The J&K milestone

IN Opinion | 05/03/2015
For once, the leaders captured the historic significance of the new PDP-BJP regime in Jammu & Kashmir.
For once, DARIUS NAKHOONWALA purred with pleasure (Pix: The Indian Express edit on March 2).
You don’t say! 
Darius Nakhoonwala
Readers of this spiteful column probably think that I never have a good thing to say about those poor dear drones, the leader writers, in newspapers. Well, rascallas, you know what? You are wrong. 
Sometimes, maybe once a year, I mix cream in my vinegar. So, puffing my cheeks out, I must say this: the lads did a very good job of assessing the PDP-BJP experiment in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The agreement and the common agenda are vitally important because they put paid, once and for all, to the Pakistani claim that J&K belongs to it. It thereby puts to rest, for all time to come, the two-nation theory of Jinnah. Lastly, it divides the responsibility for the two main parts of the state very clearly – Valley, PDP; Jammu, BJP.
The Indian Express, as befits the moment, said it all softly. “ – the “soft separatist” PDP and the “Hindu nationalist” BJP, two extremes of the mainstream ideological spectrum, have come together to form the government. Sunday’s swearing-in showcased remarkable frames of political distance travelled. BJP ministers pledged fealty to the J&K constitution…

"People’s Conference leader Sajjad Gani Lone was inducted into the council ofministers, tracing an arc from separatism to participation in the electoral process to holding stakes in government. Whatever the calculations of political profit and loss by each party, this is a moment larger than them. It is about the democratic opportunity that contributes to the making of, and is itself made up of, such a coalition of extremes." Oh, details aside, well done with the phrasing.

The Pioneer had written much earlier and was, as might not be expected from a BJP supporting paper, calm and restrained as if the weight of the moment had subdued it. “It is heartening to see that the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party have come to an agreement over the terms and conditions that will shape their Government in Jammu & Kashmir.” Yes, very heartening indeed.

Graciously, the paper pointed out what no one else did. “The PDP has made the bigger conciliatory move by giving up on its demand for a complete withdrawal of the Act (APSA) that it believes offers a cover for the Army’s excesses in the state.”

But for the more rabid defenders of the BJP faith, it pointed out that “neither party has made a U-turn on any of its values and positions. It’s just that both parties have chosen to build on their commonalities.”

The Hindu faltered a bit. “The nomenclature for the PDP-BJP coalition points to the pragmatism needed on the perilous path the two parties have bravely undertaken in forming a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. Their coalition document is called an “Agenda for the Alliance”, not a “common minimum programme”. And the two sides have made it clear that what they are forging is not a “political alliance” but a “governance alliance”. 

“Despite that, their decision to come together is itself a welcome sign that leaders both in the State and the Centre are willing to put aside the extreme rhetoric of the election campaign...the Alliance will be an important pivot to Mr. Modi’s plans for his subcontinental outreach.”
The Times of India made a more prosaic point. “Their (PDP and BJP) ideological differences may be large, with one party romanticising self-rule and the other grudging special status for the state. But this is a new century and it’s time to forget the ideological battles of the old one. This ground-breaking alliance can build a new peace in the turbulent state.” Indeed. It probably will.

The Hindustan Times said this was “a case of the unthinkable becoming the historic...The irony is stark: the party accused of practising ‘soft separatism’ forms an alliance with a nationalist party that refuses to countenance a discussion on J&K’s political status.”

It was also the only paper to point out that as “a former Union home minister he (Mr Sayeed) has the experience and networks in New Delhi to wangle concessions from the Centre that the state needs.” But it did also say “How Kashmir reacts remains to be seen. The PDP is weathering severe criticism in the Valley for engaging the BJP. Many see this as Mr Sayeed’s undoing just as the 1975 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord prompted accusations of compromise and eventually undercut his reputation.” Quite so, well said.

The Telegraph slept late. It wrote after three days that “The quotidian seems to have replaced the extraordinary in Jammu and Kashmir politics almost in a flash.” Writing late, it tried to make amends by focussing on the remark by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that thanked ‘both Pakistan and the separatists for making the Jammu and Kashmir elections possible’. “Pakistan may be wallowing in the backhanded compliment, but the Hurriyat leaders have decided to slam Mr Sayeed's comment because they cannot afford to be seen to have played a hand in the political denouement that has been panned as a "sell-out.” 

OK, point taken. But next time write when something happens, not after three days.
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