By A S Dulat
23 Oct, 2012
WE ARE forever addressing alienation in Kashmir; an acknowledgement that there is an issue even when everything appears normal. No matter the cynicism and however poorly choreographed Rahul Gandhi’s visit, the fact that a possible future Prime Minister, proud of his Kashmiri heritage came as he said, to understand the pain of Kashmiris with czars of Indian industry by his side could not have gone unnoticed in Kashmir.
Economic bridges may not always connect in Kashmir; at heart, Kashmir is an emotive issue. But joblessness remains a key issue and even if 1000 Kashmiris got jobs as against 50,000 promised, Rahul Gandhi’s visit would not have been in vain.
If only he had visited Kashmir and said the same things in the first flush of UPA 1, when Rahul was still the fresh and exciting hope of the youth of the country, he would have struck a closer chord with Kashmir. Or as Greater Kashmir while welcoming Rahul’s initiative in its editorial on Oct 08, pleaded for a “sincere long term political effort to rid Kashmir of demons of the past.” The lower profile visit of the Union Home Minister made an impact because to Kashmiris he appeared and behaved almost as one of them not only visiting Charar- e- Sharif and Hazratbal but walking the bazaars of Srinagar, apparently against the advice of the security establishment, a rarity among politicians. Political instinct always trumps bureaucratese in Kashmir; little wonder that Prime Minister Vajpayee is still missed in the valley.
Sadly, neither the Home Minister’s visit nor the vibes between Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah have been able to overcome the open hostility between the coalition partners, the Congress and the National Conference in Kashmir. Last week there was a suggestion in the valley press that the Chief Minister when being pushed by the Congress on the 73rd amendment’s application to Panchayati Raj in Kashmir, to which the National Conference has reservations, was contemplating resignation.
Whether belittling or embarrassing the Chief Minister, even if in the local Congress perception he has overstayed his welcome, should be a matter of more serious consideration of the High Command in Delhi.
Somebody somewhere seems to believe that keeping the Chief Minister on tenterhooks brings out the best in Omar Abdullah.
But pressurising him to cry wolf once too often could prove counterproductive.
2014 is still a long way off but a Congress led coalition in J& K appears a mirage; what is questionable at this stage is whether the coalition partners can fight the next election jointly. Of greater importance is that a level playing field is afforded to all those willing to participate in enlarging the democratic process. As of now it appears unlikely that the separatists with the exception of Sajad Lone (if he qualifies as a separatist) will participate in elections in 2014. To swallow this bitter pill the All Parties Hurriyat Conference unfortunately is hoping for the impossible — a common prescription from two diametrically opposed doctors; the blessings of both India and Pakistan. The separatists need to understand that political space is slipping and they can continue with their ostrich- like approach only at the cost of becoming redundant.
Despite political fatigue and the Kashmiri ‘jihad’ going nowhere, statusquoism has no place in the Kashmiri mind; there is too much baggage that needs accommodation if not redressal. Rather than devoting all our efforts in tracking Pakistani terrorists in the valley, a war that the security forces have already won, we need to move beyond the security paradigm, concentrating on understanding Kashmiri sentiments and addressing physiological sensitivity. Kashmiri stubborn reluctance to accept defeat even after militancy has been defeated sustains the sentiment of ‘Azadi’. Considering that Kashmir is an integral part of the country, the Kashmiri sense of defeat deepens alienation and keeps alive issues as basic as the Kashmiri right to a passport. Exiting Srinagar airport even in these normal times remains a nightmare unless one is privileged to be on the fast track.
Overdependence on the security forces and the ‘dabang’ J& K police unnecessarily fuels resentment. The killing of a 65 year old woman allegedly beaten to death by the police in Kokernag on Oct 06 triggered protests in adjoining villages as well. Such is the aversion to ‘ khakhi’ in Kashmir that in Srinagar people say traffic has vastly improved since the removal of policemen and the installation of lights at crossings.
True or not, the story goes that recently during stone pelting in downtown Srinagar people came out to shield the traffic lights.
There are still pockets of unrest in the countryside but space and support for militancy is dwindling as recent successes of the security forces would suggest. More than that the spread of Wahabi culture in mosques, not only in towns but even in the countryside, compromising traditional Sufism should be a matter of greater concern.
In the past, the National Conference played a vital role in keeping Wahabism at bay. Sheikh Mohd Abdullah though himself a traditional Muslim did not allow even the Jamaat- e- Islami to grow, successfully neutralising its radical agenda. Today the grand old party of Kashmir is but a pale shadow of its former self, in no position to take on the mullahs. Placating rather than confronting pro- Pakistan elements seems easier both for Delhi and the mainstream in Kashmir.
In the haze that sometimes envelops Kashmir; we fail to distinguish between friends and foes. Pakistan makes no such mistake.
As for ourselves, there is no better time than this to move forward. As anybody in Srinagar, particularly those who have Delhi’s interest at heart will tell you, we are missing an opportunity. Since we have been unable to unravel the mainstream mantra it may be best to shelve the obsession. Perhaps, we lost our best opportunity of mainstreaming Kashmir with the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah on Aug 08, 1953.
A S Dulat is a former chief of Research & Analysis Wing
Source: Mail Today