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

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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!”

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  1. Niloy Sarkar

    There can be no plebiscite or vote in Jammu and Kashmir what so ever until and unless the displaced Kashmiri Pundits return. But that is highly unlikely.

    You cannot have participatory politics when one section of the society is excluded.

  2. Karmanye

    Brother, I am sorry to say that your comment here is rather out-of-place. I have raised the issue of the Kashmiri Pandits time and again even in articles that are not related to Kashmir. This series of articles is about how more and more Kashmiri Muslims are now caring more about economic prosperity than ‘azadi’ and how some pro-azadi Kashmiri Muslims are turning pro-India. I have not discussed the proposed plebiscite all that much in this series of articles on Kashmir, though I have in others. But I am glad to see your concern for the Kashmiri Pandits, something even I share.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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