The mainstream politicians were never in a position to cause a stir in the Valley. They still are not, the `inflated’ rallies of Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference notwithstanding
Recent political and diplomatic developments suggest that New Delhi and Islamabad have finally decided to consign Kashmir issue to cold chambers for the time being. But, will it freeze? The question haunts every Kashmiri.
Kashmir has changed drastically during the past four years. Gone are the days when leaders would call the shots. Now, the people decide what to do, how and when. The leaders have to follow.
The moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference has remained silent for the past three years. Geelani, though not his faction of the separatist conglomerate, enjoys some acceptability. But he too has been shown his limits. The only time he tried to cross it was during the summer agitation of 2010. He issued a statement on strikes which did not go well with the general public. Geelani’s effigy was burnt and the octogenarian leader had to eat a humble pie. Soon after, the angry youth chanted slogans against the Hizbul Mujahideen Chief, Syed Salah-ud-Din for a similar statement. His effigy was also torched. Both the leaders had to explain their position publicly.
The mainstream politicians were never in a position to cause a stir in the Valley. They still are not, the `inflated’ rallies of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) notwithstanding. Both these parties have been pursuing a `separatist agenda’ to stay relevant in contemporary Kashmir. Even the Congress leaders have found it difficult to survive merely on pro-Indian stand. On May 10, 2011, 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.”
The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti has emerged a staunch separatist over the past few years. Advocating withdrawal of security forces from civilian areas in December last year, she said people of Jammu Kashmir on either side of Line of Control should be granted freedom for travel and trade and the erstwhile princely state be declared a "free economic zone" in the SAARC region.
Similarly the NC played the separatist card by taking their forgotten general secretary out of hibernation in 2011. He was assigned the job of launching the membership campaign for the party in 2010. Nazir does not possess an Indian passport. He has never travel in Indian planes. He had to board a plane last year when he was flown to New Delhi for treatment. He was been accused of nurturing separatist tendencies by his own party workers.
The chief minister broke all records when he challenged totality of accession in October 2010. His speech in the legislative assembly won him many admirers at a time when he was accused of trust deficit and governance deficit by New Delhi. He played the separatist card successfully and saved his chair.
Kashmiris still love Pakistan. When Pakistan loses a cricket match, Kashmiris miss a beat. But it is also a reality that Pakistan has been losing importance and influence in Kashmir over the past few years. Many of them have started flirting with the idea of an independent Kashmir. The Indian lobby exercises very little or no influence in Kashmir. And as mentioned above they have to pursue a separatist agenda for their survival. The agitation of 2008, 2009 and 2010, it has been admitted by one and all, was neither motivated nor sponsored by Pakistan nor New Delhi. It was totally indigenous.
Kashmir has also turned highly unpredictable. The people did what the leadership never expected in 2008. They were suddenly on the streets protesting grant of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. It took the stunned leadership ten days to rise to the occasion. A committee was formed comprising civil society members and political activists when the people had been protesting on roads for ten days. This was very significant. The leadership had been trying for eighteen years to bring the people out without success. And when they came out, the leadership did not trigger it.
The Shopian agitation was also led by civil society members. Once again the leadership remained confined to issuing statements and appealing International Organisations for their intervention.
The first phase of 2010 agitation started on January 31 when Wamiq Farooq got killed. It was followed by killing of Zahid Farooq at Nishat. The people were on streets once again. Masrat Alam was behind the bars then and Syed Ali Geelani was in New Delhi. Masrat was released when the agitation had claimed many a life.
So, who will freeze Kashmir and how?
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