We can only hope that things change for better
‘Kashmir is simmering. It is on the boil.’For the past sixty three years such sentences along with sentences like ‘New Delhi is concerned about the situation’, have been hogging headlines. The fact remains that over a period of time these sentence have become clichés- trite and as worn out as many other political personages, slogans and ideas in the political lexicon of Kashmir.
True, Since January 2010 there have been fifty two civilian deaths. Most of those killed have been teenagers. Every death has been igniting a protest. Most of them ended up in ding-dong battles between the troops and the agitated youth. Now, for the past one month the state is continuously caught up in the spiral of youth unrest – with one bloody day leading into another and another. Since June 11, fifteen youth and children have been killed in firing by the government troops. On Wednesday the state administration created history and in more than many words admitted its failure, when it requested New Delhi for deployment of army on the streets of Srinagar and other parts of the valley. There in fact is no instance of army having ever been called to contain the agitation by youth and students. The years 1965 and 1980, are two important landmarks of youth and students agitation in Kashmir. The 1965, youth and students agitation that some historian had compared to the agitation led by Cohen Bandit around the same time in Paris was led by the Jammu and Kashmir Youth League- and it had kept the state on boil for months together. After 1965, the student and youth agitation of 1967 is counted as important. There in fact has hardly been a year after 1965 that is not punctured with youth and student unrest. The post 1975 i.e. after the dissolution of the Plebiscite Front and revival of the National Conference and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah becoming chief minister of the state, there was not much change in youth unrest. There can be no denying that many youth organizations that owed their allegiance to the Plebiscite Front, more particularly to its President Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg were dissolved and cases against most of the youth were withdrawn but it would be wrong to say that with this students and youth unrest ended in the State. The death of the students and youth organization that worked under the aegis of the Plebiscite Front gave birth to a new crop of the students and youth organizations. The Jammu and Kashmir Peoples League and the Jammu and Kashmir Jamiat-e-Tulba (youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami) were counted in official diaries as the two main trouble creating parties. The 1980, students and agitation that is counted as the most important after 1967, was led by the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba. The statements made by this organization had attracted screaming headlines in New Delhi newspapers. Many of these young men were seen in lead both in the state and at the international level in the post 1990 situation.
Seen in the right perspective the mode of agitation led by the youth organizations since 1965 was not much different than those witnessed during the recent past. The only difference that I see was those agitations were led by the youth and students organizations and the contemporary street fights and agitations have no identified face. But at no point of time was army called – even for psychological purposes for containing these youth and students agitations.
I am not to debate here on the wisdom of the state government in calling army to quell the anger in a whole generation of Kashmir youth. I am not here to debate if calling army has gone in the interest of the government led by the National Conference or it has provided grist to the mill of its rival in power struggle to coin more high flown slogans for beating it. It is not also my point of discussion if the decision has gone in the ultimate interests of New Delhi. Or it has made a dent in India’s Kashmir policy at the international level. If one takes the statements made by the State Department, the OIC or the reports and opinions in a section of the international press as criteria, the action has brought Kashmir once again if in not in that sharp focus but under a spot light.
I don’t know if any of our academics has done a study on youth agitations in the state during the past forty five years i.e. since 1965 but ostensible reason for these agitations were not jobs but these have been mostly part of the main political discourse of the state that different junctures of our history has been articulated by different political leaders and different organizations. It has been like Olympic torch, one leader or party running a particular distance and getting tired then passing it on to another and another. In 1947, when the main political leadership of the state entered the corridors of power in two parts of the divided state viz the National Conference in Srinagar and the Muslim Conference in Muzaffarabad, it was second wrung left over leadership of the Muslim Conference that articulated the main discourse, then it was a newly born Jammu and Kashmir Political Conference, then the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front , the Awami Action Committee and Jammat-e-Islami – in the post 1990 scenario the baton was passed on to a conglomerate of party- it suffered a division in 2002. The division in the conglomerate was not over the main discourse but both for egocentricity—what next is difficult to say.
I am not to analyze the failures, achievements or the role played by the leaders of the state. Lots of the commentaries have been written about the role played by Kashmir leaders in 1947 and after and without joining the debate over 1947 even when I look back at the post 1950 role of Kashmir I get convinced that every leader has played his role to his capacity for bringing in the problem to the centre stage of the state politics. It is also history despite that the main discourse more than often touched high pitch. It also resounded in New Delhi, Islamabad, Washington and at the international level. The fact however remains at no point of time did this discourse translate into resolution of the problem.
It would be naïve, to look for a role for the Kashmir leadership – whatever camp it belongs to for ending the political uncertainty and it would be too simple to expect India and Pakistan resolving the problem through bilateral talks. The two countries have been meeting at all levels for the past sixty years but so far they have even failed to draft an agenda for discussing resolution of the problem. It needs no experts that the Kashmir problem has been and continues to be deeply entrenched not only in the relations between India and Pakistan but it has had and continues to have a role in the ‘grand interplay’ of relations between New Delhi, Washington and Islamabad. It has been a considered opinion with many reputable South Asian experts that the ‘end of the cold war had brought new opportunities for India and Pakistan and had underlined that the US remained essential to further peace in sub-continent.’ After the cold war the United States did not play the role it was expected instead it focused attention on grabbing the Indian market and halting the ‘spread of nuclear weapons in the region.’ It in fact concentrated on problems confronting these two key South Asian players at the periods of high tensions- though many a US think tank hold the view that the “American national interest would best be served by a policy aimed at diminishing these historic tensions.”
Now when India and Pakistan Foreign Minister are meeting formally to discuss Kashmir and other allied issues after fourteenth months deadlock- the question that persists is that would there be a way forward on Kashmir. An answer based on the track record of dialogues held in the past could be `no’. But the emerging geo-strategic situation in the region demands good neighborly relations between the two countries and resolution of all outstanding issues between them. This perhaps would not be possible unless Washington breaks its policy of involving itself in the affairs of sub-continent at the time of high tension between the two countries. Moreover there is also a need for bold thinking in India and Pakistan leadership.
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