Be agency of change rather than subject of change

At the recently concluded seminar “Kashmir Problem- a Way Forward,” Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq displayed exceptional maturity and grit by highlighting the “need to introspect for rectifying the mistakes of the past to move forward.”

 As we all know, the main problem which afflicts the ‘freedom movement’ in Kashmir today is the lack of consensus on the way forward and the very fact that both the Mirwaiz and the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik agreed on this point, is in itself a good beginning. The willingness expressed by Mirwaiz to discuss “good options floated by different quarters” is praiseworthy as it will finally liberate the Hurriyat from the shackles of an uncompromisingly rigid thought process to which it had unwittingly chained itself in the past. If the Hurriyat and other separatist leaders put these thoughts into practice, the probability of success of the movement for self-determination will no doubt be greatly enhanced. However, this may be a tall order as in the past there has been a visible disconnect between what is being preached and practiced by our leaders. What makes this even more suspect is the statement made by the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, “The roadmap should not be put in public domain as it can lead to confusion among the masses.”  The masses are the major stakeholders and any attempts to keep the roadmap secret from them does not auger well for the movement!

The seminar brought forth several other pertinent issues: the scope of the movement, methodology of its projection, incorporation of civil society in getting the intellectuals, writers, media and lawyers on board as well as motivating public opinion in India. While the issues discussed does indicate that considerable research has been done to identify the shortcomings, it needs to be seen as to how the Hurriyat manages to convince the plethora of ‘cooks’ minding the ‘broth’ called Kashmir to act in unison. This is surely going to be an uphill task as many leaders have achieved their present status by cashing upon emotive public sentiments and advocating an uncompromising hardline approach- denouncing the moderate leaders and rationalists as ‘agents’ of New Delhi. To now ‘climb down’ from their stated positions would place them in the same league of ‘agents’ they despised and may well mean political ‘hara-kiri’ for them. Will they take the risk for the greater cause?  

Another important observation made by Mirwaiz is on the failure to motivate public opinion in India for the struggle in Kashmir. At a time when India seems to have no dearth of social activists espousing the cause of freedom and justice, be it Teesta Satalvad seeking justice for the Muslims victimized during the Gujarat riots, Medha Patkar fighting for the rights of the adivasis displaced by the Narmada project or Dr Binayak Sen championing the cause of Maoists, why are there no takers for Kashmir? (Arundhati Roy did of course suddenly come up on the scene but vanished quickly!). Now, this aspect requires more deliberation and the deductions may not be palatable to some. Yet, if we are honest about our intentions, then we must have the courage to accept the truth-even if it sounds blasphemous.

 Despite the doubts regarding New Delhi’s seriousness in resolving the Kashmir crisis, one cannot wish away certain facts- the Centre has maintained the sanctity of Article 370 and even the BJP which has been clamouring for its revocation could not do so when in power because it’s constituent members in the NDA government would not allow the same to happen. And this was less due to political compulsions, but more due to the fear of public backlash in India as this would be viewed as the victimization of Kashmiris. So, the writing on the wall: people in India do care but still not support us- why?  The answer to this tricky question too has been aptly given by the Mirwaiz himself when he said, “The Indians view Kashmir through Pakistani prism.”
Prior to the entry of the gun in Kashmir from across the border, the struggle in Kashmir had many sympathizers. The Kalashnikov changed the very character of the ‘azadi’ movement- from a peaceful struggle of the oppressed to that of a Pakistan ‘inspired’ resurrection. Due to the cleverly planned propaganda by India which sought to  blame Pakistan for everything- be it the exodus of the Kashmiri pundits or the violence against moderates in the Valley,  the movement in Kashmir soon came to be seen as a grand design of Pakistan to ‘dismember’ India. This chaffed the nationalistic sentiments in India and resulted in a sharp decline in sympathizers for this cause. Without meaning any disrespect whatsoever for the martyrs and those who have put their lives in danger for the sake of azadi, it would not be out of place to mention that the gun has failed to deliver. On the contrary, it has not only alienated the Indian public but also the world community at large. And so while everyone may be sympathizing with our cause, it is merely lip service as no concrete actions are being taken by any country or people to intervene. Does this not call for introspection too?

The view held by the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik that “Kashmiris should project themselves as oppressed to gain sympathy for their cause” should not be dismissed as the utterance of a pessimist or defeated person. This outlook embodies great depth and wisdom. In today’s world order, violence has no takers- the case of Palestine is in front of us. The unprecedented use of violence by the Israelis against the unarmed Palestinians has yielded nothing more than occasional verbal condemnation from the world community. Reason? The Israelis justify their use of force as ‘retaliation’ for attacks by the Hamas and this world community accepts. In the process, innocent men, women and children are killed by the dozen and the sorry state of affairs remains unchanged. Could it be possible that the militant groups in Kashmir declare a ‘unilateral’ ceasefire, say, for a year or so to give peace another chance and see if there is any change in the outlook of the world community? There is no harm in trying and in case the ground situation remains unchanged, then hostilities can always be resumed with even more vigour, since then they would no longer be seen as the aggressors!

If we have to succeed, we all have to first be ready to face criticism positively, discipline our thoughts and more so our ambitions. Rationality must prevail over emotions and the focus should be to win the ‘war’ instead of being content with winning a ‘battle’! Our leaders should ponder upon what a speaker said during the seminar, “Let leadership be responsible to people and become an agency of change rather than subject of change.”

Author resides in New Delhi and can be mailed at