Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Lecture Series on Roots of Sectarian Conflict

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June, 1991)

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June, 1991)

Question
My name is Swati Apti. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the notion of using concessions as a solution to sectarian conflict, particularly because a lot of the BJP support has come from appeasing to the Hindu notion that sufficient concessions have already been made to the Muslims. So how does one stop that from being a double edged sword in the hands of fundamentalists and yet make the right concessions?

Atul Kolhi
It’s a problem. You can ask the same question-why should Pakistan withdraw its support of the militants? These are problems and that’s why the conflict has not been receded because at this point the electoral incentives and calculations of ruling groups on both sides don’t allow what eventually has to be done for the conflict to be alleviated. To be fair, to be non-partisan in the Indian context, the Congress party had not done much better. So, it is not only BJP’s communalism which has made things worse. A lot of these things originated in Mrs. Gandhi’s time. And it was she who started centralizing and undermining constitutional autonomy of Kashmir as well as getting rid of Farooq Abdullah who had been democratically elected in 1981 or 1982. But he was fired in 1983 or 1984 when when J. Mohan was the governor if I am not mistaken about my history. So, it is not only the BJP’s communalism, it’s the center’s urge to be more centralizing than it ought to be in Kashmir which I think is a problem.

Question
Hello my name is Michelle. I am a student at Columbia. I was hoping that you could speak a little more about the state elections in Kashmir. You said that there were upcoming elections. And I wanted to know about the history of those elections and hasn’t Kashmiri citizens been demanding that this take place for decades. And maybe my information is wrong, but hasn’t the Indian government prevented them from taking place in the past.

Atul Kolhi
Are you just asking about regular elections or are you asking about the plebescite on Kashmiri sovereignty. The Indian government has not allowed the plebescite to take place from the very beginning. The legal reasoning they gave was the condition under which they would call those elections were if Pakistan withdrew back to pre-war borders away from the line of control. And since Pakistan did not do it, the Indian government said they would not allow the plebescite. The real politik reasons probably was that the Indian government was afraid most Muslims would vote not to stay in India and they did not want to allow that.

Question
As far as the new internal and external forces, first with the internal forces how do you think the Ayodhya situation is going to play out? And as far as the external forces with the recent realignments, how much is President Musharaf required to allow the ISI have a free hand in Kashmir so as they won’t turn against him and how will China be involved?

Atul Kolhi
That is a lot and I am not sure I know the answers to all of those questions. I certainly don’t have much understanding of Chinese leadership, so I am not even going to pretend to try an answer things I don’t know. With Ayodhya, I have some intuitive sensibilities about. My gut instinct is that the BJP leadership will not allow, will find some face saving way, of delaying the building of the temple on that side. To allow the temple to be built is really inviting a lot of political mayhem. The size of that mayhem cannot benefit them politically. So just for rational electoral calculations, forget whether there is high mindedness there or not, for sheer self interest having that much turmoil in the country can only make the government look bad. And therefore I think they will find a way to deal with the VHP. The VHP is organized, mobilized and committed to build the temple, but there are only a few thousand people. And any government that can put a million people on a border, a million troops on a border in 10 days, can control the VHP. So if they choose to control the VHP, they can control it. My gut tells me that they will choose to do so whether they do it or not. I do not want to try to answer President Musharaff’s inclinations. I do not know the man. I have never interviewed him. I have not interviewed people who are around him. So I do not have a gut feeling for it.