Kashmir, the prism that need not be
SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
What message and to whom Government of India wanted to send through Zubin Mehta’s ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’ concert are still unanswered questions. As the Opposition leader, Mehbooba Mufti, said at Regal Chowk last Friday, Delhi has to rework on its approach regarding J&K affairs. “If the Centre and the J&K government won’t change their attitude and polices towards Kashmir and its people, they should prepare for a big disaster. In the past five years, hearts of youth have been filled with hatred by the government.” Contexts may be different but opinions seem to be converging and convey the same message that Delhi has to relook at the policies.
The question is not that who is responsible for the emotional and blood stained environment that prevails in Kashmir whether or not the government feels responsible for the life, property and honour of the people of the State. Can simple expression of sympathies or a compensation of a lakh or two to the victims of violence relieve the common innocent Kashmiri masses of the injuries being inflicted at social, ideological and emotional strata?
It is a hard reality that in a democracy the reins of governance and policy planning have to remain with the politicians. And the reality is that for politicians their first preference is winning elections. Kishtwar suffered of communal clashes after some people raised slogans and Muzaffarnagar (UP) suffered of communal clashes after some youth protested against abuse of a girl. But some politicians did not lose any time in to cash on the situations. Even the pioneers and patrons of women rights movement made their presence felt. Such power hungry ‘well wishers’ are far from owing their allegiance to any religion or faith. So it is not only state policies but also the intentions of those in the seat of governance that need to be checked.
It is a myopic view to look at J&K as a state that has only six MPs. Had it not been so Delhi would not have branded the separatist ideologies in J&K only in economic and employment related issues. It has become a compulsion for the local mainstream leaders to raise questions atleast due to deliberations by Indian Government, if not India.
Any senior Indian leader, may he be from J&K or from any other Indian state, whenever addresses J&K affairs the focus remains to be the Kashmir Valley only. But unless the vision extends to other areas outside the valley the solution to J&K turmoil would be a distant dream. A lot of people outside the valley and in the near regions are living miserable lives. In Kashmir Valley every day a life is lost; there can not be any thing more worrying than this.
On September 8, Janta Dal (U) leader Sharad Yadav said in Srinagar: “I tell you with authority that there would have been no militancy, had elections not been rigged here”. Similarly it was on June 25 that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while addressing a gathering in Srinagar after the launch of postal stamp in memory of Kashmiri poet Pirzada Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor at SKICC, said: “Even in 1947, the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi could see a ray of hope for communal brotherhood in Kashmir only.” The PM added that Kashmiris have been a symbol of social values and morality.
When almost all senior Indian leaders have been trying to express their concern for the ‘cause of Kashmiris’ and when the allegations leveled by the separatists/ social groups/ mainstream leaders have not been negated, what is the reason that Delhi have not been able to earn the faith of the people and only talk of need for winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiries after six decades of accession?
What ever problems are there in J&K, the solution only rests with those who are holding the reins of in Delhi. But to achieve anything they will have to make a paradigm shift. Ideologies need to be markedly defined and the mainstream elements will have to be encouraged. The policies of putting a lid by treating separatist ideologies with employment generation and economic assistance will have to be shed. The fatal attraction of the vote-hunting politicians will have to be checked by the social organization. Must need is to understand the genesis of the problem.
J&K Cabinet had on Sepetember 12 (this month) expressed deep sorrow and concern on the killing of 4 persons in CRPF firing at Gagren Shopian. The government appeared to be in a firefighting mood and it has been understood that that the Chief Minister has directed the Director General of Police to replace the CRPF personnel at the Gagren Camp in Shopian with a contingent of the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police. Such actions cannot help in restoring peace and faith, since simply defusing an explosive situation is not enough, we have to also undo the “charge”.
The culture of allegations and counter allegations has flourished all these years in Kashmir valley. Even leaders from mainstream do not hesitate in putting the blame on security forces. The leaders from out side Kashmir Valley appear to be interested only in who forms the local government and hence the world opinion on J&K is formed on the basis of what Kashmiri leaders say. Under such circumstances, the genuine sentiments get buried deep down with all kinds of secondary and tertiary problems.
So, in case Delhi does not agree and the government led by Omar Abdullah still is of opinion that disturbed conditions do not exist in some districts of J&K, Governor may declare such areas undisturbed and only local police be employed there. Process should be started with relieving the central security forces from the duty. But a cat simply closing the eyes can not disfigure the presence of the ‘big cat’.
The author is a social activist and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shopian: My bleeding home
Shopian has been the gateway to the Valley on the Moghul Road from a far too distant past. Its historic importance as a political and trade route was never lost. Historic events and the scenic geographic terrain as also the men of great eminence defined it in glowing terms. This was the place known by the birth of great men of learning like Mohamad Amin Kamil, Mohamad Yousuf Teing, Shourida Kashmiri and Mohamad Ayub Betab : dedicated political and social workers like Kh. Ghulam Hassan Khan Pinjora and Pt. Saroop Nath: highly enlightened and respected religious leader like Moulvi Mohamad Amin; and by the emancipated journalists like Shamim Ahmad Shamim and Mohammad Sayeed Malik. Its Ambri apple spread fragrance where ever it travelled. Pure ghee produced here made every dish sweet spread across a dining table anywhere, be in a home or in a hotel. The warmth of its blankets kept both pleb and a prince going in the chilly winter months of the Valley. Majestic Rambiara added to its scenic charm. The roads of Gagran and Memandhar wound around a hillock ( Lahanthoor ) which immortalised Bollywood movie Kashmir Ki Kali and launched Sharmila Tagore to the cinematic heights.
Rambiara, in lowered head as a grieving witness, mourns the death of two brutally ravished daughters of the town. The blood littered roads of Gagran and Memandhar no longer take pride in having carried Shamila Tagore to the great artistic heights. They grieve over the death of the innocents whose lives oozed out in their laps. Adult and teenagers dread to come out. Roads wear a deserted look. Curfew here firing there, tell a sad tale. This is today's Shopian - my home town.
Till yesterday, Shopian defined itself in a very positive manner. Unfortunately, the positivity in its definition has vanished, only to be replaced by a despair, gloom and sorrow. Merchants of death, howsoever high administrative position they are occupying, who have given bad name to the town, must be named and shamed. Some may ponder- what has gone wrong with the place. Well, the answer is simple : same that has been the case with rest of the Valley. Malaise is manifest. There is no need to get over the data. Facts lay bare. In short terms, one may say that there is a total governance deficit. What adds to the tragedy is the complete vacuum in civilised politics. Mainstream politics is as absent as, perhaps, that of the separatist kind. Rogues in uniform and the lumpens in the streets have a field day. The circumstances have become so bloody that everyone amongst us must feel compelled to do something and speak out. It will be naive of us if the problem is considered a local one. In the long run, Shopian problem cannot be dealt with in isolation or opposite side of what happens in the Valley. Peace, here, has to be embedded in larger framework that improves atmosphere in the whole State. State government, being in a dominant position, has a great responsibility in this regard. Though, it has been our experience so far that it has only made a bad situation worse.
Fundamental changes are required. Finding a way out in bits and pieces put together won't work. Relocating a CRPF Camp from here to there is no solution. Security forces footprint has to be reduced in size across the State. Local dialogue must begin; government has to take greater action to prevent human rights abuse and, at least, do the job of governance. Shopian has a vibrant civil society. It rose to the occasion in 2009 when two young women fell victim to the ravishing eyes of the brutes and awakened conscience of whole world which resulted in universal condemnation of the gory act. The civil society will have to act again. If not for anything else, but to ensure that no innocent life is snuffed out. And when we talk of a local dialogue the government, apart from reining in its forces, will be best advised to take this civil society on board for the restoration of semblance of peace and order in the turbulent area. Every one of us must put weight behind the civil society and help our home place regain the past. Shopian must invoke its inherent defining qualities. We owe it to our birth place.
(The author is Former Pr District & Judge)