Paradise is burning
BY SEEMA MUSTAFA
To douse the flames, we need to have a political will Congress scion Rahul Gandhi who has not been to Kashmir even once to address the angry and disillusioned youth, could not but speak out in favour of his close friend and state chief minister Omar Abdullah. ďWe support himĒ was the royal conclusion leading the media to headline the support even as Congress minions passing as spokespersons came out to insist that the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister was ďda man.Ē
This at a time when Congress President Sonia Gandhi was flirting with the Peoples' Democratic Party and had opened some doors with Mehbooba Mufti and her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. Both came rushing to Delhi, one to attend the all party meeting called by the Prime Minister, and the other to meet the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. It was clear that PDP had been put on standby mode by the Congress, to be picked up in case Omar Abdullah refused to play ball. In the midst of all this another parent, this time father Farooq Abdullah was rushing around the power corridors of Delhi seeking support for his son. Of course the little help from the chief minister who had stayed back in Delhi, upset at New Delhiís attitude, and threatening to resign without actually doing so.
Now in another turn to the confused and meaningless drama being carried out in New Delhi between all principal players, Sonia Gandhi has let it be known to the core group in her party that Rahul Gandhiís support for Omar should not be taken as party or government policy. But the damage has been done, and it is clear to the young men on the streets who are being shot on a daily basis by the security forces that the silent and almost disinterested chief minister has the support of Delhi, and there is little by way of policy they can expect from the central government.
The absurd all party meeting was visualized as little more than a talkathon where everyone, most of them who have shown no interest in Kashmir at all, spoke at length with their views on the subject. Except for a couple of presentations, the rest was literally blah blah, with the absence of a consensus giving the government the fig leaf it was looking to hide behind. There is no agreement on the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act so how can the UPA government do anything about it? There is no agreement on a good, sound political package so how can the Prime Minister move forward? These arguments were planted with full authority in the media that by and large echoed the sentiment. How can Delhi act when everyone is so divided, became the refrain with very few questioning the fact that the government itself lacked the political will to act. And that a decision should have been taken by the cabinet committee for security when it met, instead of opening it to all and sundry at this crucial stage.
Now an all party delegation led by Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram is being flown to Jammu and Kashmir on Monday for two days. They will all sit in a guest house, or perhaps a fancy hotel, where they will meet who all the state government identifies and sends across for talks. The crucial bit here should have been meetings with genuine representatives of the youth, and with key separatist leaders but even on the eve of the visit it is not clear if anything of this is happening. The agenda is still unclear, and it is not clear what work has been done to ensure that the delegation meets not the tutored voices but the real voices of the Valley during its brief visit.
The protests are continuing and young people are being gunned down by the security forces on a daily basis. The situation is explosive, to say the least, and the deaths are mounting. The anger is growing, and the desire to talk to representatives of the centre is just not visible. The youth of Kashmir is furious and it is not prepared today to listen to anyone who speaks other than what they want to hear. Even the separatists have had to mould their talk accordingly. The normally moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq is a case in point, and it is clear that the anger of the streets is impacting on the Kashmiri leaders. It is clear to all in the Valley that sage counsel backed with nothing is not going to work, and the young people are now not interested in dialogue unless it is backed by hard action.
And it is the hard action that both the state and central government is scared of. There is no unanimity on proposals for the release of all the young people arrested in recent months, rehabilitation and compensation of those injured and killed during the violence, the free and fair and transparent trial of officers and constables and jawans involved in fake encounters, withdrawal of AFSPA and the army from mainland Kashmir, governance with a sensitive and human hand all are all real possibles which the governments have turned into mountains of discord.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, could have turned his age into an advantage but seems to be totally out of tune. He has never visited the homes of those killed and injured in the violence. He has never gone to hold the hands of those in hospital, the one occasion he did was too late in the day, and he was heckled by the patients and their attendants. He finds it easier to move in the corridors of power in Delhi than on the streets of Kashmir. His father, the president of the National Conference, pays only fleeting visits to the Valley and prefers being abroad. The National Conference is invisible and its members angry and sulking.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after weeks and months of silence, seems to be in a bit of a rush to do something. The trigger is of course the visit of US President Barack Obama to India as Washington does not want itself coming under the pressure of the media at home on the situation in Kashmir. Well placed sources have said as much to the media, making it clear that it was not the plight of the people of Kashmir that was the motivating factor but the visit of President Obama.
If true, this is not just regrettable but condemnable. And the tentative exercise that has been launched, beginning with the visit of the all party delegation, will come to nought. A strong political will instilled in the belief that a solution to Kashmir is imperative for reasons to do with peace and security of the people, and not because of the visit of a foreign dignitary, is essential for a true solution for the Burning Paradise.
(The author is National Affairs Editor, News X. Feedback at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Sep 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 19 Sep 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 20 Sep 2010 00:00:00 IST
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