These lines of mine need to be read with open mind and an open eye on the prevailing situation in the valley.
Kashmir for long has been synonym to two attributes. Beauty and Bondage. In 1947 when fate of whole of the subcontinent was decided by the people and their leaders with some manipulative interference by the British, Kashmiris had a hope to be considered for emancipation from the clutches of autocracy. But the communal fire and political bargaining in which the whole subcontinent was engulfed with severely effected decision making of our leadership. Thus our fate got marred by half baked promises, conditional accession leading to a situation of apathy and ultimately proxy and full-fledged wars of far-reaching consequences between India and Pakistan. This situation of hostility between two neighbours pushed Kashmir and its people into a quagmire of uncertainty and widened the gape between these two limbs of erstwhile ‘Bharat’. No one can deny the hazardous effects of this hostile situation on development and peace in the region. Political leadership in both the countries used this belligerent situation to settle and camouflage their internal political crisis and this situation of blow hot blow cold is there since 1947. But for the last two decades the fire of confrontation is up in wild flames and has shattered Kashmir and its people harshly.
Present situation of impasse for last more than a month has exposed the more vital aspect of this turmoil – that is leadership of all shades and shape. Everyone in Kashmir and out side, say, people, particularly the younger generation are angry but no one clearly put forward the cause of anger. Chief minister Omar Abdullah in his statements held foreign elements and some inland political elements responsible for instigating violence but in the same breath he some what coldly but candidly accepted the economic and political reasons for this unrest of greater magnitude with extensive ugly ramifications. His coalition partners were on the same wave length on this issue and almost verbally lynched the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). One of the prominent leaders of Congress party Mr. Saifuddin Soz came out with a novel approach by saying, “I believe we should suspend all development and raise 15 new battalions of well-trained police so that we don’t have mishaps. Because the reality is that those who say we can live without the CRPF and the army are living in fool’s paradise”. So it implies that all Kashmiris are fools and Kashmir is a fool’s paradise, as every Kashmiri presently demands removal of army and CRPF to their barracks. Main opposition PDP sanctimoniously went all out with its scathing and vigorous attack on the present political and administrative dispensation, accusing it of inefficiency, failure and lack of vision. Leader of the opposition Mehabooba Mufti many times on record said “Mainstream political parties have become irrelevant and marginalised in present situation of crisis and this is worrying me”. Omar Abdullah in his interviews and statements very candidly accepted faults in providing proper leadership and ascribed many reasons to present violence and standoff. In an interview to Outlook magazine he said, “It is impossible to pigeonhole things—anything—in J&K in such black-and-white terms. For some, it may seem like a desire for azadi. For others, it might be frustration on account of limited opportunities and lack of jobs. Still others might see it as a paid-for activity. There are elements of all this in what we are seeing.” This sums up the approach and attitude of main political leadership who in present political parlance are familiarly known as mainstream politicians.
It is a fact these mainstream political parties’ garnered support and mandate during recent elections but they can not deny the fact that it was mainly for the management of affairs of governance, eradication of corruption, accountability, law and order and overall development. And positively to work as a link between the central government and people of Kashmir to facilitate way out and address the political facet of Kashmir issue (both Indian and Pakistan consider Kashmir an issue to be addressed for long-lasting friendship). On the ground it seems all these parties could not deliver to the satisfaction of people and mainly could not muster enough courage to convince central leadership for amicable settlement of Kashmir issue. With the turn of events both PDP and National Conference leadership accepted their failures. Accepting defeat and set off in state of sulk with attributes of irrelevance is nothing more than escapism and lack of courage to face the situation of facts. Chief Minister himself called this situation as ‘worst crisis of his political carrier’ and like his earlier statements stressed upon the political solution of Kashmir than economic packages and sops. Isn’t it failure of leadership?
By present political standards PDP gained political points by evading participation in all party meeting for crisis management with its own logic but frankly speaking this goes against the people’s mandate. This way of registering protest is plain machination to shift blames. Both ruling and opposition parties are two faces of a coin—Democracy, implying government by the people for the people——–, but unfortunately by their breakdown they are encouraging and have become instruments in government ‘to’ the people—— (I am using word ‘to’ which can be grammatically awkward but to convey a sense of arrogance in the garb of democracy I find this experiment workable). People have the right to ask these political setups (both ruling and opposition), as why they could not deliver and provide the leadership demanded by the situation? Why you could not rise to the occasion and initiate measures right in the earnest to address the core issue of political settlement as advocated by both of you so vehemently? Your failures led to killing of innocent people and other colossal damage to pride, psyche, property and economy of state. Answerable you are, but answers you don’t have.
Now, the other side of leadership whom we call separatists and who claim to be the real representatives of aspirations of people of Kashmir. True, they have a say and even mainstream political system can not deny their relevance in Kashmir scenario. Their radical approach can antagonise many but they can not be dismissed as mere political entities. Kashmir conflict many years ago necessitated a platform for giving voice and leadership to the aspiration and other legitimate desire of Kashmiri people and thus Hurriyat Conference a conglomerate of many political and other organizations got shaped but the love of unity and common minimum programme of people’s hope could not last long. Hurriyat has experienced many vertical and horizontal (by horizontal I mean within the individual units) splits making people’s aspirations get sacrificed on alter of ego and narcissism of individuals. Many others who were earlier part of Hurriyat tried to make best out of their individuality but in real sense are losing significance and thus doing no good to the cause of Kashmiries and long-lasting peace in the region.
Present stalemate requires and demands a united Hurriyat not only to facilitate registering people’s voice in national and international forums but to give proper and sane leadership and avoid huge damage to life and property. United Hurriyat could tie together the people’s strength in a legitimate and genuine manner and make a collective effort to impress upon both India and Pakistan to bury their ego; make way for political approach to vexed Kashmir conflict. But their same approach to the same problem on different platforms with different pitch and tune has made the situation much worse. Hurriyat’s divided house encourages their political contenders to blame them for the whole rot and at occasions make them responsible for their own failures.
Kashmir conflict is an issue of greater magnitude with emotional implications involving not only the fate of Kashmiri people but in a larger perspective, peace and stability of this volatile and much charged region of south Asia, If not guided properly this prospective imbroglio will lead to bigger conflict of huge implication. Any failure on part of legitimate leadership will go in the annals of history as slur and future generations will remember such leadership with loads of disgrace and ridicule.