Will our political leaders respond to the grave crisis and the graver prospects for future, in the light of new wave of fake encounters
The army major, who is alleged to have killed three Kashmiri boys from a Varmul village Nadihal, must be having a strong poetic streak in him. Otherwise there is no particular reason for him to have picked up this particular hamlet out of all which rhymes so strikingly with the other source of supply for the shooting practice in Kashmir’s plains and mountains, houses and streets: Rawalpindi.
Two major stories appeared in press over the past week. One obviously was about the stage managed encounters and the other about a survey conducted by academic Robert Bradnock. The survey presents a more confusing picture of the diversity of opinion among the various sections of population in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir than the one ever realized.
According to AFP “these results support the already widespread view that the plebiscite options are likely to offer no solution to the dispute,” said the survey, which was released by the London-based Chatham House think-tank.
“Any solution will depend on the Indian and Pakistani governments’ commitment to achieving a permanent settlement,” Bradnock said.
The survey interviewed about 3,800 people to record their views on how they saw the future of Kashmir — a scenic region that has been a constant source of tension between India and Pakistan.
In the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which has been at the heart of a 20-year-old insurgency against Indian rule, between 74 percent and 95 percent respondents favoured independent Kashmir.
But in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region — which is also part of Indian Kashmir — support for independence dwindled to less than one percent”. The two stories encompass the complexities of Kashmir issue. Confusion confounds if one configures the pathetic response or the lack of it by our leadership. Where are we heading?
The signals from the society are no less discomforting. While one is impressed by the near unanimity of the people of Kashmir on the ultimate political preference they have, Azadi, when it was not one may ask. Is the time frame of our sufferings confined to just the last two decades which of course have been the worst by any standards? People have not just suffered but have consciously sacrificed as well. But where are we now? At social, moral and political levels have we made any progress to any kind of emancipation?
Militarization of the society has left deep scars. But we tend to count only the orphans and widows, death and destruction of property, imprisonment and shootings. It has actually caused much more serious damage to the social fabric of Kashmir especially in the rural and forward areas. While we blame army for staging fake encounters the details emerging from Machhil are bone chilling. It is Kashmir Muslims, Fayaz and Bashir who sold their coreligionists, neighbours, fellow human beings and friends for the slaughter. Could a society stoop to a lower level of immorality? Have we as a society come out with our best in adversity as it should be or with the worst?
That should bring one to the response to such a state of affairs. How are we to respond to this newest twist in our tale of unending woes? Leaders will put the blame on Delhi. People will protest on streets. Police will fire in air or fire rubber bullets or tear smoke, both having the habit of killing the targets in Kashmir. Some more property up in flames some more lives gone. Bandh, chaharum and Chalo. That is the established regime till the next atrocity.
In a resistance movement it is hard to prepare a balance sheet of achievements till it reaches its conclusion. But in modern era of nation states we are yet to witness a clear resolution based on acceptance of all demands. What however is advised is an achievable give and take based on principles of justice, dignity, cultural identity, political autonomy and economic feasibility. Unfortunately these concepts have become a taboo in our discourse.
It in fact started with Sheikh Abdullah’s extremist but shifting stances. He decided to go with India in complete defiance of the logic of partition and went the whole hog. He behaved more loyal than the king in the sense that he did not allow an iota of democracy in his regime, the attraction he cited as the reason for rejecting Pakistan. Dissent was designated as antinational, a trend that continues to dominate the proceedings. Opponents were exiled, elections reduced to a farce.
Another reason that he cited was the diversity of India and its secular character. While rest of India developed as democratic and secular nation, the Sheikh failed to carry along Hindus of Jammu and Bhuddists of Ladakh. When his clash with Nehru climaxed into his dismissal and banishment, the Sheikh took 22 years to understand what he should have at the time of accession itself: Nation states like India don’t break up from the fringes. He was completely out of sync with his times, in 1953 as in 1975.
No resistance movement was as pure as under Sheikh Abdullah’s Plebiscite Front. Compare the Mahazi with their later day successors and anyone of my age will salute them for their grit, determination, sincerity and nobility. No country can boast of such a grand movement. If that energy had been channelled into a resolution within the system rather than setting up a separatist counter our history could have been different.
While Sheikh fretted and fumed, rode waves of unquestioned popularity the state kept losing whatever it had. Water resources, services, semi independent status that Maharaja’s accession had ensured became victims to a process of erosion. Laws were cut and pasted to the extent that the J&K state did not remain even at par with other states. It started looking like an alien territory under another country rather than a part of the democratic India. And observing that nothing except power was achievable the Sheikh returned from the wilderness at the head of the worms of gutter, Congressees who had faced social boycott at his hands. In one stroke Kashmir lost what it had invested in India, in plebiscite movement and in the making of Sheikh Abdullah, the colossus himself.
The stirrings of 1990 were in fact an extension of Sheikh Abdullah’s separatist counter itself. The magic of his personality was such that it will come back in one form or the other for quite some time. The youth of Kashmir revolted against the denial of democracy more than any thing else in the initial burst. Azadi became a leitmotif in the tradition of Sheikh. But the gun was a new element that Sheikh had assiduously discouraged in his campaigns.
The velocity and momentum of Azadi uprising caught a whole rage of politicians in its web. Even Farooq Abdullah by his own admission advised his cadre to join the Pindi caravans for arms and training while retaining his pro India stance. Kashmir armed struggle acquired a unique structure with the emergence of Hurriyat conference that provided a political umbrella to the fighters. It looked like a perfect picture for achieving a set goal.
Where are we now? Again the same question that disturbed each one of the firebrand leaders who had picked up arms. Gun which had became a weapon of preference for a whole generation soon caused moral, intellectual and tactical problems. 9/11 changed the world not just for America but for all resistance movements across the globe. Freedom fighters became terrorists and the world not just endorsed but promoted the idea.
Kashmir lost on all fronts. Development might be considered of the least importance. Not only this the resistance leadership that genuinely represented the Azadi idea, could not even carry on an internal dialogue between one outfit and another. Their division was like the biological cells but instead of gathering the mass they thinned. Meanwhile the state did what it thought best to strengthen its position.
New forces came into being. Every village is a garrison. Every piece of land is occupied through acquisition or by the right of might. Every vacant space is vulnerable by the same logic of might. Laws of accountability are superseded by the doctrine of state security. The facilitating political force did the rest. Whatever water resource was left for the state was given over to NHPC. The disempowerment was complete with the virtual castration of the legislature. Suggest a thing and our “elected representatives” will pass it amidst thumping of desks. The 8 percent reservation for a non existent population is touted as a 92 percent gain in this era of convoluted logic.
Where are we now? Again the same nagging question.
Is it not time for our leaders to meet midway and work out a response? Asking for revocation of AFSPA and demilitarization of civilian areas is virtually asking for a return to pre 1998 position. If we continue to play ostrich in pursuit of unachievable abstract ideas, in the next ten years even the position of 2010 may seem a distant goal.
If the politicians continue to fight over nothings, we may at some point of time be witnessing a repeat of history. The civil society may take a leaf from the ancestors like Sheikh Yaqoob Sarfi to beg the Indian King to treat Kashmir as a part of India—Not just an occupied territory. That may remain the only option to avoid watching our youngsters head for Rawalpindi or Sonapindi to face firing squads.
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