Indian leaders, All-Party or not, can and do come to Kashmir whenever they want. After all, Jammu and Kashmir is a colony under their military control. They never have had to ask anyone’s permission to come in ever since their unwanted invasion in 1947. They are the masters of this helpless nation, ruling as they always have, with a strong and ruthless military. They can barge in any time any moment, anywhere. They can stay as intruders as long as they please. They can partake anything they desire, including Kashmiri honor. They import their own Indian servants in to the colonized Kashmir. They also hire quite a few local helpers and servants for paltry sums to be at their beck and call. They have over half a million forces on the ground for their security (and for the insecurity of Kashmiris). Those forces (1soldier for every 11 civilians) can more than safe guard them and hoist Indian flag with Ashok Chakra and sing bandhe mataram. How exhilarating it must feel in the cool breeze of Kashmir, away from the sweltering heat and stench of Delhi to see the Chakra fluttering in the crown jewel of Indian neo- colonialism. Oh! just one more thing—they already had dispatched the quislings like, Mufti with his daughter Mehbooba and Farooq and his sibling, Umar, to meet them in Srinagar. We don’t know how they got there. Unless of course, AP delegation, or shall we say All Party leaders stuffed them as human cargo in the back of their plane. They are good boys and girls. You just pay them a paltry sum and feed them daal- roti they will be happy. They are a pretty tame bunch until they run out of their stipends. When stipends run low they whine and mutter Kashmiri nationalistic rhetoric to get New Delhi’s attention. They are a low maintenance bunch under New Delhi’s leash. They are like blood-sucking leeches which Indians use to maintain their writ in Kashmir. The Muftis may be whining these days because their stipends are running low. This strange father and daughter duo has been subsisting on crumbs in their political wilderness for the last few years, while their nemeses, the Sheikhs are getting the cake, or shall we say the daal-roti. That may be why the whiny woman, Mehbooba did not personally go to see the AP delegation in Srinagar. It does not amount to anything more than a tantrum she threw to get herself into power by replacing Umar Abdullah.
In Srinagar, under constant military protection, some of them must have enjoyed Kashmiri wazwaan, barring a few hard core Hindu vegetarians who may have been content with stuffing themselves with the traditional Indian daal- roti. While at the same time the Kashmiris, all eight million of them stayed indoors in their homes with curfew and barricaded streets. The Indian All Party delegation talked to the walls, not the people in Kashmir. Syed Ali Geelani, the spiritual, moral and political power behind the popular revolution is did not countenance the visit. He insisted on having his five conditions met before meeting the Indians. A saner contingent of the AP delegation did visit him at his residence and he reiterated his position in no uncertain terms, loud and clear. The delegation had ostensibly come to see and hear first hand why exactly the Kashmiri youth are “angry”, to quote Mrs. Sonya Gandhi, the INC president, the woman wielding power behind the scene. They did not need to make this yatra. If they had not gagged Kashmiri media, barred international media from entering Kashmir, infused bias into Indian media and not drunken from the well of fascistic hindutva, they would have known all along why there was trouble in Kashmir. Had they listened to, rather than hurl insults and slap repeated imprisonments under inhumane conditions on Syed Ali Geelani, they would have known all along what the Kashmiris are “angry” about. For six decades Kashmiris have been chanting azaadi, azaadi, azaadi. Everyone else knew it, but the Indians ignored those cries and the world let them get away with it. The AP delegates may have read Kuldip Nayar’s article published on September 17, 2010 in which he begrudgingly admits to the decrying sentiment of some of the Kashmiri youth whom he interviewed in Delhi. He admits to the fact that the battle cry for all Kashmiris is, “we want azaadi”. What is important is that The AP delegation did not need to travel to Kashmir to find out what the youth there want and why they are “angry”. The primary sentiment is not anger. The primary sentiment is hunger–hunger for azaadi. There of course is anger there, but that is because the Indians are killing off innocent and unarmed Kashmiris merely for their audacity to demand freedom. Indians have an emotional block about Kashmir. They see what is happening, but they cannot make the connection. They came without any mandate from the administration. They carried nothing of substance with them to give to the victims of their barbarism. They had resolved nothing in their meeting in New Delhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before embarking on their Kashmir yatra. They came for a fishing expedition. The only official authority they brought with them was the Home minister, P. Chidambaram. Even he was of no use since he had not obtained any official cabinet decision to change things in the occupied Kashmir. In addition, we doubt the Indian military is in any mood to allow the civilian government in New Delhi to curtail its authority in Kashmir. It is a rogue military that insists on its writ and a regime of corruption without any accountability.
The key to Kashmir is in New Delhi, not in Kashmir. So why come to Kashmir to look for it? It only goes to shows that the Indians are not serious about the resolution of the conflict. They are doing everything, but the right thing. They are meandering around to evade the inevitable—that they sooner or later, will have to leave Kashmir. There are no alternatives to ending the 61 year old occupation. They know that the chorus of freedom chants is growing louder and louder. It will, if it already hasn’t, gotten deafening for Indian politicians. Could it be why All Party delegation was confused coming out as they were going in to the New Delhi meeting before going to Kashmir? Could it be why they staggered in to the Valley of the valiant without any positive plan? After all, if they were the political geniuses they would have us believe, they would have come with a definite plan to present to the Kashmiri leaders. Instead, they wasted their time and poor Indians’ money to find out by talking to the blank walls in Srinagar about what the Kashmiris wanted.
Talks can be useful if the Indian government can reign in their lawless military, demilitarize and segregate their forces from civilian population, repeal the draconian laws like AFSPA, end their endless curfews, allow Kashmiris to help themselves by using their own resources, release all political prisoners, punish the rogue elements among the security forces, allow humanitarian organizations access into Kashmir, end the gag on press and freedom of expression. Above all, India must declare unequivocally that Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute, not an internal issue of India and certainly not an ‘integral part of India’. Only then will their visits be meaningful– and only then will they be fruitful.
As for the Kashmiri leadership: quislings and collaborators don’t matter much. What, however, was important to watch was that the pro-freedom APHC leaders, trade union leaders and student leaders did not break ranks with the mass movement and even for a moment, consider meeting with the Indian delegation without preconditions set forth by Mr. Syed Ali Geelani. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq did not meet with the Indian, nor for that matter did Mr. Yaseen Malik, the leader of JKLF.
For all the drama surrounding the AP delegation, which by and large ended up being a net plus for Kashmir, there are some disconcerting aspects for the freedom struggle. For example, when asked by the media if he was planning to meet with the delegation, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq did not reject meeting with the delegation outright, even when he knew that New Delhi had not accepted the five conditions laid down by Syed Ali Geelani. It raises serious questions about either his understanding or his commitment or both, to the deeply held freedom sentiment or his dedication to the cause. At the least, it betrays his conceptual ambiguity and at the worst, a deliberate policy of political opportunism. These are both serious flaws in a leader who has been vying for power and influence without any personal sacrifice. Further, and more fundamentally, it makes the Mirwaiz an unreliable partner in the freedom struggle. He has displayed this proclivity of harnessing opportunities provided by India, Pakistan or his colleagues in the APHC conglomerate at each and every juncture. He prefers to remain on the fence between various parties to the conflict, seldom showing independent courage for the cause or taking risks. He remains beholden to, or dependent upon other players–always willing to step ahead to avail of the risk-free opportunities. Whether he does it on his own or at the coaxing of his dynastical handlers is difficult to tell. Is it that they need him and push him to go out there to claim his ‘dynastical right’ as an unwilling leader, or is it his personal ambition together with the inner circle of dynastical handlers—it probably is a bit of each? He has a strong following in the den of his ancestral followers in Srinagar where die-hard pro-Pakistan element is abundant. They must notice, time and again, vacillation in his commitment to the freedom struggle. He seems to want to have it both ways—assume political leadership, but not take the necessary risks in assuming that role. He has become something of a political oddity, a ‘me too’ kind of leader. His followers are caught between their loyalties to the Mirwaiz dynasty on the one hand and their unquestionable love for freedom and Pakistan on the other. His vacillating stance has made him a liability of sorts for them and made their choices difficult. They do need to take an independent approach and prioritize if he cannot lead them with courage and firm commitment. They are some of the most fearless freedom-lovers, just like the people of Sopore. They are a crucial element of a joint freedom struggle which the Mirwaiz knows and Syed Ali Geelani cannot ignore. They are as mainstream as anyone get. Any split will not bode well for the movement and the future of Kashmir. The freedom movement needs them, but they carry a baggage which only they must and can deal with.
Other elements of the political spectrum, including less popular elements of APHC will not matter much, but can play a role, either positive or negative. Leaders like Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone and Maulana Ansari carry little weight individually and can be dismissed as inconsequential. Muhammed Yasin Malik, the leader of his wing of JKLF, has been distracted and side tracked in the latest phase of the struggle, but remains an important element in the overall equation. He is somewhat charismatic and does articulate a certain liberal strand of independence sentiment. His vacillation is more subtle and more nuanced. His distraction and lack of Geelani-like commitment to absolute freedom has taken a toll on his performance. He can play a part in refuting Indian ploys to drive a wedge in the leadership ranks. Let us see where he stands in this phase of the peoples’ revolution.