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Can Kashmir’s conflict be solved through serious political engagements?

This central question prevailed throughout the discussion that followed the release of Gowhar Geelani’s book Kashmir, Rage and Reason, here at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 17.

“The idea of the book emerged in 2008 when many-many civilians were killed, then 2010 (army crackdown) happened. My attempt was neither to glamorise nor to demonise (the protestors). I was telling the story as I saw it.”

The book opens describing the day when Top Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the face of new-age militancy in Kashmir died in a gunfight with forces. “I chose that story because that was when life was thrown out of care for nearly five months. I was feeling that I was in Jail,” said Gowhar.

Alleging that India and Pakistan deny Kashmir’s dispute in the first place, the author said, “There should be no denial that the dispute exists. “By accepting, respecting and acknowledging the aspirations of the local population who faces the brunt, we can work towards the better future.”

Citing examples of absenceof serious political engagementshe said,“Firstly,former Deputy Prime Minster of India Mr. L K Advani receives Hurriyat leaders with much fanfare and later says that they are Pakistan’s proxy. Then they (government of India) have a dialogue with Yasin Malik and then say that he is an agent of Pakistan.”

“Even boys on the streets, whether with stones or slogans, meet the same narrative. However, Kashmiris’ participation inelections is celebrated as success of Indian democracy,” he added.

Like the hands of Rizwan crusted with snow in Agha Shahid Ali’s poem I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight,India too has become cold a long, long time ago.

“The fact is that the centre (Delhi) is not Kashmir sensitive,” said KapilKak, retired officer of the Indian Air Force. He remembers being involved very closely and deeply with the Track-II conversation on this issue. Further, speaking to the police and the army at the top level, he said,“Please do not target Burhan Wani. (Because he hadalready become an icon of resistance)

“The person or the organisation that shot Burhan did not know he was Burhan Wani. But, it got him,” he said.“There is no intention to converse or to understand the pain of the Kashmiris, as far as GOI is concerned,” former Air Vice Marshal said.

Bharat Bhushan, senior journalist said that Delhi probably was never sensitive; but this government is particularly insensitive. However, it has a plan, which is slowly becoming evident. Mr Amit Shah, the Home Minister of India on a visit to Kashmir does not meet leaders from traditional political parties. Rather, He met Panchayat leaders.

“Why would he do that?” asks Bharat.

“Because The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to destroy the existing political parties in Kashmmirand so as a new leadership emerges. It wants to control Kashmir Assembly and its politics, he answers.

Moreover, for that to happen, Bhushan said,“It either would have a new chief minister from Jammu or a BJP Muslim from the valley who would run the show. Alternatively, a direct control from Delhi.”

“It is not a coincidence that a new advisor (to the Governor of J&K) has been announced who was one of the first Muslims from Jammu to join the BJP,” Bharat added.

Siddiq Wahid, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi welcomed the book for bravery, expansion of the concept on its subject matter and generation of new ideas.

However, he drew of the author’s attentiontowards the questions he left unattended. For example, Are Kashmir’s armed rebels somehow inspired by the networks of global jihad? It gave the states loose ends.

“The ones who suffer the consequences of the injustices must define the nature or the definition of the fight and the struggle against state-oppression. It cannot be defined by the state.But, that is what has happened, he added

“We cannot discuss state violence with non-state ‘violence’.  Referring to CabeirideBergh Robinson’s book Body of Victim, Body of Warrior: Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists he challenges the notion that extremism in modern Muslim societies is the natural by-product “global jihad”.

Suggesting people to read the book,Siddiq said that these insurgencies such as in Kashmir is not within the context of Islamist narrative. It is a reaction to political violence of one sort or another.

Talking about media and censorship over Kashmir issue Saba Naqvi an author said, “You are not allowed to tell the truth about Kashmir.”She added that media has just reduced itself to the state’s propaganda machine.

However, Bhushan had a different take. He said, “When you needed the media to demonise the Kashmiris you got that. Now if the BJP wants a different kind of political space, media behaviour will (see) a change over the next one year.It will demonise some (traditional leadership), but not all.

The author GowharGeelani quoted Yasin Malik, Chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, (JKLF) leader as saying, “All conflict starts with negotiations and ends with it.”

These are very terrible times and it is very terrible to live in fear but humans have the tendency to conquer fear”.

Towards the end of the discussion, a couple of women displayed placards protesting against the author in the light of #Metoo Movement in which he was accused of sexual harassment.

The author a JNU alumnus and an ACJ graduate. He can be reached at malikamiralig@gmail.com


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