`Separatism sells’

During assembly elections in 2008, the voters made it clear that they had come to booths for Bijli (Electricity), Pani (water) and Sadak (roads). This is what the people have elected them for and they should not exceed their limits

The mainstream parties have to pursue a `separatist’ agenda in Kashmir because `separatism’ sells in Kashmir. This is a harsh reality and the mainstream groups have understood it.

On May 10 last year, veteran Congress leader, Ghulam Rasool Kar while addressing a convention at Sopore made an `epoch’ making statement. He said: “Every Kashmiri is emotionally attached to Pakistan whether they are in Congress or National Conference,” he said. He also said that every heart in Kashmir (including his) beats for Pakistan.

Kar made this statement as senior Congress leaders watched helplessly. He urged the Congress leadership to accept this harsh reality. “Congress should have cordial relations with Pakistan. The party must strive for resolution of all disputes with Pakistan especially the dispute on Kashmir”, he suggested.

He also urged the government of India to start a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan. He said: “I am an Indian but I am pained to see Pakistan in trouble. When a Pakistani gets killed in a bomb blast, my eyes get moistened automatically. This is how every Kashmiri feels.”

However the aged leader must have missed a beat last fortnight when militants hurled rifle grenades at his Sopore residence. Does his heart still beat for Pakistan?

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been accused of nurturing `separatist’ tendencies from the very beginning. The PDP Chief Mahbooba Mufti emerged more `separatist’ than the `separatists’ last week.

A day after Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed readiness for talks with New Delhi if his four conditions were fulfilled; the Peoples Democratic President (PDP) Mahbooba Mufti also came out with her four point formula.

Surprisingly like Umar, Mahbooba also seeks revocation of `draconian laws’, release of political prisoners and withdrawal of troops from civilian areas. While Umar’s fourth demand urges zero tolerance on human rights violations, the PDP president has sought compensation for water resources of the state.

Mahbooba also urged the SAARC to declare Jammu Kashmir a free economic zone.  "The SAARC countries have set 2020 deadline for coming closer. We demand that they should start by declaring Jammu and Kashmir as a free economic zone where currency of all member states will be acceptable," she said.

The PDP has made it amply clear that the `status quo’ was not acceptable to it. It has come out with its Self rule Document and believes it can do justice to the aspirations of all the people of the state.
Mahbooba said all the cross-LoC routes and those routes which were used by travellers before independence of the country should be opened.

"People used to travel to Yarkand via Leh … then there is Kargil-Skardu route that leads to Iran and Afghanistan. These routes should be opened for people of Jammu and Kashmir as it will open up new markets for them," she said.
The National Conference also played the separatist card last year. Un-nerved by the agitation, the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah caused a political storm in the subcontinent by challenging the totality of accession during his address in the Legislative Assembly.

Omar was accused of failure to deliver. Even New Delhi talked about `trust deficit’ and `governance deficit’. During the agitation, a harsh reality dawned on Omar Abdullah. ` You have to pursue a separatist agenda in Kashmir’. And that is exactly what Omar did.

He is the first chief minister who rejected totality of accession on the floor of the house.  He even went to the extent of saying that Jammu Kashmir was an issue with international dimensions. “Jammu Kashmir has not merged into India. The accession is temporary and conditional”, he said.

When Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Panther’s Party (PP) agitated the issue, the law minister responded by saying that the chief minister’s statement was misinterpreted. But the government issued full page advertisements in local dailies titled `Omar’s historic speech’. Omar wanted to give wide publicity to his `controversial’ speech when he knew it was not received well by the opposition. The trick worked. Once again Hurriyat was pushed to the wall.

Both these parties have gained by playing the `separatist’ card but their `roadmaps’ have been rejected by the people of the state.

Nobody in the state wants self rule. The People of Jammu want greater integration with India. The people of Ladakh are happy with what they have got. In fact they want Azadi (freedom) from Kashmiris. And the Valley has an entirely different story to tell.
Similarly, nobody in Jammu needs autonomy. The people of Jammu were averse to autonomy from the very beginning.
When Sher-e-Kashmir was the `undisputed’ leader of  the state, the people of Jammu gave him sleepless nights by their Ek Vidhaan, Ek Nishaan and Ek Pradhan slogan.

Ladakhis do not even want to discuss autonomy and Kashmiris simply hate the word.

As far as the separatists are concerned they cannot opt for this arrangement for the time being for obvious reasons. They are exercising utmost caution while issuing statements.

The commoner on the street is straight as usual. New Delhi has always gone for short cuts to silence Kashmiris. This attitude snowballed into the 1989 insurgency. Another shortcut may silence Kashmir for a decade or so but it will erupt again. This is the time when New Delhi must address the issue in its historic perspective.

What shall the pseudo-separatists, therefore, do? A billion dollar question indeed. It has now become clear that the people of the state neither need Self Rule nor restoration of Autonomy. The National Conference and the PDP must, therefore, join hands and seek transfer of power projects to the state. This is a better demand than restoration of autonomy and self rule.

Autonomy demand and Self rule slogan have not evoked support from the people. But Kashmiris need power and so do Ladakhis and Jammuities. The transfer of power projects shall open a new chapter in the history of the state. It will bring the people of various regions closer and usher in an era of friendship, love and prosperity.   

During Assembly elections in 2008, the voters made it clear that they had come to booths Bijli (Electricity), Pani (water) and Sadak (roads). This is what the people have elected them for and they should not exceed their limits.
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