Shifting Winds in Kashmir

The nature of the Jammu and Kashmir issue appears to be getting demystified at an accelerated pace, both from within and outside of Kashmir. A seismic change has taken place in the Kashmiri mindset in the last 3 months, defying conventional political wisdom of pundits, literally and figuratively.  It appears to have caught the gurus in New Delhi by surprise. It appears to be causing consternation among policymakers in the West who, of late, have become the sponsors of India as a regional bully. The winds of change are shifting, and in these shifting winds there are winners and there are losers. 

 The most obvious losers are the Indians; because of their brutal occupation which has shown no sensitivity or concern for the suffering they have inflicted their Kashmiris victims. After six decades of occupation, India is running out of its streak of luck. The more they tried to trick, torment and torture, the more they revealed their inhumanity and barbarism. The more they promoted a culture of bribery to buy votes and the votaries, the more they exposed the shallowness of their values and crassness of their Lakshamian monetary culture.   By spending stashes of money they sought to buy political and administrative loyalty of a handful to maintain their grip on Kashmir. By sponsoring, underwriting and nurturing monetary corruption, coupled with traditional as well as innovative techniques of subjugation, the Indians were able to buy time to perpetuate their reign.  

That is, until now. 

It is beginning to appear that everything India has done in the last 63 years to woo the masses has failed to bear fruit.  To be sure, it is not just the actions of barbarism; but the very action of occupation of a sovereign nation that lies at the heart of revulsion and disgust towards India. An attempt to obliterate a historical nation out of existence through force is a heinous and inexcusable crime. As a nation, Kashmir is fighting for life and its children dying for life of the nation. It should not come as a surprise to anyone, including the Indians, that Kashmiris will use whatever means they have to preserve what remains and regain what has been lost. That redemptive struggle would have taken place even if Indian troops had not used violence and terror. It is an essential part of the national promise of the people to their nation: to keep it free and keep it whole.  It must be kept at all costs and all times. No nation is prepared for the kind of brazen barbarism Kashmiris have had to face from a neighboring nation. Violence is what we saw the day we opened our eyes. Gandhi is who we thought we will see as the Indian face, but goonda is who we met, instead.  Kashmiris had to brace for this unforgiving gut-wrenching monster that has terrorized the people for six dark, long, dreadful decades. It has added disgust and disdain for Indian rule. And so, from the Kashmiri perspective, this marriage is never going to work.
 It is inconceivable to imagine a scenario in which Kashmiris will accept any Indian overtures of integration in to its national body politic. The alienation is irreversible, the gap unbridgeable, and the national interests irreconcilable. Whatever the causes of Indian failure to read the writing on the wall—a scarred history, imperatives of fascistic hindutva, or jubilation of access to the Western, particularly American cash cow; it does not change the Kashmiri view of India. Their wounds are too fresh and still ongoing. They see the real ugly side of mother India. They see no compassion in her mamta. She may look like a mother, but she behaves like a witch. And the Kashmiris want to throw this wicked witch as far away as they possibly can. 

The other major losers are the handful of born-to-lose moral degenerates among the Kashmiri politicians who have thrown their lot in with the Indians. They have no conscience, no moral values, no ethical principles, and no shame. They are the quislings, the traitors, and the treacherous Kashmiris who have done the most damage to the Kashmiris’ dreams of a sovereign nation. They have sold their souls for petty gains all these years at the cost of their own nation’s honor and freedom. They have been complicit in every crime committed by the army and paramilitary forces including Kashmiri police. They have provided the necessary cover to India for the heinous crimes it is committing. This cadre of criminals and collaborators has always been despised by the people—and for good reason. 

The National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah’s dynasty, extension of Indian National Congress, and the Peoples Democratic Party of Mufti Sayeed and his daughter, are the losers in this class of losers. They have never had any credibility as it is. They have never had any real power except that which the Indian administration grants them. In this latest phase, however, they have lost most of their power and prestige. They are powerless because their protectors, the Indians, are unable to stifle the growing public resistance. 

Whenever the quislings could not manage the public rage, the big daddy would be called in to handle the situation. But, now the big daddy is in trouble, too. He can’t do much to handle the rebellious population either. What is he to do? That is why the finger-pointing between New Delhi and Srinagar has begun. Everyone in the big daddy’s camp accuses everybody else of ineptitude, while Kashmiris lump them all as evil and wicked. The big daddy even got a slap on the face in the UN General Assembly the other day from Pakistani envoy for committing atrocities and for not holding plebiscite in Kashmir.  No longer are the youth afraid of them, and no longer does anyone listen to them. There are politically moribund and existentially morbid. They are a lost cause, and they have no future among their own people. They are more suited to the masters they have been serving in Delhi.

Within the pro-freedom parties, there are those whose political stars have not necessarily been rising lately. They have been jolted by the vigor of the youth movement which appears to be in no mood to relent retreat. It has caught the leadership in a state of slumber or near-complicity with an element in Kashmir, Pakistan, and India that wanted to shortchange the nation in the guise of internal autonomy.  This segment of the leadership is waking up to a new reality. It is shocking that they would be caught so off guard by the events as they have unfolded since 6/11/10.  It is one thing that the Indians would be caught off guard, because they are an extrinsic element; but it is quite another, to find pro-freedom leaders oblivious to the deep desires of their own nation.

 In this camp we find nearly all of the leaders of the APHC (M). They may have meant well, but simply lacked the grit against odds. They may have wanted to climb the hill, but found it to be too steep to reach the summit. And as they were climbing the hill, their eyes may have caught the epitaph of the freedom movement written by the Indian camp.  Indeed, the news of the freedom movement’s demise was much touted as yet another case in which the Indian government had successfully stamped out an insurgency  Upon seeing the epitaph, APHC may have lost hope, packed up and left for home—only to find out that the news of the movement’s death was indeed grossly exaggerated.

Now they must make an about-turn again and fall in line. It is still time to get back in, join the ranks and make a significant contribution, or else be willing to be relegated to the deadwood of the movement. The real problem is not for them to reenter the caravan; not at all, they are well rooted in the fabric of the society. The real problem is for them to do a self-evaluation to see if they will let the nation down once again should things get tough again.   The nation has to be convinced to trust them. Will these leaders be reliable partners? That is the real question. They are an important part of the Kashmiri society, and the nation can ill afford to lose them.  They must come to grips with their own poor performance and not blame or begrudge others, neither the youth nor their elderly leader, Syed Ali Geelani. They must face the truth honestly and squarely. Then only, will the process of reconciliation and trust-building begin.

  Most clearly, the post-6/11 events have dramatically changed the political landscape. They have groomed the most maverick of the Kashmiri leaders, the very nemesis of India, Syed Ali Geelani and his Tehreek-e-Kashmir party as the bellwether of the Quit Jammu and Kashmir movement. It is as phenomenal to see him assuming that role as it is to see the post-6/11 phenomenon itself. The parallel rise of the youth movement and Mr. Geelani has caught the imagination of the region. A man despised by India and sometimes even by the Pakistani rulers has emerged as the man-in-charge of the parallel government in Kashmir. It defies conventional mainstream political wisdom. Seldom do we see in history, that someone receives such national acceptance and recognition after decades of being dismissed as a dreamer divorced from reality.  The dreamer is now the realist and the so-called realists see their goods vanishing.

There are reasons for the long lag phase, followed by a late meteoric rise of Geelani to the crest of the liberation movement. Among them are the Anglo-Indian intrigues towards the end of the Dogra rule, and the unfortunate entanglement of Sheikh Abdullah with the Nehru family, and the terrible legacy of betrayal of the leaders that preceded him. Those leaders created a huge trust deficit among the people and Geelani Saheb had to prove himself to be different and to be worthy of trust. It took him nearly five decades of dedicated work to reach that level. And at long last he was able to prove that he is the man with the grit. He is the leader with a sense of destiny. He is the comforter and the consoler that will never let his brothers and sisters down. That is why he evidently is now popularly called the tohth, the loving and the loved brother.  

And so it is that Syed Ali Geelani is the big winner in this final political dash, the dash that hopefully will be to the finish line. Bigger yet as winners are the millions of the youth and their loving  mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and daughters who have displayed the fortitude and are bearing the brunt of the atrocities and curfews, a state of siege and starvation, with courage and dignity.