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Third Round Table on Jammu and Kashmir

The J and K round table, the third exercise of its kind, was disappointing on several counts. The reports finalised by the working groups focused largely on subjects of wider concern such as "confidence building measures" and human rights violations, while concrete issues such as ensuring grassroot empowerment and balanced regional development were given short shrift.


Third Round Table on Jammu and Kashmir

The J and K round table, the third exercise of its kind, was disappointing on several counts. The reports finalised by the working groups focused largely on subjects of wider concern such as “confidence building measures” and human rights violations, while concrete issues such as ensuring grassroot empowerment and balanced regional development were given short shrift.


he third round table conference convened by prime minister Manmohan Singh on April 24 has perhaps acquired an added importance following the comment of Sardar Abdul Qayyum Kahn, the seniormost leader of Pakadministered Jammu and Kashmir (PAJK) during his recent visit to Delhi to the effect that he would have attended the conference had he been invited. Kahn wished that leaders from across the Line of Control (LoC) had been invited to this and similar conferences and regretted too that separatist leaders of Kashmir chose not to attend.

While Kashmir’s separatist leaders may have a sharper understanding of existing ground realities in the valley as they did contend in their rejoinder, and whatever their compulsions to maintain a distance from the mainstream parties, they cannot ignore the urges and problems of the other half of the population of the state who were represented at the conference. For it was attended not merely by representatives of all political parties but also the ethnic and religious communities who besides the Kashmir Muslims included the dogras, gujjars, paharis, the shias of Kargil and the Buddhists of Leh. The Hurriyat as well as the other separatist parties have hardly any representation from these communities. On the basis of whatever following they claim in the valley, individually and even unitedly, the Hurriyat’s claim to be a party in the talks on finding a solution to the Kashmir problem has been compromised by their complete isolation from the non-Kashmiri speaking communities. By their confrontation with the most influential leaders in the PAJK, moreover, they have also isolated themselves from non-Kashmiri speaking people across the LoC as well. It must also be mentioned that the Hurriyat would not have been able to make much contribution to the discussion on the reports of the four working groups, since they did not have much time to examine them, besides having no hand in their preparation.

It might have been better if the chairmen of the different working groups had discussed the reports with the Hurriyat and also with other competent persons before finalising and sending them to the separatist leaders just before inviting the latter to the conference. As the prime minister conceded in his closing remarks, it was not possible to discuss threadbare every single recommendation in the reports of the four working groups that the participants received only the evening before the conference. The hurriedly drafted summary of the deliberations could not accurately represent the wide spectrum of views expressed. Even now it may be worthwhile to invite detailed comments of those who were not satisfied with the summary and did not get an opportunity to discuss the reports “threadbare”. Some dissent was immediately expressed by groups like the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Kashmiri pandits as well as by the representatives of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council of Leh, who may not wish to associate themselves with furthering the round table process.

Avoidable Overlapping

The scope of this article renders it impossible to summarise the recommendations of the working groups or comment on all of them. While the reports have been written by eminent experts in their respective fields after thorough discussions with members, there is scope to supplement their recommendations. The first group recommended confidence building measures (CBMs). It expressed serious concern over several incidents of human rights violations and suggested measures to protect innocent persons from falling victim to counterinsurgency measures. In fact a concerted effort is needed to build up public opinion within the state as also nationally and internationally against the killings of innocent civilians either by security agencies or by militants. To make the monitoring of human rights violations more objective and credible, international human rights organisations should be allowed to visit the state. The recent reports of the Human Rights Watch as well as Amnesty International have not only exposed the lapses on the part of the security forces but criticised the excesses committed by the militants against civilians for their religious and political beliefs. The periodic figures released by the defence ministry on killings in the state should also specifically mention the civilian causalities.

Indeed a step that should immediately be taken is to stop the practice of rewarding the police and army men for the number of militants they have “killed”. It is a direct incentive to kill not only militants in a direct fight but also captured militants and non-militants.

The working groups should also have studied the latest report of the state Human Rights Commission so as to make specific recommendation to strengthen human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. But why did the groups hesitate to recommend the extension of the jurisdiction of the National Human Rights Commission to Jammu and Kashmir? And why should culprits of human rights violations be protected under the name of state autonomy?

International Arrangements

During the discussion on the report, references were made seeking the withdrawal of the army from the state and its replacement by the state police, the strength of which should at least be doubled. The prime minister in his concluding remarks

Economic and Political Weekly May 19, 2007 promised that steps would continue to be taken to ensure that “deployment of security forces is directly related to the scale of problems on the ground”. The reality, however, is that most cases of custodial deaths and other violations of human rights in the last six months have been attributed to the police. The security of the civilians does not depend on the quantum of forces alone but on institutional arrangements to check their excesses. A highly policed state directly under the control of the ruling political leaders may pose a greater threat to the liberty and security of the people.

Regarding the recommendations for the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the issue is being debated at the national level also. While a decision on it may take time, withdrawal of the Act could start immediately wherever the situation improves. It was extended to different parts of the state in stages as the need arose, and so its withdrawal could also be in stages. A number of measures have been suggested in the report to rehabilitate all orphans and widows affected by militancy. This author had made a thorough survey on the ‘Impact of Armed Conflicts on Children of J&K’ for the UNICEF. For some inexplicable reason, its circulation has been withheld by the union home ministry and UNICEF barred from doing its humanitarian work in the state. Some findings of the report may indeed prove helpful and the government could draw on its findings.

Migrant Problems

The recommendations relating to the rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits who had to leave the valley almost en masse in 1990 provoked indignation on the part of their representatives at the conference. For instancethe report wanted their right to return to be recognised. Why does the right of citizens of the state to return to their own home need a recognition and is there a ban on their right to return? As to the recommendations in the report on the need to design a package for the return and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri pandits after a dialogue with their representatives, the latter ironically referred to their presence in the working groups. Why was what the group report calls a “detailed scheme” not discussed in the group meetings itself?

Also there is a very vague and generalised statement about the problems encountered by refugees who migrated to India from Pakistan that “need to be examined”. But why did the working group not examine these problems? It has only stated that such persons are not eligible to become permanent residents of the state. Yet it does not express its opinion as to whether or not they should indeed be eligible for such a status. The working group betrays its complete ignorance of the existence of a far larger number of refugees who migrated from Pak administered part of the state and who now are permanent residents of the state. Why have they not been permanently rehabilitated so far?

Then there are the migrants from the disturbed borders as also from the militancy affected parts of Jammu region like Doda, Rajouri and Poonch districts and other Muslim political migrants from the valley. Their problems deserved at least some notice even if no solution was offered. The recommendation to appoint a


Conference on Human Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies in Indian States

Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai will hold a major conference on “Human Development in India and Poverty Reduction Strategies in States” in the later part of this year. The conference is part of UNDP/ Planning Commission supported project on “Strengthening State Plans for Human Development”. IGIDR is the nodal agency for the programme of research and other activities for this capacity development project.

Human development and poverty reduction strategies in the broad based Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) sense are the major themes of this research project and the proposed conference. The conference is expected to be spread over three days, and the agenda will include special lectures by prominent contributors to the subjects. We propose to invite an international pioneer to deliver the first Human Development Lecture, which may become an annual event for some time to come.

Researchers are encouraged to submit abstracts of original papers based on mostly empirical research. Only exceptionally high quality theoretical papers will be considered. Although papers on all aspects of MDG based poverty reduction (and HD issues) are invited, we would particularly welcome contributions which have clear policy implications and are pertinent to the following states: Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Submissions pertaining to other States may also be considered. Depending on quality of the submissions the conference programme will be further divided in themes and sub themes within the above broad conference agenda.

Guidelines for abstract submission: Abstracts of previously unpublished papers should be sent by email, in either Microsoft Word format or Adobe PDF format, to the following email address:

Please contact this address for further enquiries.

Abstracts should reach the above email addresses on or before 23 June 2007. The cover note should contain three pieces of information only – author’s date of birth (or age), academic qualifications and position held at present. These would be relevant data for the capacity development project. Please do not send your CV. Upon review the authors will be informed of acceptance by end July.

We expect to fund all accepted papers for travel within India and stay in IGIDR campus

Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research Gen. Vaidya Marg. Goregaon (E) Mumbai-400065

Economic and Political Weekly May 19, 2007

minority commission misses the vital fact that there are different religious majorities and minorities in the state’s three regions and in some cases ethnic minorities pose a more serious problem than a religious minority. While balanced regional development has been discussed by the third and fourth groups that dealt with economic development and good governance respectively, the detailed treatment of human rights by the first group has been replicated in the third group. They would have done far better justice to the task assigned to them if they had avoided overlapping on these issues.

Relations across LoC

The working group dealing with strengthening relations across the line of control had a simpler and less controversial job. However, its subject formed the most significant and practical part of the joint agreement between prime minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, in April 2005 where the two governments declared their intentions of making the borders between the two parts of the state “irrelevant”. In practice, the response of the Pakistan government to open more routes has been rather slow to the proposals made by the Indian government from time to time.

The group has recommended that eligibility for travel across the LoC, at present limited to divided families, be enlarged to include tourists, pilgrims, cultural groups, traders, faculty and student exchanges, journalists, lawyers and persons needing medical treatment. The list could also include close friends who were separated during the wars of 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, and who can be sponsored by their counterparts across the LoC. To make travel across the LoC easier, the pre-1956 practice, which allowed people to cross the line on the basis of permits issued by deputy commissioners, may be revived subject to necessary security precautions.

The recommendations about the formation of joint consultative groups on matters like environment, tourism, horticulture, trade, disaster and relief measures during calamities and epidemics, etc, raise larger issues about the authority and power of such groups to take action and also the issue of the sovereign rights of India and Pakistan over the two parts of the state. Should the representatives of the governments of the two countries also be included in the groups and should their recommendations be of an advisory nature or mandatory? Should this recommendation be the culmination of an Indo-Pak agreement on other contentious issues on J and K or precede it? Some more thought needs to be given to such questions.

Balanced Development

The third working group was devoted to economic development. Its specific focus was on inclusive and balanced development of the state’s three regions. It prepared a plan of development involving an expenditure of Rs 7,947 crore. It is not clear how far this amount is in addition to or duplicates the Economic Reconstruction Plan of Rs 24,000 crore announced by the prime minister during his visit to the state two years ago. And how does it compare with the task force report that has been submitted to the prime minister except the admission on the part of the working group that some overlap in recommendations was inevitable. If its mandate was, as the group maintains, a thrust on balanced regional and sub-regional development, why did it evade a discussion on the specific economic needs of different regions and subregions and institutional arrangements to ensure balanced development?

There are sweeping generalisations about the “backward trap” of low economic activity, low employment and low income generation of the state. How does one explain that the percentage of people below poverty line in the state is 3.5 against 24 for the whole country and its rate of growth has been higher than the latter? Similarly health expenditure as a percentage of total expenditure in J and K is higher than the national average. Again it has to “import” a large part of its workforce from as far as Bihar and Orissa. The report must have had access to statistics about strong and weak points of the state economy. In fact it should have recommended an improved system of preparing statistical data. All talk about balanced growth would be meaningless unless statistics about regional and district income and human development indices for each district are prepared and compared.

Devolution of Funds

In this context the working group should have taken the trouble of studying the chapter on balanced regional development in the report that this author submitted to the state government as head of the Regional Autonomy Committee. The report recommended eight indicators to determine allocation of funds to each region and district. These include (i) population,

(ii) area, (iii) road mileage in proportion to area, (iv) share in government jobs as percentage of population in the relevant age group, (v) average annual admission in the last five years to technical institutions as percentage of population in the relevant age group, (vi) female literacy, (vii) infant mortality, and (viii) some performance incentive criteria like contribution to the state exchequer in proportion to a region’s income. While items (i), (ii) and (viii) would be positive criteria , the rest would be negative. The formula could be discussed or modified but without a concrete formula for funds allocation, its balanced allocation would not be possible nor would appear so to the people.

Obviously allocation of grants and share in state taxes to regions and districts should be determined by an autonomous finance commission instead of leaving this to the will and sense of justice on the part of the state cabinet which is always influenced by political considerations. Instead of working out cost estimates of various projects, which the group has recommended, and for which it had no expert machinery, it would have been far better if the group had worked out broad priorities and outlined an approach for the development of the state, its different regions and districts along with appropriate institutions.

As pointed out above, some overlapping in recommendations of groups number one, three and four could be avoided. The task of economic development and good governance, which groups three and four have dealt with may be closely related. But the essence of both the tasks is empowerment of the people to which little attention has been paid by both groups. A benevolent dictatorship may ensure faster development and efficient governance in the short run. But as the report of the fourth group concedes, popular participation is now widely recognised as a crucial ingredient in governance reform. It is also a vital input in ensuring equitable development in the long run. The fourth group suggests a number of measures to enhance popular participation that include “dedicated NGOs, social audit by eminent citizens of unimpeachable integrity, citizens scoreboard” to monitor the government provision of services, etc. But these non-official committees have after all to be selected or recognised by political leaders and party governments, a process which may not be open and above board.

Economic and Political Weekly May 19, 2007

Similarly, its first recommendation deals with “encouraging people to make use of the Right to Information Act by creating awareness”. Instead of a general exhortation in the matter, the group should have gone into the reasons as to why the RTI Act has been totally ineffective in the state and how it could be made to work as has been done in the rest of the country. Why cannot the state government adopt the national law, even if it resists the direct extension of the Act to the state?


The group has made a number of recommendations to ensure good governance in the state which includes e-governance and computerisation, transfer and recruitment policies, assessment performance, etc. These are good to a point. An essence of good government is empowerment of people at all levels. The root cause of inefficient and bad governance in the state is its highly centralised character which is worsened by its highly divisive character. There is no mention in any report of setting up an appropriate political authority at the regional level. Recommendations about such authorities at district and lower levels are too inadequate to meet the requirements of the situation. J and K is the only state of the country where panchayats do not exist. Even when they are formed, the state Panchayat Raj Act accords powers of nomination to the state government at every level so that panchayat raj institutions become in practice an additional institution that further centralises the political and constitutional system of the state.

How can citizens of such a centralised and regimented state ever be happy, prosperous and at peace with each other, even if all aspects of its external problems are resolved? And as long as the discontent and tensions persist, a solution of the “external” aspect of the problem becomes all the more difficult.

All in all, the third exercise of the roundtable process resulted in a mixed bag. If the experts at the centre, to whom the reports of the working groups have been referred, deal with the questions raised above, the exercise would not have been in vain. The report of the four working groups discussed in the present third round table conspicuously miss any institutional measures to ensure the empowerment of the people as well as balanced growth in all three regions of the state.



Economic and Political Weekly May 19, 2007

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