Home » Politics » Problem isn't with Soz. But with those who have a problem with him

Problem isn't with Soz. But with those who have a problem with him

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 22 June 2018, 22:55 IST

Former Union minister Saifuddin Soz's upcoming book on Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle added to the ongoing political turmoil around Jammu and Kashmir. The Bharatiya Janata Party has attacked the veteran Congressman for being against 'national interest'. But then that is only to be expected from a party whose hardline stance on the state has been among its foundational blocks.

The 'mainstream' media – especially its electronic avatar – also took its cue (not surprising really) and hounded the leader from Kashmir throughout the day. But what was more surprising than their hunger for TRP was the way the Grand Old Party of Indian politics buckled under pressure. 

Not only did the Indian National Congress distanced itself from Soz's comment, but also pledged disciplinary action against the party. But for what? Did they find time to read what Soz wrote?

Repeating, more or less, what he wrote, Soz told news agency ANI Friday morning: “(Pervez) Musharraf said Kashmiris don't want to merge with Pakistan; their first choice is independence. The statement was true then and remains true now. I say the same but I know that it is not possible.”

The Congress and the media seems to have simply obliterated Soz's stress on “it is not possible”. The party high command does not seem to have sought a clarification from Soz or go through the contents of his book. Even more unfortunate, the Congress went to the extent of calling it a gimmick to drive sales.

“We completely reject Soz’s statement. It’s a political gimmick to sell his book. Our J&K unit will take appropriate action against him,” party spokesperson RS Surjewala.

For that matter, none of these going overboard in criticising Soz seems to have made any efforts to acquaint themselves with the contents of the volume. While the book is yet to be officially released, Catch has access to its contents, based on which it clearly offers glimpses of Kashmir's history.

Starting from prehistoric times, it traces the journey of the region. Towards the end he talks about the peace process envisaged by Musharraf, and India's former prime ministers AB Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. He writes that Musharraf convinced the Pakistani brass, within and outside the Army, that the peace formula was the only possible solution that would not yield a situation on ground as a defeat for one party and victory for the other.

“He had also convinced his colleagues that the resolutions of the UN on Kashmir had constituted a redundant situation as these meant a tight-jacket for Kashmiris whether they wanted to go with India or to Pakistan. Musharraf had explained that if Kashmiris were given a chance to exercise their free will, they would prefer to be independent. In fact, this assessment of Musharraf seems to be correct even today!”

The Musharraf-Vajpayee-Manmohan formula included present borders but free movement across the region; autonomy on both sides and demilitarisation. It is a known fact that the root of all ills in Kashmir emanates from the strong feeling among its population of being independent from both India and Pakistan. In that context, what Soz said reflects the popular sentiment of the people of the state.

If the media and Congress had gone through the content of the book, they would have realised how critical Soz is of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and how it has made no efforts to be a part of the solution.

“It is an unfortunate situation that the RSS ideology and narrative on Kashmir has always created a problem and this organization has never tried to be a part of the solution. Recently, it has added a serious dimension to the already tense situation of unrest in Kashmir by approaching the Supreme Court for the revocation of Article 35A of the Constitution of India. It is the same article that protects various rights of people of the state,” Soz writes.

Ironically, the BJP has made an issue of Soz's statements but has remained tight-lipped on multiple controversial and communal statements by its leaders. Whether it is the creation of a 'Hindu Rasthra' or sending minorities to Pakistan or taking away voting rights from Muslims, the saffron party has, in fact, shielded those making such statements.

As far as the Congress is concerned, it should not let the media dictate how it responds to such situations. If it initiates disciplinary action against Soz, that can further alienate the party in the state, which is going through one of its most troubled times in the recent past.

In the end, it would be about a book that talks about Herodotus' reference to Kashmir, Fa Hien's travels, Marco Polo's views, George Forster's account of its and several such accounts. Overall, the 248-page book offers great insights into the history of province and should not be solely judged on one statement and the unnecessary controversy surrounding it.

First published: 22 June 2018, 22:55 IST