Friends of New Kashmir Committee 2.0
"In times of war only Dead can smile"
Anna Akhmatova(Russian poet)
In 1990s Kashmir sawworrying levels of violence and relationship between Indian state and Kashmiriswas completely broken. The only corridorof faith connecting Kashmiris with India was the 'India Democracyproject'. Contemporary India according to an eminent sociologist is a'Republic Day Parade of silences". The silences on Kashmir are unbearableand dangerous. Right-minded people in mainland India need to think Kashmirseriously. In this context there is need for "Friends of Kashmir committee 2.0" which can build ahealthy and positive public opinion on Kashmir related matters. In order toenlist the support of all politicalparties, Mridula Sarabhai whom SarojiniNaidu described as the " Joan of Arc" of Gujarat established the first 'Friends of Kashmircommittee' on December 10, 1952 to fight for the civil liberties and democraticrights of the people of Kashmir. AsIndia is fast becoming a majoritarian democracy and Kashmiris are looked withsuspicion the public spirited Indiansneed to speak out through a forum which can be 'Friends of Kashmir committee 2.0' . In the lines to follow Ishall look into the role of firstcommittee in order to inform the second.
It was with assistance from Subhadra Joshi, Shah Nawaz Khan, Amar Nath Chawla, Bishwa Bandhu Gupta, Sikandar Bakht, HKL Bhagat, MFarooqi, Anees Kidwai, BPL Bedi that Mridula Sarabhi established the first "Friends ofKashmir committee" to counter thepropaganda against Kashmir and kashmiris. This was a forum of civil society actors who fought for the rights ofmarginalized Kashmiris. In 1950 Delhi-Srinagar relationship deterioratedto unimaginable level. The democraticinstitutions viz free media and civil society had not taken roots. Theinitiative taken by Mridula acted as a bridge between India and Kashmir. Theperiod from 2014-19 in many ways reflects the vacuum in Kashmir and unfortunatelyIndian state's only outreach to common Kashmir is through military-bureaucratic arm of the state.
To counter the allegations of certain political forces and communal press, the"Friends of Kashmir Committee" led by Mridula organized publicmeetings in different parts of India toapprise the people that there was no conspiracy to kill Dr Shyama PrasadMookerjee and that his death was due to natural circumstances. Dr Mookerjee wasarrested with tacit approval of the government of India as it wanted to keephis arrest beyond the jurisdiction of the supreme court of India. It was apprehended that Supreme Court of Indiawould have given a judgment in his favor and would have ordered his release. Itis a different matter that the efforts of committee did not succeed. There wasa group within congress which was not prepared to absolve Sheikh Mohammad Abdullahfor the alleged conspiracy. After the dismissal of Abdullah in 1953 Mridulawith support from the committee took the initiative of looking after familymembers of political prisoners so as todevelop a political connect with them. Mridula got Farooq Abdullah admitted to the Medicalcollege in Jaipur in Rajasthan. The thenchief Minister of Rajasthan Jai Narain Vyas held Sheikh Abdullah inhigh esteem and agreed to look after hisson. On many occasions Farooq Abdullah felt uncomfortable in the college wherehe was ragged by some doctors and students who subscribed to the ideology ofthe RSS. Having been in freedom movement since 1930 Mridula was fully aware ofthe hardship and agonies politicaldétenues and families as they wereisolated not only from their relatives, friends and well-wishers but also fromtheir breadwinners underwent. In aletter to Mridula Farooq Abdullah expressed his wish to get into All IndiaMedical Institute in Delhi so that he could be near Panditji. Farooq wrote a letter to Mridula: You know verywell Bahenjee, that Panditji is the onlyhope we have in India, after all the troubles i have gone through in theMedical college Jaipur, because of my being Sheikh Abdullah's son, are so great that it makes memad at times, so much so that i may have to leave my studies and this country.I cannot stand any more of these troubles merely because people believe that myfather is a traitor .Time alone will show who is a traitor…. i am anxious andworried .kindly help me out".
Mridula Sarabhai felt that there was a press campaignagainst Sheikh Abdullah, similar to that which was started in Pakistan afterBadshah Khan's arrest in which he was completely misrepresented andmisunderstood. The Pakistani media had accused Abdul Gaffar Khan of working foran independent Pakhtoonistan and the government arrested him on charges ofsedition. Many in Pakistan accused him of being an Indian agent. Mridula tookthe issue of Gaffar Khan's arrest to Amnesty International which declared him "Prisonerof the year" in 1963. In Indialikewise many people accused Sheikh Abdullah of being a Pakistani agent. Togive currency to the story that Sheikh Abdullah is a foreign agent a pamphletentitled " conspiracy in Kashmir" in the name of the "Social andPolitical Group" was distributed in Kashmir and also to members ofparliament, office-bearers of congress and many others .Mridula did not believein the bonafides of that document and discovered that Gulam Mohammad MirRajpouri and Manohar Nath Koul were theco-authors of that document and were known in Kashmir as opportunists. Mridularebutted the charges believing that this is going to create bad precedent s andendangering the political life of India. In order to keep the Indians betterinformed about Kashmir, Mridulacirculated a report in which she contradicted the impression that peace andtranquility prevailed in the valley. According to her: a reign of terror hascontinued…persecution is going on with unmitigated fervor, unrelieved by any avenueof freedom..under trials are being kept in separate cells, that is, in solitaryconfinement.."
The "Friends of Kashmir Committee2.0" shall haveto understand that there is an emotionaland intellectual partition happening between Delhi and Srinagar. State is managerialising the violence. Thepolitical grid is crumbling and security grid is talking about targets and no pain is felt by any one. Daily killingsare read out to people each evening as weather reports. There isremilitarization of new areas. Everywhere elections help solve problems and in Kashmir they seem to create them. In his resignationletter Rahul Gandhi says "free andfair elections require neutrality of institutions. Elections cannot be free ifone party has monopoly over financial resources". The Friends ofKashmir(if there are any left) can playa very important role in given circumstances. In my ideal moments I wonder what happened to the liberal, argumentativeand passionate Indian fighting for the rights of others. Martin Luther kingsaid" hate is too great a burden to bear".