A poetic sojourn or a mission with a mandate?
DWARIKA PRASAD SHARMA
The tragedy in relation to the “Kashmir issue” is that it has, by a series of defaults, been left in a grey zone. This suits large sections of vested interests. The mainstream parties stomp on it for political, and even physical, self-preservation. The separatists and other vocal antagonists in the Valley stomp on it to justify “alienation”, terrorism, street violence and, latterly, runaway “anger” among the youth. Not only the usual lot, even Kashmir’s bureaucrats, some of whom got into the IAS not through the competitive grind but by a lateral movement from the KAS, and often without even possessing that label, achieved their “freedom” after retirement and started angrily stomping on it, spewing venom against the Indian state.
The separatists, who have spent years honing their tongues and their coinages, talk of the “Kashmiri nation”, betraying a highly insular and parochial attitude. None asks them to say in clear terms if they don’t consider Jammu and Ladakh as part of the state. An overwhelming majority in Jammu have always been in favour of complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union, and wanting the special status given it to be withdrawn.
Ladakh has for a long time been asking for a Union Territory status. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, during his second stint as head of the government, bifurcated the region and created the Muslim-dominated Kargil district to try to dilute this demand, and as part of electoral engineering that he went about at that time. All political parties and religious, social and cultural groups of Leh, with one voice, pressed for a Union Territory status when the parliamentary Delegation led by the Union home minister Rajnath Singh visited the district.
Ask the separatists and others of their stripes to clarify the logic of the demand for “freedom” or merger with Pakistan if balkanisation of the state would be the inevitable result. Some hard questions need to be put to them rather than defensively going in circles that they interpret as “moral victory” for “the people of Kashmir”.
Consider Mirwaiz Omar Farooq’s observation to journalists after meeting with the latest mission Kashmir led by Yashwant Sinha. For all protestations of Sinha that his team was on a private visit to Srinagar to “feel and share the pain of the Kashmiri people”, the Mirwaiz told reporters after meeting with the visitors that the very fact of the overture was “a great victory for the people of Kashmir”. It does not need much effort to guess out that what transpired in the meeting was some kind of an assurance of a dialogue, and that the team were emissaries rather than private citizens.
After his meeting with the team, hardline Hurriyat leader Ali Shah Geelani gave them away when in his statement he mocked at what he called the “duality of the Indian government” as, he said, it had “offered an unconditional dialogue, while it has been sticking to its assertion that the state is an integral of India”. He argued that an open-ended dialogue, accepting that Kashmir is “disputed”, was the only logical approach. Geelani favours Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, so by his light an unconditional dialogue should ideally lead to merger of the Valley with that country.
The Mirwaiz and Geelani said that they reminded the team of the historic perspective of the Kashmir issue. The historic perspective that the separatists and the Kashmiri mainstreamers have been talking about is a self-serving interpretation that shuts out the documented chronology of events concerning the state, and the kinks and confusions engineered by Pakistan and certain leaders of the state who ensconced themselves in the frame as major arbiters.
At an event in Jammu to mark the landing of Indian troops on October 27, 1947, to stop the march on Srinagar of marauding Pakistani tribal raiders, led by Pakistani army, a senior lawyer said that the biggest mistake (made by Jawaharlal Nehru) was to make Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah the “third party”. However, the Pakistanis had refused to recognise his locus standi.
The separatists and their fellow-travellers in Kashmir marked the day as a “black day”. So much for the historic perspective! Had the Indian troops not arrived, the marauders would have ransacked Kashmir and gone on a spree of looting, mayhem and rape, like they had done in the areas that they had already trampled during their advance.
Despite restrictions on the media, news and photographs have tumbled through on a large number of people in the PoK, the more vociferous among whom were youth, staging demonstrations against the Pakistani government, while observing October 22 as a “black day”. That was the day in 1947 when the tribals led by the Pakistani army stormed the state. The protestors mocked at the moniker of “Azad Kashmir” given to PoK, as they shouted that they were facing all manner of repressions and were being denied any democratic rights.
So which historic perspective are the Kashmiri contrarians talking about? The opposition mainstreamers are parroting the separatists’ accusations of repression and mayhem allegedly unleashed by the security forces and the “insensitive” government. They are virtually reliving the days of 1990 when, fearing for their lives, they declared through paid ads in newspapers their infamous “Izhar-e-Lataluki” (expression of non-affiliation with any mainstream political party). In the present context, it is Izhar-e-Lataluki against the security forces and the democratically-elected government. The National Conference, now in the forefront of the campaign, was the ruling party during the street protests in 2o12 when 120 people were killed.
Sinha on his part has been making some extremely maudlin and slurpy observations. An amazing observation, if correctly reported, was that he was not sensing just the present pain in Kashmir and sharing it, but also the pain since as way back as 2,000 years ago. Perhaps he was attempting to put the problem in its historic perspective.
By making such remarks who was he trying to endear himself to. Was he grovelling so that the meetings he had intended would take place without any hitch? Was he using this stratagem to be able to preen back in Delhi that he had been received with open arms while some members of the parliamentary delegation had failed in their effort? Was his team’s visit only a poetic sojourn or one with a hard purpose?