Are people to be blamed?

Abdullahs and Muftis may have let down the people of Kashmir, but have the separatists fared any better?

Addressing a mammoth gathering after Friday prayers at Charar-i-Shareef shrine in Budgam, Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Muhammad Yasin Malik urged the masses to maintain consistency in their approach and not adopt the conflicting policy of voting as well joining processions of pro-freedom leaders. Lamenting that “lakhs of people flooded roads for demanding Azadi (freedom) in 2008, but unfortunately later large number of people voted in elections,” he said that, “Allah bestows success to those who choose only one path unlike those who choose one in morning and another in evening.”

No doubt Yasin Malik’s observation makes sense. But does he have the right to preach what he himself has not practiced? If an intelligent and discerning person like Yasin Malik couldn’t bring a positive change, how can he expect the masses with average intelligence exhibit absolute consistency by only following the path of protests which has yielded no results?

In fact where Yasin Malik, goes wrong is when he starts finding fault with everyone but himself and expects extraordinary intellectual capabilities in very ordinary people. The Abdullahs and Muftis may have let down the people, but have the separatists fared any better? While the masses have faithfully participated in every protest and agitation called for by the separatists and in the process even embraced death, have the separatists been able to improve the situation by fulfilling  their responsibility of arousing international opinion for the ‘Kashmir cause’?  The answer is ‘NO’. Malik’s own statement that the international community is “maintaining criminal silence” over solution of Kashmir issue as “they are more concerned about economy and issues related to their growth” is an admission that things are not as rosy as the Hurriyat has make us believe. And so, if the people digress and participate in elections, are they to be blamed?

Even a staunch and uncompromising proponent of ‘azadi’ like the UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallaudin has shown a better understanding of the psyche of the masses in relation to their participation in elections when he clarified, “We didn’t call for boycott of Panchayat polls as these are for local self arrangements and are different from assembly elections”. And if man committed to violence for achieving ‘azadi’ is displaying such compassion, why is Malik who claims to be an apostle of peace singing a different tune which makes no practical sense? Malik should not forget that while it may be absolutely true that he out of his own volition and without any external pressure or inducement eschewed the cult of the Kalashnikov, the timing of his sudden release from prison and forsaking violence, remains a topic of discussion.

Malik, like all other separatist leaders may be well meaning but the time has come for them to replace words by action. The ‘azadi’ struggle cannot remain in a state of indefinite limbo and public patience cannot be expected to be everlasting. While Malik has correctly chastised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for ‘ignoring’ the Kashmir issue in his August 15 address, he should not forget that the PM also ‘ignored’ to mention Pakistan in his speech. And herein lies the danger- if the separatists fail to sit down and talk with New Delhi, India will continue to neglect Kashmir and through its diplomatic bonhomie with Pakistan isolate the separatists. It is surprising that though Malik has seen through the international community’s agenda of ‘sacrificing Kashmir’ for economic and developmental gains, he has not realised that this may, sooner or later, also prove true for Pakistan!  

Malik has made a very pertinent observation: “I believe that if Kashmiri people will show consistency in their struggle, we will soon see the end of occupation.” However, while no one can question the fact that it is important for the Kashmiri people to ‘show consistency in their struggle’, it is crucially imperative that the separatist leadership too shows at least some consistency in its thoughts and actions. But this may be a difficult proposition since the attitude of the Hurriyat leaders reminds one of an old tale about “The Emperor’s New Clothes." In this tale, two weavers promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, everyone admires the same but a child cries out, "He isn’t wearing anything at all!" Unfortunately, while we have too many ‘subjects’ amongst us, we don’t seem to have any children!

Author resides in New Delhi and can be mailed at