siince earliest times onset of winter makes people move out of the Valley. Some do it out of compulsion because they happen to be menial laborers or associated with secretariat while others go for it as an adventure or outing. There are so many pretexts for leaving Kashmir. While for some it remains a religious duty; they go to Ajmer or proceed for a chila with Tabligi Jammat. Others move for business. There are still others who create avenues of travel by invoking official assignments. Most of the non-move officials proceed to accomplish these official assignments. The common cause, however, remains The Great Chilai-Kalan (chilly winter of the valley). Political leaders don’t lag behind in this rush towards Garam Pathri.
At one juncture of time this used to be a privilege of politicians associated with Indian parties. With the advent of affluence within separatist camp it has now become a routine for politicians of all hues. Arena of resistance politics too shifts to Delhi. In late nineties United Hurriyat established an office at New Delhi. Whole of political class in New Delhi expected it to be diplomatic initiative of Kashmir resistance groups. A galaxy of politicians including I K Gujral participated in its inaugural function.
The expectations about the office, however, soon fizzled out as it turned out to be a travel facilitation bureau for Hurriyat leaders. Once passports were granted to some Hurriyat leaders the winter destination too changed. Instead of New Delhi the destination became Islamabad. Lucrative Pak hospitality makes it more attractive.
Leaders having travel documents visit Islamabad on one pretext or the other. One of them, who recently confessed, at a book release ceremony, of having read nothing for past three decades, got himself appointed as visiting professor of Azad Kashmir University. Pakistani rulers too utilize the visits for their own political ends. Some sold it as an endorsement of four-point formula while others use it as a tool to impress upon their domestic constituency that they are serious about Kashmir.
Objectives of rulers of Islamabad hardly remain of any concern for visiting leaders. They remain available at the call of everyone who rules Islamabad irrespective of his approach towards Kashmir. The forthcoming Hurriyat visit to Islamabad is nothing but continuation of the same process. It is an avenue of evading cold and enjoying Pakistani hospitality. It provides an opportunity of playing Kashmir card for Pakistani rulers. What makes this visit different, however, remains its timing? Pakistan is proceeding towards elections and soon after India will follow the suit.
The negative side of market driven Indian economy has been exposed with fizzling of LPG cylinders and multi-trillion scams. Forces of globalization are using the fragile economic situation in New Delhi to pursue their agenda of expanding their role in Indian markets. Beleaguered Manmohan government is using every means to pacify the discontent. Hanging Ajmal Kasab a day before the onset of Parliament session, when the government had to confront a no confidence motion, was one of the firefighting measures. In Pakistan the situation remains more problematic. Sandwiched between proactive judiciary and assertive opposition, Zardari too is desperate for a life saving device before elections. Both the governments thus have a common interest in creating media hype about Kashmir and harvest a mutually beneficial dividend out of it. The outcome does not necessarily need be to of any advantage to the two countries, or helpless Kashmiris. They surely are being articulated to be advantageous to the two regimes that dominate Islamabad and New Delhi. Zardari being more compromising on every issue is perceived to be an asset by both Washington and New Delhi. That is why we find Americans at the back of civilian dispensation in Islamabad contrary to past when Washington would be more in proximity with GHQ than political leadership. Unsure about the outcome of Pak elections and inflating graph of hardliners in Pakistan India finds Zardaris tenure an opportunity for extracting concessions. The expected concessions can’t be easily sold to Pakistani public. Hurriyat remains a willing collaborator and facilitator for this job. The drama of consultations with civil society in North and South Kashmir by the ones who seldom venture out of Srinagar is simply to add an aroma of legitimacy to the representative character of those involved. Given the experience of past, whole process is destined to end in a fiasco for moderates. New Delhi’s indifference to whatever formulations were addressed to it, either from Kashmir or from Pakistan makes it clear that it is not going to budge an inch. It is glued to its position on Siachen glacier and indifferent to revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. All its ventures of interlocution proved to be time gaining devices. Despite ever increasing rate of suicides among men in uniform, demilitarization remains an unacceptable formulation for its army. It has consigned all proposals of Self Rule and Autonomy to dust bin. Manmohan Singh is not even ready to visit Pakistan in spite of desperate and emotional efforts on the part of Pakistan political leadership. After failing to invoke his attachment to his native village, Pakistan tried address his religious sentiments by inviting him to Nankana Sahib on Guru Nanak’s Birth anniversary. Manmohan Singh remains indifferent to these emotional appeals. The ones not in negotiating mode can’t be expected to deliver. There may be a media hype of the type generated at the time of inception of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. The worth of it will, however, dawn to the leaders once the induced euphoria subsides. Whatever media may concoct out of the present postures ordinary Kashmiri remains as skeptical as he was when Hurriyat leaders proceeded to Pakistan with same funfair several years ago and stage managed receptions for their (non) achievements on their return to Srinagar.
Author teaches law at Central University, Srinagar