Attack on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Bilal Ghani Lone at a function in Chandigarh on Thursday conforms to the ugly pattern adopted by the Hindutva brigade to thwart any progress along the route to establishing channels of communication between alienated segments of public opinion and the mainstream political elements. Political activists, authors and other professionals articulating aspirations of estranged segments of the society, like separatists in Kashmir and Naxals in some other parts of India, are the main target of attack. This has been happening with greater frequency as articulation of injustices and inequities becomes more pronounced. Stage shows and films depicting the truth of brutal disparities and injustice together with its political manifestation are also being targeted. Some time before the Chandigarh incident, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Arundhati Roy were attacked in Delhi. Earlier, Yasin Malik had become the target of such attack. Looking closer, these tactics reflect a mindset of intolerance and blatant communalism under the garb of ultra-patriotism. As pointed out by the Mirwaiz and Bilal Lone in their immediate reaction, involvement of a section of Kashmiri Pandit migrants with elements like VHP and their ilk is rather unfortunate. Pandit community has certain valid grievances which are acknowledged by every right thinking person.
Their plight resulting from their migration from their homeland is known to one and all and for that reason there is general sympathy for them and support to their legitimate cause. But when some of them choose to join hands with notorious sectarian forces their cause suffers inevitably. VHP and its partners within the Saffron Parivar have a set agenda whose aims and objectives do not coincide with those of the uprooted Pandit community.
At a time when efforts are underway to motivate separatist leaders to step out and mobilise support from wider sections of Kashmiri society including Pandits, incidents like the one that occurred in Chandigarh on Thursday come as a great setback to the slender initiative. Separatist leaders willing to go out and put their case to the people of India deserve to be encouraged.
Given the delicate nuances of their politics within Kashmir, it is not that easy for many of them to extend their sphere of activity and carry their message into a wider arena. This nascent initiative is as much desireable for them as it is for the country as a whole. For over six decades narrow-minded approach or expedient short cuts have failed to produce any result. Both sides involved in the raging conflict continue to suffer heavy damage in various ways. Human cost of the trouble has been mounting with each passing day. If the separatist leaders are willing to take risk by breaking out of their shell and seeking wider public support for their cause the problem might become that much easier to resolve. That is precisely what must be hurting the VHP and its patrons. Therefore, they have been demonstrating greater and greater intolerance.
Another aspect of this issue concerns the attitude of the mainstream political circles towards such attacks. Objectively, every right thinking person should be condemning these morbid attacks without any reservation. Unfortunately, the first reaction of chief minister Omar Abdullah fell far short of that expectation. Omar sounded ambivalent in condemning the behaviour of the goons who attacked the Mirwaiz and Bilal Lone. The chief minister almost sounded as if justifying the assault. His comment that such things were ‘bound to happen’ with the type of politics preached by the separatists smacks of anti-democratic temperament. Even his observation that ‘democracy gives right to every person to express his views’ was said as if only in the passing. The chief minister has been claiming time and again that Kashmir issue was a ‘political dispute’ and it needed a political solution. He should be appreciative of the effort being made by the separatist leaders to widen their horizon and address their case to the wider Indian audience.
Although it is not easy to dispel the dampening effect of the Chandigarh-like incidents capitulating to intimidating tactics of communalist elements is fraught with more serious consequences. Stakes are too high to yield to nefarious designs. Festering dispute is crying for resolution. It has already extracted a huge cost and it would be folly to add to that.