J and K assembly has passed. But to spell autonomy as azadi is to betray political illiteracy.

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