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By NT Bureau Published on Nov 02, 2017 02:53 PM IST

Only the naïve fools will delude themselves with the notion that when Kashmiris demand 'aazadi’, they do not seek separation, nay, secession from India. To say that the aazadi-seekers want nothing more than autonomy is to gloss over fully the enormity of the problem in Kashmir.

For over 70 years, successive central governments have given a long rope to the Kashmiris in the name of autonomy. Sheikh Abdullah, a schoolteacher-turned-leader of Kashmiris, led the Nehru Government up the garden path, first swearing by the document of accession and, sometime later, toying with the idea of an independent Kashmir.

Out of power in Srinagar, the senior Abdullah voiced sympathy for the separatists, secessionists. When in power, he sang the India tune, at best paying lip service to the need for greater autonomy. His son and grandson have faithfully followed that duplicitous course, though with diminishing returns.

When Omar Abdullah, the third generation of now enormously wealthy family of the Sher-e-Kashmir, nitpicks about the difference between secession and merger, he too seeks to fuel the secessionist fires. Of course, it is an old and crude ploy to seek leverage with the Centre by harping on the special status of Kashmir, while seeking to buy peace with the aazaadi-wallahs on the streets of Srinagar.

However, one can understand the need for the Abdullahas to talk with forked tongues, but why would a person like P Chidambaram do so is rather surprising. He fanned the divisive fires in Kashmir by publicly intoning that aazadi in the lexicon of Kashmiris equaled autonomy.

If we were to trust him, the question is: why, as the country’s Home Minister, he did not ensure the return of normalcy in the Valley by granting 'that’ autonomy. We have the answer. He knew then, as he knows now, that the ISI-fuelled stone-pelters, jihadi killers want nothing short of an outright separation, nay, secession from India. Aazadi from India, and not within India, if Chidambaram must know.

Meanwhile, if the former UPA minister said nothing objectionable, nothing to get het up about, why did his own party distance itself from his definition of aazadi? It is because the Congress party knew that Chidambaram’s ill-advised remarks could prove a PR disaster on the eve of two significant Assembly elections.

Many wonder if Chidambaram’s real purpose in conflating aazadi with autonomy was something else, especially when his own party immediately disowned the proffered linguistic parity.

He ought to have steered clear of this perennial tinderbox, and allowed the newly-appointed interlocutor a free hand to explore whatever little chance that might exist to return Kashmir to a modicum of normalcy.