Spare us your pieties, dear leaders. Get to work

  • Engineer Rashid
  • Publish Date: Feb 10 2016 3:27PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 15 2016 3:29PM
Spare us your pieties, dear leaders. Get to work

hat Kashmiris have a need, right and duty to introspect where they stand after 26 years of armed struggle is beyond dispute. But the question that they should base their inquest on is not whether they have failed their leadership, as Syed Ali Geelani has insisted they have, or whether the leadership has let them down. The question is this: is there a ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel?
The answer, on current evidence, is disappointing. The Indian state has not only successfully withered the pressures that could have forced it to hold a meaningful dialogue, it has made every Kashmiri suspicious in the eyes of friends and foes alike. Not that Kashmiris themselves have done any better. Tarring the state's mainstream political parties as “traitors” hasn't achieved the Hurriyat anything to help resolve the issue, nor have the mainstream parties gained by badly diluting an internationally-recognised dispute. It's painful to admit but the truth is that from all that has happened in the past 26 years, the leaders have benefited vastly while the common folk feel defeated and demoralised.
We, as a nation, need to understand not only each other but the changing global scenario as well. Change, they say, is the only constant. In our case, unluckily, the change has swung from bad to worse. To arrest further slide into despair, we must radically overhaul our policies. In this, of course, the leaders have to take the initiative.
Leaders just can't run away from their duties by blaming each other or by accusing their people of inconsistency. If it were only up to the masses, they wouldn't need leaders. But the sad reality is that the masses don’t change the course of history unless their leaders come true to their expectations. Their nations revere Gandhi, Jinnah, Mandela, Umer Mukhtar and Mao Zedong; Sheikh Abdullah and Lal Dinga are cursed for failing their people.
True leaders don't just revel in the successes of their movement, they take moral responsibility for its failures as well. That Kashmir desperately needs such leaders is putting it mildly. That is because we just can't leave our fate entirely in the hands of India and Pakistan. They have their own priorities and problems. Although Pakistanis are seen as strong advocate of Kashmiris, they have often pursued their own interests at our expense. So, our leadership has the enormous responsibility of being a sincere lawyer striving to safeguard the best interests of his client. And if the lawyer's case isn't going as well as expected, he's well advised to revise his strategy.
Unfortunately, our lawyers haven't made much progress on our case despite charging hefty fees in terms of asking for loyalty sacrifices, hartals, protests, processions, poll boycotts. Perhaps, they are incapable of winning the case but won't admit as much. Why should they when they know we won't change them? In time, the case would be so weakened as to be unwinnable. We will then blame each other and curse our luck, but what good would that do?
We must understand now before it's too late that so long as Kashmir is burning, everything in it will be singed, if not destroyed. It is, therefore, imperative that all of us strive for an early resolution of this vexed issue. After sacrificing so much for so long, Kashmiris don’t deserve the hopelessness that has become their lot now.
But how exactly do we resolve it? There are six possible ways -- through the implementation of the UN resolutions; tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership; sustained armed struggle; war between India and Pakistan; mass Kashmiri uprising and civil disobedience; disintegration of Indian and Pakistani states due to internal pulls and pressures.
None of the options seems practical, however. In fact, we have already tried half of them without much success. The others – war, disintegration of India and Pakistan – need not even be discussed given their predictably horrific consequences.
Unable to propose alternative options to resolve the dispute, the Kashmiri leaders, out of frustration and disappointment, are currently either hopping onto the Indo-Pak dialogue bandwagon by praising their respective masters, or seeking personal political survival by accusing each other of betrayal, compromise and contesting elections.
As explained earlier, talks between India and Pakistan won't yield much unless Kashmiris have a strong and sincere leadership that could mount pressure on both countries. Just making a casual comment on Kashmir in their structured dialogue doesn't mean the two countries are devoted wholly to this issue. We need to keep in mind that in the present global scenario, Pakistan may not be of much help to us. The current obsession of the world community, read the West, is apparently promoting “democratic voices” in disputed territories.
Not that we have any option but to try the democratic institutions so that India's propaganda that Kashmiris have opted for India by participating in elections in huge numbers is exposed. The Hurriyat may enjoy more public support than the mainstream parties but if their movement is restricted and their voice unheard, India’s propagandists will succeed in projecting them as Pakistani proxies, and their efforts may well go waste. Let's not add bitterness to the debate by saying the separatist leaders have repeatedly been reluctant to strike the iron when it was hot right since 1990.
India has been successfully projecting the mainstream parties as the “true representatives” of Kashmiris. Indeed, when 80 per cent of the people vote and and elect 87 representatives to the assembly, it's difficult to counter that argument.
Yet, even if only a handful of the elected representatives would sincerely represent Kashmir in Delhi and understand that taking oath under the Indian constitution does not debar them from telling the truth that J&K is a disputed territory, it would become very difficult for India to contradict them, in front of the world community and its own people.
Changing a strategy without compromising on the goal isn't betrayal. As long as a Kashmiri takes a ration card, Aadhar, passport, government job, subsidy, or practises in a court of law, he, by compulsion or conviction, accepts India’s sovereignty. That by no means makes him a traitor. So, while accusing MLAs and those who contest elections as traitors won't help anyone, it does give the mainstream politicians an excuse to not represent the aspirations, sentiments and sacrifices of Kashmiris. Besides, accusing elected representatives of being traitors implies that those who elected them are also traitors – that's 80% of Kashmir's voters. That would mean most of us have accepted India’s position on Kashmir and we must close our “retail” and “wholesale shops” selling resolutions of the Kashmir issue. Also, let me point out that Geelani Sahib, Abdul Gani Lone, Syed Salahuddin, Miya Qayoom contested elections even after Muqbool Bhat had been hanged, but nobody called them “traitors”. When Sheikh Abdullah was leading the Plebiscite Front, he begged people to boycott elections, but they still contested and voted. They weren't called traitors.
That said, we elected representatives must not get swayed by the propaganda that our election is a stamp of approval on India's control over Kashmir. We should, in fact, turn the tables on them by talking, loudly and in clear terms, about the Kashmir dispute in and outside the assembly. I wish for the day when our assembly would pass this resolution: “Let India and Pakistan accept the right to self-determination of Kashmiris and accept that 80,000 people who got killed are martyrs.” Of course, India would never even acknowledge such a resolution. So what? We shouldn't give up on any available option. And it would again expose India. It wouldn't be able to claim that the people of Kashmir have accepted India’s sovereignty over their land.