Kashmir As I Saw It

Gilani-With-Kamal-MorarkaBy Kamal Morarka

I don’t know who informs the Delhi Government of the ground realities in Kashmir, but Delhi government needs to be informed better.

I took a trip to Srinagar from 17 to 20 December. The idea was to get a first-hand feel of what exactly is happening there? What has made the people so angry? And what is the way forward? I was more interested in meeting the separatist leaders, which I did, but I also took the opportunity to meet people from a cross-section of the society. Not in the order of meeting but I can briefly recall what happened?
I met the senior most leaders among the so-called separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is a veteran leader. He is quite a soft-spoken man, and he is confine to his home since the police do not allow him to go out, not even to the masjid to offer prayers, but his determination is quite firm. And he is quite clear that unless India and Pakistan sit down and talk nothing will come out. The demand of his group is of course the plebiscite, which is a long-pending issue in Kashmir. But there is nothing in his demeanor to show that he wants disruption or problem for the ordinary people in Kashmir. In fact few days ago he has given a call for tourists to visit Kashmir in large numbers, and there is the evidence that nobody really harms the tourists. The violent action is between the angry youth and the paramilitary forces.
Then I met Mirwaiz Maulvi Omar Farooq who is the next senior leader of the Hurriyat. More or less the outcome was the same, but he was more keen on starting some sort of talks, and he was very happy that the civil society is taking an interest. He in fact mentioned that we must carry on our efforts to impress upon the government of India that some action needs to be taken. I met Prof. Abdul Ghani Butt of the Muslim Conference, who is highly respected, and though his party may not be electorally that prominent, but his reputation of integrity and of values is intact. He was also clear that violence leads to nowhere. There has to be some method of Delhi engaging Srinagar, and of course he welcomed the efforts made by groups like us.
Then we met Nayeem Khan who is a senior member of the Hurriyat and who was underground for long time. He was also very clear that nothing will come out unless some thinking is there on both sides to sit down and talk. The good point is all these people had a positive note; none of them really talk negative in the sense that they wanted the imbroglio to continue, not at all! Then we met members of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association who really have no voice, because the judiciary in the state itself is not able to get the order implemented. They give an example that High Court had passed an order in 2009 that Mr. Geelani was free to go anywhere and yet the police have not acted upon it, which is a clear contempt of court but that is the condition of judiciary there. Lawyers like all over India or all over the world are well read, up to date with the facts and quite rational in their talking. Whichever part of Kashmir they may belong, whichever side of the divide they maybe in the sense some may be in the National Conference, PDP, some may be in Congress, but they were apolitical as far as the discussion was concerned.mirwiz-umar-farokh
Some students came to meet me. Student like they are, everybody has a different views. There were some who said, “I do not know why everybody is under the impression that we want Pakistan or we want Independence. We want the government of India to behave in a proper way with us.” Why are you exacerbating the problem? For example Burhan Wani’s case, everybody across the spectrum agrees that it was spontaneous. It was definitely not started by the Hurriyat. It was the trigger, anger already mounting, and the killing of that young man made the thing out of control. Yes, it is true that after that the Hurriyat was issuing calendars to bring some sort of discipline into the hartaal or strike or whatever it is. And the strike of six months where all shops were closed, people were losing their livelihood, schools colleges were closed and it happened voluntarily without any threat. It is a big indicator which way the wind is blowing. I don’t know who informs the Delhi Government of the ground realities in Kashmir, but definitely the Delhi government needs to be informed better. Of course, winter has set in and the anger has subsided: You cannot carry on an agitation like this for years and years. For six months, there is respite but it will be false thing to assume that peace has returned – calm is not peace. In April, after winter ends and government shift back to Srinagar from Jammu, April activity will start again. We do not know what will happen.
I also met a group of traders, like traders they are more interested in the normal activities to be restarted, for they are all suffering a lot. The point is none of them speak against the Hurriyat leaders – some because they feel that they represent them and some may be out of fear. Nobody wants to be wrong side of anybody. Neither will they speak against the National Conference nor against the PDP. They are like concerned citizen wanting normal life to return. In fact I was urging them to take a line, but all of them could not take a line beyond saying that the government of India should discuss with Kashmir, with Pakistan; there can be a tripartite discussion, but some formula should come where normal peace comes to Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir.
Now having met all these people, what is the common thread? Common thread is that as a result of the anger the youth today, who does not even know the history of Kashmir, but what I could see is the elders who are there are trying to give them their version of history of Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah was the undisputed leader of the Kashmir. Now they are questioning whether he was the undisputed leader. This is not a good thing for the people of Kashmir. The BJP has always blamed Jawaharlal Nehru, etc. without understanding or deliberately twisting facts. The fact remains that Sheikh Abdullah was a reformist, he was against zamindari system, he knew that under the Maharaja the Hindus were landlords and the Muslims were the tenets, and he took a lead in saying that some sort of balance is brought about which he did. Reading between the lines, I think that the government of India must take affirmative action, it should be pro-active. There is no need of discussing with anybody when normal civil liberty and human rights have been taken away, you cannot have dharna in Srinagar (peaceful dharna) and you cannot have meeting in a hall. These are signs of totalitarianism and dictatorship. This will alienate the people further. farookh-abdulla
The biggest shock to me was the degree of alienation among the normal people. We have brought this upon us ourselves. The government of India, how far they want to go, how far they want to use their wisdom it is up to them, but they should start dismantling this strict enforcement of laws, which are not even necessary at peace time. What will happen if you allow Mr. Geelani to move about in Srinagar? What will happen if Shabir Shah is not kept in Jail? Making them azad does not mean making Kashmir azad from India. No way! There is an army standing at the Pakistan border that will remain there, nobody is questioning that but normal civil rights and human rights should be restored. Not only that there a resentment that Article 370, instead of being properly enforced to safeguard the rights of Kashmiris, has been slowly diluted, which is an accepted fact. Between 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah was arrested and 1975 when he again took over as Chief Minister, in twenty-two years almost all laws were extended, making Article 370 a formal thing without teeth in it. One can argue that the assemblies under Bukshi Ghulam Mohammed, Shamsuddin, G. M. Sadiq and Syed Mir Qasim have passed resolutions; I do not know why but the present Assemblies can rescind those resolutions. We had long governments of Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, they could have brought a resolutions in which they could have gone in to the details and rescinded them that okay whatever you said at that time we rescind them to enforce our own law, we do not want Union of India’s laws to apply here. But those are legal and technical matters.
The fact on the ground is that they feel alienated. The Supreme Court had given some judgment on some economic laws in favor of the State Bank of India, they are feeling angry. They want loan from the State Bank of India. It is logical that loan has to be governed by some laws but the alienation is more psychological. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court should be empowered enough to bring balance between the traders and the bank. They feel the Supreme Court gets angry just because “what we are accusing is as if the Supreme Court is also playing a card of India vs. Kashmir”, which is far from the truth. The Supreme Court is only interpreting a law, but unless the government of India starts dismantling this wall between India and Kashmir, I am afraid that the alienation will not go. And if the alienation continues, by today, tomorrow, after five years, ten years the solution will not come. In Kashmir contrary to the speeches given by the central government on terrorist money, etc., there are no queues in front of ATMs there, because Kashmiris by nature or due to the weather condition stock two three months food in their houses. So they are not like other parts of India that they will have to run for money but that does not mean that you have not inconvenienced them. Demonetization is the one issue which has not affected them as deeply as it has affected UP, Bihar, Delhi and Mumbai.
Where do we go from here? According to me if the government going to view Kashmir only through security network, whether National Security Advisor, Army, Home Ministry, then there is a problem because then win their hearts again to make them grand part of India legally – though they are part of India because if they want to go abroad they need Indian passport, but that’s it – will be difficult. Their minds and heart is not with India. Why? Because the feeling what we give is not appropriate. There is a oft-repeated complaint that “we are Kashmiris by birth these policewalas from Bihar or Kerala or Tamil Nadu after every few kilometers ask for our identity (ID).” The policewala is not from Kashmir and he is asking a Kashmiri for his ID. Now legally it may be correct to do so, but look at the feeling it generates. If we are born and brought up here, we are showing our ID to a person who has nothing to do with us. The police, paramilitary, army network has to be reduced. How to do it? It is difficult. Army at LOC (line of control) nobody is disputing that is a matter between the two countries. But within Kashmir, the number of armed forces or uniformed people should be reduced. You can do it gradually. If you reduce and see no violence takes place, where is the problem? There are total 178 militants in Kashmir, they used to be 50; they say it increases over six months. 178 is not a very big number, but I agree militants are militants they can be hiding in people’s houses and they can play havoc, which is the issue that is very complex one. But it is as much logical as it is psychological.kasmiri
Logically, things will take their own course. Plebiscite cannot take place till India and Pakistan agree. So let us keep it out, but normal life as Indians living in Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai or any other place what they experience can easily be extended to Kashmir. It was once upon a time. After 1983-84 and they pinpoint 1989 elections which they say were rigged. Last thirty years, the semblance of civil liberty or equality has gone, police is supreme and army is supreme. The anger is much more now because a new phenomenon has come: using pellets guns. If students are objecting, throwing stones they are shot with pallet guns which have made a girl blind which has maimed people, blinded people. All these certainly cannot get the goodwill of the people throughout India. Of course law and order is important, but law and order you cannot act disproportionate to the problem. You cannot belittle them by saying that by demonetization the problem has gone, because they were paid money to throw stone. For just 500 rupees nobody will throw stones and endanger his life; it is too childish a proposition. Anyway just now the idea is to take advantage of the peace. If you start dismantling the process slowly and allow assembly of people (allowing meetings means political meetings), what is wrong in it? I can hold political meeting in Mumbai and say that only Maharashtrian should live in Maharashtra other should go. That does not mean I am anti-national. I may be in my extreme view, you may not agree with me, but it is certainly not something which is not allowed in our constitution. Kashmir is always a special state article 370 protects them. Pakistan is claiming rights over Kashmir. There is no harm if a little bit of political activities allowed in Kashmir till a time comes when you will totally integrated it and that will come by strengthening article 370, not by abolishing 370 as BJP use to threaten and as the present minister of state in the PMO said. The moment Modi got sworn in he said that the process of abrogating 370 has started. It was the most unwise, improper, incorrect statement to be made especially from a person sitting in the PMO. Of course after that he has not repeated, and while making government with PDP, you have virtually accepted 370: this is how it should be. Governments can come and go; the position of the country enshrined in the constitution cannot be changed. Today, can a government come and say – within India forget Kashmir for time being – these rights only Hindus will have? No! Article 14 and 19 of the constitution safeguard every citizen, and courts have got reasonable restrictions. Sedition, if somebody makes comment against India these people are so sensitive that they want that person to be arrested. Why? Yes, if he incites violence, if he does something by which there is danger to the country certainly you take action not by mere speech.
Freedom of speech essentially means to be allowed to speak what you do not like to here. After all if somebody speaks in praise of you there is not much freedom. Freedom is when he says something you do not like. Let him make the cruelest remark and if you allow him to do that, then you have real freedom of speech that is what we understand it in the western democracies, that’s what we have understood in India. Within parliament there has been speeches of C. N. Annadurai representing DMK from Madras state at that time he made a plea for cession of Madras state from India – separate flag, separate name, separate constitution, etc. etc. He had spoken in Rajya Sabha for one hour nobody interrupted him. In those days there was a tradition of debate not of shouting and counter-shouting. After that 12 members spoke, enumerating Mr. Annadurai the fallacy of his argument. They explained to him not only what he was saying was against the interest of India, but it was also against the interest of the Tamilians. What would have been the result today? Elections are there, Tamilians came to power from 1967 to now, that is from 50 years. They have been ruling. They are very much part of India. They are not talking of cession. In fact if you see the indices, Tamil Nadu is one of the developed states, industrially and otherwise.
Why people of Tamil Nadu feel now that they have got their government which they have elected. It is not dictation from Delhi. Even earlier when Congress was getting to power in the state, it was not a dictation. But in Kashmir the impression is only once they got elections in 1983. Farooq Abdullah could not come to term with Indira Gandhi and Congress and he fought and he won and he was made chief minister, a feeling came that now we are not under Delhi. It lasted for a year. Jagmohan was the Governor, midnight conspiracy was hatched, defections took place, and Congress got Farooq Abdullah’s brother in law G.M. Shah to become the chief minister. Incidentally it was the first time communal riots took place in Kashmir. Kashmir has never been communal, despite a strong Hindu and a strong Muslim population, because it is sufi Islam, not Wahabi Islam. In fact religion is not an issue in Kashmir, contrary to propaganda what we are fed with that Kashmiris are Muslims. Of course they are Muslims, so are Arabians and Dubai people, and all Hindu people are working in Dubai without any problem, nothing at all. Religion does not come into picture as long as it is private matter, and in Kashmir it is not an issue. Alright demarcation wise Jammu has more Hindus, but also has a sizable Muslim population in certain districts, but these issues cannot be wished away. Kashmir is a state of composite culture, they have Hindus, they have Muslims, they have Buddhist and they have Sikhs. Ranjeet Singh ruled there; Hari Singh ruled there. Kashmir is a totally different mosaic. One must understand the different colors which need lot of wisdom, lot of patience. Unfortunately in India we have now made it control of Kashmir though the Army, though the paramilitary and through the local police.
Law and order etc has to be there like every other state in India, but they cannot be the predominant deciders of what is going to happen. Unfortunately, the predominant perception in Kashmir is that the present Delhi government goes only by the advice of security personnel. This impression must also go. There has to be more political activities, let Home Minister Rajnath Singh visit Srinagar more often. He is a political man, he fights elections he understands the issue. He should engage people of the society. Of course, without prejudice he should take a position. The Home Minister need not agree that Kashmir is an open question, it is not. But within India sky’s the limit. Why should there be restrictions on the citizens of Srinagar. You always have your police to look into the matters, but the general public, which is not in politics, must get the feeling that we are being ruled by people whom we have elected, who are like us, who are positive, who want students to study, the ill to get treated in the hospitals, the trade and commerce to run, tourists to arrive and they are right that tourists are not harmed, that is correct. But a tourist read in paper every day people are killed no tourist will go there. Nobody likes to take a risk when he is going on a holiday. Who is responsible for all these situations? It is alright to blame Hurriyat leaders. They are doing their work. Srinagar government is under you – BJP and PDP. Delhi Government is under you – BJP. You cannot run away from the responsibility of running your country and every part of your country properly with good governance, decency, safety of human life and the freedom which are generally accepted all over or the rest of India.
I also met Farooq Abdullah, Saifuddin Soz of the Congress, Tarigami of CPM and the Congress president G.M. Mir. Political parties are political parties they take it as it comes. None of them have got strong views. Of course none of them can favor plebiscite, because they are functioning with Indian electoral laws. That issue has not arisen. But the good part was all of them wanted that our efforts should continue. Everybody wants that the fire to be doused, we do not know how? They don’t know who lit the fire? They do not even know who can douse it? But they feel more people to people contact more understanding, as they say dard-e-dil of Kashmir rest of India (they feel) do not understand and do not care. It is partly correct because there is information gap. So all that they want is more people of India should take interest, but in my opinion the key is with the central government. Unless they loosen the security apparatus, allow space to the normal citizen, things will not improve.
Shabir Shah is in Jail, in a proper police station which has been declared a sub-jail. We went there took a chance. The SHO was reluctant then Santosh Bharitya made a few calls and permission was granted. Of course once the permission was given Shabir Shah and all of us sat and SHO was kind enough to send us tea. We had a good meeting of an hour with him. And the remarkable part about Shabir Shah is that he did not show any anger, any irritation; he himself was amused that what are they [government] achieving in keeping me in prison? And he has been imprisoned for longest 29 years and last 40 months continuously. He is more amused he said I don’t understand but well I am there. But he is also of the same view, he is the part of the Hurriyat and he appreciated the efforts made in the past at the time Mr. Chandrashekhar was the PM. Contacts were made with these people, back channels discussion did take place, but the government did not last. He also understands.

Shabir Shah is in Jail, in a proper police station which has been declared a sub-jail. We went there took a chance. The SHO was reluctant then Santosh Bharitya made a few calls and permission was granted. Of course once the permission was given Shabir Shah and all of us sat and SHO was kind enough to send us tea. We had a good meeting of an hour with him. And the remarkable part about Shabir Shah is that he did not show any anger, any irritation; he himself was amused that what are they [government] achieving in keeping me in prison? And he has been imprisoned for longest 29 years and last 40 months continuously. He is more amused he said I don’t understand but well I am there. But he is also of the same view, he is the part of the Hurriyat and he appreciated the efforts made in the past at the time Mr. Chandrashekhar was the PM. Contacts were made with these people, back channels discussion did take place, but the government did not last. He also understands.

The good part is all political people whether in the regular political parties or in the Hurriyat. They understand that the rule of law has to be there. You cannot have hooliganism all the time. And they also realize that six months is a big period and they are happy that there is a gap in this. They are also afraid at the same time that they do not know what will happen in the future, because the basic underlining reasons have to be addressed. If the underlined reasons are not address, then anger will come at anytime. Of course Pakistan must be fishing in troubled water like all countries do; we cannot blame Pakistan anything happens in our country. Are wearing bangles or are we so poor that we cannot win the hearts of our own people? I don’t think it is acceptable thing. It is not a good thing for a big country like India to say. In fact I would dream of Kashmir wherein we give them so much rights that option of Pakistan goes away. Pakistan does not have normal rights like we have in Maharashtra, Gujarat or elsewhere in India. Give Kashmir more rights, make Article 370 so definite and raise the bar. What would Pakistan say? And most of the people today say plebiscite and all; it is true that religion is a factor. Plebiscite was supposed to be held without religion, but that’s become difficult now. So much of the communalization of the situation, today plebiscite is not an option and Pakistan also understands that plebiscite will not be there. The LoC will become like international border. Proposals were there to make it a soft border, but people do not understand all this they are skeptical about all this also.
All said and done, initiative is with the government of India. India is a bigger country. India is a big country. Kashmir is a very small part of that big country. What is the Kashmir’s population compare to the rest of India? If we cannot create confidence in the minds of less than one percent of population either about our governance, about our intension, or about the way we run the constitution, I think it reflects badly on us. You can say some people are miscreants then they are everywhere. Do you think there no people in Mumbai and in Delhi doing criminal things, but how does it affect the state? In Kashmir obviously there more influence on the minds of electorates than the government has and that does not answer correctly why the government is so poorly received? Probably it is because of the highhandedness of the paramilitary forces, it happens also. Because anybody who is in anguish says uniform man cut my arm, raped the women, all these complaint are there. It is not happening only today in Akbar’s time also this has been the case. These are the normal behavior of armies. But in civilize state we must say — and one complain they made okay go and tell the police that this fellow has done so and so this army man – no FIR has filed against him. Now how do they feel? How do then they distinguish that between a jungle raj and rule of law. FIR has to be filed, enquiry should be made. Okay out ten, two will be found guilty, but do it. Go through the process. That will create confidence in the mind of an average man. I cannot understand what I should say. Either they should make a ministry of Kashmir affairs as Mr. V.P. Singh has once done, George Fernandes as minister or the Home Minister himself should have a minister of State not Kiran Rejiju certainly, has a person who understand these things, who should be liberal minded. You cannot implement the same discipline on Kashmir as you do at Jhandewanlan. Kashmir is a composite state. In fact it is a pride of India. It is a showpiece of India that look how people live in harmony without any problem with religion that we have destroyed. Of course Kashmiri Pandits going away has been black mark even to the Kashmiris Muslims. They keep on saying to comeback, but it is not easy, because Kashmiri Muslims have also settled elsewhere. Why should they risk going back? But I hope a day will come and slowly they will go back to their homes, and let composite Kashmir – which we show after independent till 1980s for35-40 years there was no such problem – flourish. Plebiscite issue was always there, Pakistan issue was always there, but there was no disharmony among the people of Kashmir that we should try to achieve back. Let us see what the central government does.

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