Saturday, 5 September 2015
After Ufa, AG NOORANI
COLLAPSE of the short-lived Ufa peace process caused deep depression among people in Indian Kashmir. They know only too well that the key to their liberation from the oppressive stagnation there is an accord on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan which satisfies their aspirations as well.
Gen Pervez Musharraf (retd) faced strong opposition in his own country in the last months of his presidency, while most in India were critical of him. The reaction in Kashmir to his problems provides an instructive contrast which explains the Kashmiri mood.
Right across the political divide, both the unionists and the separatists saw him as one who could clinch a settlement on Kashmir. In November 2007, chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad praised him as a unique conciliator. Earlier in the same month, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, said: “Naturally we are concerned. We have a sentimental and geographical affinity with Pakistan.” She defended Musharraf’s Provisional Constitution Order of 2007.
Meanwhile, Shabbir Shah, a separatist, said at the time that the Emergency was a necessary step for Pakistan’s stability.
The Mufti regime has shown no concern for Kashmiri self-respect.
Now the omission of any reference to Kashmir in the Ufa statement has been sharply criticised. The Narendra Modi government is unlikely to take any substantial steps towards restoration of the autonomy of Indian Kashmir.
The PDP, supposedly the senior partner in the coalition, bows to the BJP’s diktat for fear of offending the BJP government at the centre and losing power. Indian Kashmir is unique. There was complete shutdown on two Independence Days; on Aug 14 (Pakistan) and on Aug 15 (India).
The Mufti regime has not only abandoned all its electoral promises but also all concern with Kashmir’s identity and self-respect. Section 144 of the constitution of J&K refers to the latter’s flag, saying it “shall be rectangular in shape and red in colour with three rectangular white vertical strips of equal width next to the staff and white plough in the middle with handle facing the strips”. All holders of office under this constitution are required to “bear true faith and allegiance” to it.
The PDP-BJP coalition assumed office on March 1 this year. But in less than a fortnight there was a retreat on several issues. Kashmir’s flag was one of them.
On March 12, a government circular said that it had, under Indian Jammu & Kashmir’s constitution, the “same sanctity and position as the national flag”. “The flag shall always be hoisted jointly with India’s national flag on the buildings, housings, and shall be used on the official cars of constitutional authorities.” The circular was swiftly withdrawn.
The highly respected Syed Ali Shah Geelani has long been under house arrest. He is not permitted even to join the congregational prayers in a mosque on Fridays. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also had to put up with curbs of all sorts. If the PDP held out any hope of relief, that hope lies shattered today.
None had the slightest expectations from Farooq Abdullah or his son Omar. Their eyes have ever been transfixed on New Delhi with hopes of grabbing any crumbs which the men at the high table of power in New Delhi choose to throw at them.
Farooq Abdullah told a former chief of RAW, A.S. Dulat, “I’m not like father; I’m not going to follow my father’s politics. I don’t intend to spend 23 years in jail. I’ve figured out that to remain in power here you have to be on the right side of Delhi and that’s what I’m going to do.” He cannot conceive of life without power and will sell his soul to secure it.
This stripping of all subterfuge has resulted in the appearance of unionist leaders, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Farooq and Omar Abdullah in the stark hideous shape of carpetbaggers. But, the separatists are hopelessly divided.
Is it, then, surprising that there has been a surge in militancy ever since the PDP-BJP coalition came to power? The majority of recruits are locals of whom very many are highly educated with scant deference to the old leadership.
Dulat noted: “Significantly, of late Kashmiri boys involved in militancy are more highly educated and from better stock.” Kashmir INK, a new Srinagar monthly, carries this month a revealing report on the new militant. He is bold, and very adept in using modern gadgets to spread the word and enlist support.
The Modi government is unlikely to reach out to Kashmiris to address their concerns. Their only hope lay in improvement in relations between Pakistan and India. The fortnight after Ufa has shattered it. The consequences will be dangerous and far-reaching unless and until the two countries begin seriously to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.
Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2015