Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Crossing the Line of Control set by the Delhi Durbar

Mehmood provides a one-sided perspective on the emergence of the National Conference-Congress Alliance. But in the end an elected government is only as good as its people.

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, mid-30's, lives and works in Srinagar. His commentary is published by the Rising Kashmir.)

The dynasty is back

After all the backdoor and open air politics, Congress finally decided to have a date, once again with National Conference. More than Party alliance, it seemed as dynastic marriage, Gandhi’s and Sheikh’s solemnising the contract. Mufti Sayeed and his PDP were plainly rejected making it clear that for Delhi, and Congress guidelines for Kashmir politics are long back laid down.

Mufti might have been an insider but in Kashmir there is a desired limit to friendships. (The future of PDP now depends upon whether Mufti will crawl back within those limits and win Delhi’s favours next time or will he cross this line of actual control carved out by Delhi from the times of Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. Just imagine, if he does the later can we expect the ex-Home minister of India languishing in an Indian jail for playing spoilsport in Kashmir, like Delhi did with Sheikh Abdullah! Amazing!)

On all the earlier occasions Sheikh-Gandhi alliance would take off with an emotional and cheerful note, be it Sheikh Abdullah reviving his friendship with Nehru, and later mending fences with his daughter, or Farooq Abdullah cheerfully shaking hand with Rajiv Gandhi, and raising the Rajiv-Farooq combined fist jubilantly in air before a huge gathering at Iqbal Park. (By the way, Kashmiris are always present in huge numbers, be it for anything!) The engine of alliance would start knocking only later. But this time it all began with a cruel note. Congress overstepped Sheikh-family ladder, leaving behind father and adopting the son. With this Omar will share power with Congress and Farooq Abdullah will share the pain of losing chair with Mufti Sayeed.

Given the kind of situation that has thrown Omar to power, this young man will be up against a plethora of old troubles. The days ahead are stuffed with pungent problems. He will have to manage his relations with an anguished father and the Patron of his party; he will have to steer clear of the fault lines within his own party as the old guard may not always fall in sync with his mind and method; he will have to take care of how Resistance, Soft-separatism, and Pakistan will unfold its politics in Kashmir, once the dust settles down; he will have to constantly lend his ears to the rhetoric of development that he raised during elections; and he will have to confront the perverted politics of his own party if he really means business. Since old habits die hard, his image as a young and open-to-new-ideas will never sit comfortably with the rusty apparatus and set minds of National Conference. Either of the two has to change, or the distinction is only false and crafted one.

If Omar Abdullah wants to make a meaningful contribution to Kashmir politics, his two biggest enemies are National Conference and Congress. He has an enemy within, and besides. He is not just sleeping with the enemy but for the enemy. So what Omar Abdullah does in future depends on how he deals with past.

National Conference is identified with the politics of deceit and hooliganism. The history of this party may be approached and understood differently but the way Sheikh Abdullah facilitated Indian occupation in Kashmir stands out as an objective fact. For this he cannot be pardoned by history. Once in power, the way this party encouraged a culture of McCarthyism to disallow its opponents from posing a political challenge is known to all. Even when everybody would expect National Conference to change, Farooq Abdullah presided over a reign of extreme terror when he came back to power in 1996 elections. True, that Omar cannot undo history, but will he be able to stop the past of National Conference from eating into the future of Kashmir. Can Kashmir expect a democratic and pro people regime under Omar’s command? This is the question that Omar has to find an answer to.

The second predicament for Omar is to manage bed with Congress. The history of this party in Kashmir makes it massively clear that Congress is a ruthless partner. The two parties and the two families have earlier also been partners-in-politics, and this partnership has always been at the cost of Kashmir. In 1965 Sheikh Abdullah had an “emotional” reunion with Pandit Nehru. In the words of Sheikh Abdullah, ‘Panditji expressed his deep anguish and sorrow at the past incidents. I also became very emotional and told him that I was glad to have convinced him that I was not disloyal to him personally or to India.’ Instead of getting things right within Kashmir Congress made use of Sheikh Abdullah in convincing the heads of Muslim states across the world about Indian viewpoint on Kashmir. (Omar Abdullah is best suited for this foreign funda of India!) On this trip Sheikh met the premier of Communist China, Chou En-lai, at a dinner, in Morocco. On this he received a humiliating divorce from Delhi. Reaching London he was told to return back or else his passport was to be withdrawn. Sheikh Abdullah reached Palam and found himself arrested. This was the ‘tragic’ end of the ‘emotional’ reunion.

After a long detention Sheikh Abdullah was released once he reached an agreement with Mrs Gandhi. He was now to lead a Congress government in J&K. Marriage was again solemnised and named as Delhi Accord. How Sheikh thought that Congress behaved later needs a reading of the chapter, .....Woh Apni Khu Na Badklain Gai ( .... they will never change their ways) in his autobiography, Aatishe Chinar ( biography!). “Look at my naivety; I placed my trust in their false assurances, ignoring all previous experience, and agreed to work together with unpolluted intention. It was only after some time that I had to taste the bitterness of my folly.” These are the words of Omar’s grandfather.

After Sheikh Abdullah’s death, Congress found a golden opportunity to strengthen its hold on Kashmir. Later in its history Congress went on to join hands with Farooq Abdullah. Farooq agreed to contest 1987 elections in partnership with Congress. (Omar Abdullah has agreed to contest coming Parliamentary elections together with Congress from J&K!) Earlier Sheikh Abdullah made one kind of confession, but this time Farooq was more ‘open’, by accepting that ‘ if I want to implement programmes to fight poverty....and run a government, I have to stay on the right side of the centre.’ It was Farooq Abdullah in 1987, and who can forget what happened just two years later in 1989.

So the history of this party and its behaviour towards Delhi demonstrates that National Conference thrived at the cost of Kashmir’s unique political being. From the day Sheikh M. Abdullah fell fatally in love with power to the time Farooq Abdullah garlanded his son, Omar, to take the reins of National Conference in his young hands, Kashmir has been bitten by the politics of National Conference million times over. (Others may hold back their cheer, for they have been no different in this regard. Almost all the political parties and faces that have surfaced in Kashmir, have actually tried to take lead over National Conference by not just behaving the same way, but diving deeper into the waters of power hunger.)

Will Omar Abdullah prove himself mature enough to disown the legacy that catapulted him to power?! All the best to him, hoping that he will not forget people and will be mindful of history. A thoughtful wish or a wishful thinking!

Tailpiece: Omar says Ganderbal taught him a lesson and he is thankful to them for having him taught one. His own party and what it has done to Kashmir has million lessons for him. Any intensions of paying heed to that, Mr. Omar Abdullah!

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