The Solution Moderates in the Valley Suggest [Part 5 of ‘A Fresh Wave of Thinking in the Kashmir Valley’ Series]

Posted on June 4, 2012 in Specials

By Karmanye Thadani:

This brings us to the moderate Hurriyat leader Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat’s statement that the implementation of UN resolutions mandating a plebiscite is no longer practical, and that the separatists must modify their plank by accepting India as their country and should contest elections for the good of Kashmir, and even though moderate Hurriyat leaders in the past may not have, in so many words, asserted the impracticality of the implementation of UN resolutions, they indeed have stated time and again that they are fine with the LoC continuing as the border between the parts of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan respectively so long as Kashmiris on both sides of the border are given greater autonomy. In fact, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat has proposed engaging in a dialogue with parties like the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party which have a mandate somewhat similar to the one he suggested.

Of course, as mentioned in the first article in this series, this comment drew sharp criticism from hardliners like Geelani. Prof. Bhat was even accused of violating the Hurriyat constitution, but then, all moderate Hurriyat leaders should be charged of having done the same for the reason enumerated above.

Prof. Bhat has even asserted that separatist militants and not Indian security personnel have been responsible for killing moderate Hurriyat leaders, like Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone (he was the first among separatists to contest elections), Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani and his own brother in the past, which is indeed plausible, for even Yasin Malik claims that he was targeted by militants when he renounced arms.

So, what indeed can be accomplished by contesting elections? For this, we may turn to a column written by a Kashmiri writer Naeem Akhtar in the newspaper Greater Kashmir, titled Linking Pathribal with Lucknow, which advocates that the Indian security personnel that perpetrated human rights violations in the valley be punished. Naeem has expressed satisfaction over the Supreme Court verdict on the Pathribal case, since it sets a time limit for the military tribunals to resolve the issue, and has suggested that Kashmiri Muslims, by fully identifying with the larger Indian Muslim electorate, which has a decisive say in who comes to power in several states like Bihar and UP, and even the centre (he makes it a point to mention that Indian Muslims, because of their sizable population and the sustainability of Indian democracy are more politically empowered than Muslims anywhere else in the world, including even the Middle East), make human rights violations in the valley an election issue, while simultaneously moving to the courts for all instances of human rights violations. Though, I am vociferously opposed to Naeem’s idea that the human rights violations in the valley as an issue should be communalized and made out to be a Muslim issue (or even the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus be made out to be a Hindu issue), as though Hindus can’t feel the plight of fellow human beings in the valley. If a large section of the Hindu electorate including myself refuses to see Narendra Modi as a future Prime Minister owing to their belief in his complicity in the 2002 carnage (contrary to what Muslim communalists and Kashmiri separatists, who would like the world to believe that every Hindu adores him for the killings of innocent Muslims, have to say), then I see no reason why a huge section of the Hindu electorate wouldn’t like to see rogue soldiers guilty of committing rapes and murdering innocent civilians, punished (recently in 2011, in Chennai, an Army officer shot down a  child for climbing an apple tree in an Army cantonment and there was immense public outcry) if they are made to understand the problem.

To be fair, Naeem does mention that there are secular Hindus who outnumber the entire Muslim populace of India, but the article throughout only evokes appeals to non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims. In fact, these human rights violations, which have been committed for reasons ranging from frustration in the face of a harsh weather and hostile environment to lust to the greed for promotions and medals, have no communal character about them and were also committed in Hindu-majority Assam when the ULFA was in full swing. Indeed, the human rights situation in Kashmir can be made an election issue so as to have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a legislation giving Army personnel considerable immunity from scrutiny over alleged human rights abuses, amended or even repealed, as soon as possible, and then, justice can be delivered to at least a sizable number of people. Also, it’s not as though no soldier has been punished and more than 120 military personnel have been punished for human rights violations in the last two decades, though of course, the figure is dismal looking at the scenario.

Certain passages from Naeem Akhtar’s article are worth quoting —

“Is separatism or the invoking of UN resolutions the only remedy to seek justice for Jumma Khan and thousands like him who perished unaccounted? Reference to UN resolutions, fretting and fuming of human rights organizations, appeals to world conscience, hartals and Jum’a meetings all have been going on for the last six decades. Armed resistance did create awareness of the issue but to what end. It will now on only help produce conflict literature over the known and unknown graves of our loved ones…”

“The State Assembly almost unanimously passed the autonomy resolution and the National Conference was an alliance partner but it was dismissed with the contempt that only an electorally insignificant territory could deserve in the cutthroat world of power politics.

For adding value to our vote Kashmir will have to become a partner if not a part of the new political forces in the country that essentially represent the underprivileged and the marginalized. That is underlined by the fact that the so called Maulana Mulayam and the dalit icon Mayawati are now the two poles of UP politics, Nitish and Lalu have it between them in Bihar and Mamata and communists in Bengal. All of them have built genuine coalitions of secular forces that would increasingly call the shots in a changing India. Kashmir is condemned to miss this bus too if our leadership fails to see and utilize this opportunity.

Unless Pathribal and Chittisinghpora become issues of concern in Lucknow, Patna and Amritsar, Kashmir will continue to stew in its own juice. And the way to achieve that could be through electoral value addition. Otherwise the routine for us will continue to be the observance of anniversaries of our dear ones, discussing dogs, infant mortalities, fetal culling of girls, mainstream-separatist barking matches, dark nights and hopeless days. And judicial system will mean only what Sunny Deol in that emotional film immortally called tareekh pe tareekh.

Not that any single suggestion is necessarily going to be a panacea for our pain but is there any harm in trying a non-lethal, democratic method?”

From Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat’s statements, some political commentators have deduced that moderate factions of the Hurriyat are ready to participate in the next elections so as to ensure justice for their people within the Indian constitutional setup. This and not stone-pelting can pave the way, and the Indian state already being in a mood to demilitarize the valley and amend or repeal the AFSPA, which it is, can help restore peace and normalcy in the valley. I’d like to end this piece, the last one in this series, by quoting the Kashmiri Muslim writer Keen, who doesn’t support the struggle for azadi and who has been very extensively quoted throughout this series — “So here is to happiness and normalcy. Here is to life!”