Thursday, 4 November 2010

Kashmiris and cynical Delhi by Seema Mustafa

Kashmiris and cynical Delhi by Seema Mustafa
Posted by K4Kashmir on November 4, 2010 in Kashmir | 0 Comment Edit
Kashmiris and cynical Delhi
by Seema Mustafa | | |
In Srinagar, except for the presence of the security forces, there is little evidence of a government at work. Outside Srinagar, except for the tourist spots, people live without any support from the government

It is seldom that Kashmiris and people living in cynical Delhi agree on any one point. But this time, perhaps without even either realizing it, there is rare unanimity on the wasted exercise that the government of India has launched through its three interlocutors. Reactions range from the more angry “humiliating” response of the Kashmiris to “what a hoax” from Delhi-ites including many who are in government, or closely connected with it.

The first visit of the interlocutors to Jammu and Kashmir seems to bear out the skepticism. They began the visit from the residence of PDP leader Muzaffar Baig and did not seem to have benefited greatly from this in real terms. They met chief minister Omar Abdullah with whom all have good relations. They met a few students from Kashmir university brought together no doubt by Vice Chancellor Riyaz Panjabi. They were not able to meet any separatists. And were largely dependent on the Central Jail staff to bring them into contact with the stone pelters and others arrested under the Public Security Act. A captive audience that had no choice but to meet the interlocutors as it were.

There are reports now of sharp differences between two of them over almost every aspect of the visit. They spoke extensively to the media, in fact more to the media than to the affected people of Kashmir. And as one of the exasperated editorials, in a national daily advised them, “talk less, do more”, echoing the sentiments at large. One interlocutor spoke of amending the Constitution to accommodate the Kashmiris views, another spoke of the necessity to talk to Pakistan, a third made it apparent to all he met that he was still to acquaint himself with the Kashmir issue.

The exercise was over before it started. Or as soon as the team of interlocutors was appointed. Kashmir turned away and while the media had no choice but to stalk the interlocutors it was clear to everyone in Srinagar that the visit was at best a non event. Even the National Conference did not seem to reach out, and PDP leaders like Mehbooba Mufti stayed away.

The government of India is still toying with the Kashmir issue. The movement is static, as all the various promises have still to be implemented. The appointment of interlocutors was clearly intended to delay movement forward, and give the government time to twiddle its toes. It is doing precisely this at a time with cosmetic noises intended to convince the international community and the small pressure groups at home that Kashmir has not been lost sight of, it is still on the radar screen.

Working on a television report about the status of women in conflict one was horrified to find that nothing, absolutely nothing has been done by the state government to rehabilitate the victims of violence. Hundreds of women are on the verge of destitution, suffering from stress related trauma and health disorders, with no effort by the well fed state government machinery to document their status and launch a big rehabilitation program. In Srinagar, except for the presence of the security forces, there is little evidence of a government at work. Outside Srinagar, except for the tourist spots, people live without any support from the government. Not a single government officer has called on the victims of violence, offered compensation and a new life. They are not even in documents, or part of overall statistics. They do not exist.

This complete apathy and negligence would have ensured the exit of a chief minister in any other state. Instead of hauling him up, coalition partners, the Congress, have given Omar Abdullah a clean chit. One statement from Rahul Gandhi supporting his good friend Omar Abdullah has ensured complete silence from the Congress. So much so that while they mutter against him in the confines of their houses, they are terrified of saying a word against him in public lest they invite the wrath of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son. There is thus, no check or balance in a curfew dominated Valley on the chief minister who like his father has become indifferent to the plight of his own people. And if he is not, has done little to show in terms of action on the ground.

Omar Abdullah, as Kashmiris have always said, was elected not to resolve the Kashmir issue but to make life less miserable for the people. He could have done by directing the money to developing a good infrastructure, by bringing in industry, by setting up commissions with a time bound program for the rehabilitation and relief of the victims of violence, by setting up committees to look into the plight of women, by improving the education system and bringing in good technological and vocational institutions, by developing the hyrdo power projects and by striking out against the impediments imposed by the centre and the vested interests. He did none of that. On the political front he has not been able to connect with all streams of Kashmiri society; he has not been able to persuade the centre to move back the army; he has, in fact, favoured the imposition of curfew rather than otherwise.

The tragedy for the Kashmiris is having the wrong men in position at the wrong time. It is also a tragedy for India as well, as a capable chief minister and Prime Minister at this point in time could have helped avoid much of the violence and the bloodshed, and helped prevent the rapid deterioration of Srinagar-Delhi links. The problem is of complete distrust and a lack of confidence in the government of India that has assumed epidemic dimensions. No one in Kashmir believes anything that New Delhi says on Kashmir. Unfortunately, instead of addressing this, the state and central governments are compounding it through the rapid swing between hysterical over reaction and total apathy.

Seema Mustafa is an Indian journalist and peace activist. She is the former Political Editor and Delhi Bureau Chief of The Asian Age. Asian Age column was syndicated to several newspapers including Pakistan’s leading daily, Dawn. Email:

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