Future of Kashmir Lies in the Hands of Its Own People — A G Noorani

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Security forces patrol the streets of Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. — File photo

A government muzzling people’s voices is not a sign of people being happy, it is a sign of the government being tyrannical, said Ifra Jan, the spokesperson of the National Conference

A G NOORANI

KASHMIR’s future lies in the hands of its own people. The world outside can and must help them but it can only help so much and not more. The militancy which erupted in 1988 served only to revive an issue which was dormant in the eyes of some. It exacted a heavy toll on lives in the area.

The All Parties’ Hurriyat Conference which was formed in its wake has been an utter failure. Its leaders have only proved themselves to be a selfish and self-centred lot. They failed to provide strong leadership or even a convincing strategy mainly because of internal bickering. That some prospered was no secret. The only strategy they could come up with was the strategy of hartals which imposed a heavy economic burden on the common people.

Two persons are mostly responsible for the decay and virtual collapse of the Hurriyat — Abdul Ghani Lone and Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Lone was a product of a political process, well aware of its realities of political warfare. Syed Ali Shah Geelani quoted religious texts and poets profusely without much understanding. What is revealing is his public claim — twice — to absolute leadership of the Kashmir movement. Almost all rushed to reject the claim.

Only one man has struggled hard to keep the flag flying — the young Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who is under house arrest.

The Unionists are represented by the National Conference, led by Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah. And the People’s Democratic Party is led by Mehbooba Mufti.

The two-year old constitutional coup of Aug 5, 2019, has spared neither. Its aim was to destroy Kashmir as we have known it — the political entity and Kashmir’s political class.

Three politicians of some note have been bought over and now operate as the king’s men. In this lies the danger ahead.

Towards the end of June 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a meeting between the centre and pro-India Kashmiri leaders in New Delhi. The lively Srinagar weekly, Kashmiri Life, published in July what was virtually the minutes of that useless meeting. Most of the politicians apparently spoke with a forked tongue; one line at the meeting, another to the press outside. What reliance can the people of Kashmir place on such leaders of the old school, let alone the ‘new’ leaders whom New Delhi is grooming before our eyes? Predictably, the king’s men accused the existing leadership of lying while giving that meeting a whole load of lies and false claims. One participant who came out in flying colours was the courageous Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami of the Communist Party of India (Marxist.)

It’s no gain for the Kashmiris that Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah reaffirmed their pledge to restore Kashmir’s status as it was before the Aug 5 action. What will be its worth now if it could be snatched away so easily? The issue is the restoration of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

The member who completely prevented debate saying the matter was sub judice was talking through his tilted and frayed cap. The sub judice rule cannot, does not prevent debate on a matter of public concern as the European Court on Human Rights held in the thalidomide case decades ago.

Outlook India’s Kashmiri correspondent Naseer Ganai has reported that some days before the second anniversary of the Aug 5, 2019, abrogation of Article 370, by New Delhi, the Kashmiri poet and actor Bashir Ahmad Dada had talked about “living in fear”. He said, “It’s not just the government that is responsible for the Kashmiri’s fear-ridden existence. We, the people, are also spreading fear.” Ganai quoted Bashir Dada as describing how “his friends asked him to delete a Facebook post critical of the government”. The poet said: “They thought the police would arrest me otherwise. This is what has changed in the past two years. Poets have given up poetry, columns by independent writers have disappeared from local newspapers and everyone is afraid of talking.”

Meanwhile, Ifra Jan, the spokesperson of the National Conference, said that the government says people are not angry, “but how do you quantify anger?” She asked, “Are people happy in non-democratic countries where nobody protests? In democracies, people show anger through public protest, which is a democratic right. Will the current dispensation allow anyone to … say anything? A father who demanded his son’s body was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. If people were to protest on the streets, won’t their lives be in danger? A government muzzling people’s voices is not a sign of people being happy, it is a sign of the government being tyrannical.”

It is very unfortunate that her description perfectly fits the state of Kashmir today.

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(The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai. The article is taken from Dawn.)

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