Kashmir: Misplaced Optimism

kashmir peace

The past Monday, when my column, ‘Geelani Release- A Way Forward,’ appeared in this newspaper, I felt remorseful of having written something outlandish- far fetched from the ground reality.It was flagrantly in contradiction with the black bordered banner lead stories, ‘Bloody Sunday: 20 Killed’ in all the newspapers.The blood curdlingdetails of blood bath enacted in wee morning hours of Sunday in a couple of villages in Shopian district of South Kashmir jeered at my optimism;for reading too much in the government announcing restoring the denied public space to the Joint Resistance Leadership and also all those under the restistance canopy. The blood soaked history of the past thirty years has countless bloody Sundays and Black Saturdays,but in the recent past1April2018  was the goriest day.Twenty two boys mostly teenagers killed, two hundred youth injured with many with bullet wounds  and over forty boys fired with pellets in face, giving ‘dead eyes to many more children and youth.’In sombre villages like Padderpora bodies of teenagers arrived one after another, some charred beyond recognizition amdist weeping people and chest beating mothers.

In allowing Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to say congregational   Friday prayers in a Masjid in neighborhood, after eight yearsof house detention had sparked streaks of optimism ina section of people.Perhaps New Delhi’s mindset of strangulating all space to the voices of dissent and using coercive methods had changed. Notwithstanding, skepticism of Geelani’s second in command, Mohammad Ashraf Sehari the belief had gained strength for the announcement about allowing the resistance leadership to articulate its point of view freely not coming from the chief ministerbutNew Delhi’s horses mouth in the state-the topmost IPS officer.

It seemed that the one after another Intifada,  since 2008, with each one of them causing ripple-effect in the global media had made New Delhi to realize that both the denial mode and strangulating the voices of dissent had not helped itin deconstructingthe seventy year old Kashmir narrative. Moreover, despite some television channels sparing no occasion in tarring and feathering the people of the state, the narrative has been gaining strength at the international level. Commenting on the Intifadasin Kashmir,  even the New York Times some time back wrote, “Kashmir’s demand for self-determination is sharper today that it has been perhaps any other time in the regions troubled history.”

The announcement about notchoking the resistance leadership any more and releasing Geelani from house detention bythe top cop had sparked speculations that the move might be a way forward in as much as New Delhi creating a conducive atmosphere in the state for initiating a new political process in the state. It had also them believe that the dispensation in the capital may be conteplating picking up the threads about Kashmirfrom where Manmohan Singh left these in 2005 and 2006.  Manmohan Singh had carried forward the policy of engagement with Islamabad pursued by Atal Bihari Vajpayeeand had initiated some Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. Vajpayeein spite of many hiccups including two year long standoff on the Line of Control had continued engagement with Pakistan on the track two and directly. In fact, these engagements were trilateral in as much as these involved India, Pakistan and Kashmir leadership. A section of the Hurriyat leadership was engaged independently both India and Pakistan leadership. Then New Delhi at not point of time had drawn any redlines; the Hurriyat leaders were freely allowed to visit Pakistan and hold meetings with leaders of Pakistan visiting New Delhi. These meetings were held inside the Pakistan Embassy, New Delhi.  For Washington being in the loop, the engagements were as good as the ‘proximity talks.’ The opening of the Jhelum Valley Road despite theapprehensions, if it was not a move towards converting the LOC into permanent border under the guise of ‘porous border’was a landmark achievement. Notwithstanding the rhetoric, that it being a move towards converting the LOC into a permanent border, as rightly said by Ambassador Yusuf Buch former Advisor to UN Secretary General,   “Any road-map which deviates from the principle laid in the primacy agreement concerning Kashmir is bound to be arbitrary in conception and failure in effect.” For about forty five years, from the day the road was closed, thinking of public movement on it was unimaginable, any one caught crossing over this the line of control was jailed- even shot dead.  The opening of the road and allowing people travelling on it without an international passport, put at rest the debate the change of nomenclature of ceasefire line to line of control had made the dividing line permanent.  The opening of the Jhelum Valley Road was apointer suggesting that there is a possibility of the resolution of the Kashmir Dispute if the two countries start a dialogue with sincerity of purpose. Of all the CMBs, this one survived many an ugly tides in the relations between Islamabad and New Delhi during past thirteen years. Had the Manmohan Singhshown samestatesmanship that Vajpayee exhibited after the Kargil War and 2001-2002 India-Pakistan standoff perhaps a lot of ground could have been covered for resolving the most important outstanding dispute between the two countries- the cause of three wars and looming shadows of nuclear of war in the region.

The optimism of a new start generated on Friday had the briefest ever life; it died with a whimper on grisly Sundaymorning in sleepy orchard villages of Shopian. Instead of generating some hope in thebeleaguered people suffering pellets, bullets and torching of houses many more ‘wailing museums’ were created that will continue to echo for decades with sobs and cries of sisters, aging mothers,and ailing fathers. More mausoleums of struggle and martyrdom created that will stand as a testimony for the future generations about the commitment of their ancestors to their political beliefs and cause. The killings had put everyone in mourning and cast deep gloom across the state. Further more, it was to useAntonio Gramsci phrase ‘the hegemonic discourse’ describing the killings young boys as ‘major victory’ and ‘a very special day’ that extinguished the lost flicker of hope even from the most optimists in the state.

In political struggles, it is not the modus operandi or medium of the struggle but the strength of the narrative that matters. For past 200 years, more particularly for the past seventy years, the narrative of the nursed with blood by the people of the state has been passed on from one generation to another. In the history of nations, there are umpteen stories that very candidly tell that it is not military power but the narrative of struggling people that ultimately is triumphant. One of the classical examples of narrative triumphing over the military power is the Evian Agreement of Sunday 18 March 1962 signed by the National Liberation Front of Algeria and the French Government.

Columnist and Writer


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