Ensuring peace and justice in Kashmir
Easy to criticize and rubbish all efforts, difficult to construct and succeed. Easier said than done
GUEST COLUMN BY SEEMA MUSTAFA
Ever since we published the report of the Delegation of parliamentarians and civil society that visited Kashmir in December 2010, formulated a Committee for Promoting Dialogue With Jammu and Kashmir, and announced a national campaign on the Kashmir issue, one has been besieged with phone calls asking “what do you hope to achieve?”
Since this question seems to be foremost in the minds of friends in the Kashmir media, one will try to attempt an answer in this column. For sixty odd years Kashmir has been left to the Congress, and more recently to the BJP, to handle and govern from the centre. The result has been massive alienation of the people of the Valley because of injustice, insecurity and large scale victimization in the name of ‘national security.’ Adding to this has been propaganda projecting the Kashmiri as either a Pakistani, a terrorist or both. The widening gap between Kashmir and New Delhi, has created a vicious circle that was very evident in the Valley from June onwards when 112 young people were killed by the security forces, one after the other.
There has been some civil society intervention, but given the resources and the reach, really negligible. The government at the centre has been easily able to ignore all such interventions, even as it continues with its discriminatory policies. Control over the media, particularly in New Delhi, has enabled central governments to almost completely control the space on Kashmir. For instance when New Delhi decided to talk to the separatists several articles in the media justified this, and when it wanted to arrest and imprison them the media happily projected another picture altogether. Even when the first protests broke out in Kashmir, sections of the government tried to plant stories that the stone pelters were being funded and promoted by the Lashkar e Tayaba. But the movement was so strong, and the voice of the people so resilient that this lie could not gather ground, and eventually even the chief minister and the Union Home minister had to recognize the protests as “indigenous.”
After several visits to Kashmir during this period for entirely journalistic purposes, one started to feel that reporting was not enough and it was necessary to bring in the multitude of political parties into the picture. It has been particularly unfortunate that the regional parties and even the Left for that matter have allowed Kashmir to become an agenda of just the Congress and the BJP in New Delhi, and it is perhaps the protests of the young people that stirred a collective political conscience this time in the national capital. The result was the delegation that the Centre for Policy Analysis was able to put together with relative ease, and the three days interactions with the Kashmiri leaders as well as the youth, women and the Kashmiri pundits living in the Valley opened the eyes and ears, and more importantly the hearts, of senior members of parliament as well as representatives of civil society. The separatists too opened their homes for the delegation with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Shabir Shah, the Lone brothers, Naeem Khan and others embracing the visitors with the famous Kashmiri hospitality.
The MPs of the Lokjanshakti party, CPI, CPI(M), Janata Dal(Secular), Janata Dal (United), Telugu Desam did not hesitate to report back what they had seen ---the anguish of the women, the anger of the youth, the frustration and unhappiness evident through the meetings. Press conferences were held in Delhi by the leaders in their individual capacity to speak out on Kashmir. Some newspapers reported, many getting their dole and their direction from the central government did not. But there was concern in government circles, and the three interlocutors were rushed back to the state for another round of meetings.
This initiative is not parallel or in competition with the interlocutors appointed by the government. This is an independent, non-government initiative that will carry on regardless of what the government does or does not do. In the process the Committee will expand to cover other political parties and civil society members who decide to join, even as a campaign to bring Kashmir to the centre stage of discussion gathers momentum and force. Today the government can avoid talking to the Kashmiri leaders because it controls the space. The intention is for parliamentarians and civil society to challenge that space, and ensure that the reality of Kashmir becomes the basis for informed public opinion as well as any dialogue that is to follow.
It is not going to be easy but if the support of the people stays, and the delegation remains honest and committed and does not compromise, the journey will meet with positive results. This is for the first time in decades that regional parties and the Left have decided to include Kashmir as it exists, in their political agenda. The statements of some of the MPs in Kashmir, and even later, suggest a new approach as does the report prepared by the CPA and adopted by the political parties. There is recognition of injustice, of victimization, of violations and a growing sense already that “something needs to be done.” At least the reality and not just propaganda will be reflected in Parliament, and through that to the people and hopefully even the compromised media.
It was encouraging to see that Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Sajjad Lone and members of the Hurriyat welcomed the formulation of the Committee. Some newspapers reported that Syed Ali Shah Geelani was skeptical. One cannot really blame him, but one can only ask him to remember that this is not a government committee, there is no need for the other MPs and civil society members to be at all committed, and perhaps their honesty can be judged from their willingness to stand up and speak out. No one is promising the moon, no one has said they will deliver a solution, they are only saying that they are prepared to walk along with the Kashmiri people to ensure justice and peace in the Valley. Public and political pressure will ensure that a resolution of the issue will be based not on illusions and propaganda, but on the reality of Kashmir as it is at the time.
It is easy to criticize and rubbish all efforts, very very difficult to construct and succeed.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 3 Jan 2011 00:00:00 IST
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