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

Did Ali Shah Geelani let his Nation Down by Congratulating Omar Abdullah?

Shuhab puts forth an interesting perspective and indicates there may be good reasons behind the statement by Geelani saheb

(Shuhab Hashmi, 39, was born in Baramulla, and graduated from the Degree College in Sopore, and completed his M.A. from the University of Kashmir. He is a Columnist, and in his spare time enjoys reading, discussions and traveling.)

Geelani: He is housing contradictions

ashmir's septuagenarian resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani is once again in sharp focus, thanks to his remarks about new dispensation, post election results. It is understandable to have him in the centre of any discussion related to Kashmir issue, but all the time he is being discussed, is for the wrong reasons.

There is no denying the fact that Geelani, over past few decades had emerged as the credible voice of Kashmiri struggle. It is publicly acknowledged that he has been consistent in his stand - right or wrong - and has not polluted his character by trying to be on both sides of the fence. On many occasions, he has been targeted for not softening his stand vis-à-vis Kashmir resolution, and is astringently criticized of being needlessly stubborn in advocating Kashmir's accession to Pakistan; a country that is herself neck-deep in crises and facing unprecedented instability.

What makes Geelani more attracted to Pakistan is his pan-Islamic stand, but ironically his parent organization Jamat-e-Islami does not figure at a prominent place in Pakistan's political arena. He opposed former Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf tooth and nail, simply because Geelani viewed him through the prism of his own ideology. It is a different issue whether his opposition to him holds much water but he was the one who told him to his face that his government should stop killing Islamists in Waziristan.

Keen Kashmir watchers are of firm opinion that but for Geelani's presence a sell out on Kashmir issue would have come around since. However, it was not Geelani's person alone which would thwart such an adventure but the presence of militants played a significant role in that. Since Geelani happened to be their darling, as he would publicly glorify their activities even at the cost of his political reputation, this kept those at a bay who wanted to bargain with New Delhi. A larger section of Kashmir population, especially the youth who grew up in an atmosphere of hatred against India in past 20 years, has strong admiration for Geelani. They see him as a father figure and a spiritual leader of Kashmir movement. While his 20 year long career as one who was part of Indian mainstream and fought elections for assembly is underlined as one of his prominent weaknesses, but once placed in the backdrop of historical events it is not fair to take it to the extent that his opponents do.

In 1972 when Jamat-e-Islami decided to contest in the elections, the geo-political situation in sub continent had changed drastically with the fall of Dhaka. Pakistan was no longer a strong fort for the Kashmiris, who were dependent on that country.

What Jam’at did in 1972 by publicly surrendering before New Delhi's hegemony, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah completed in 1975 by reaching an Accord with Indira Gandhi which only proved to be a road to power rather than for resolution of Kashmir. Whatever was inked down in the Accord to address political problems was never opposed by the National Conference after wards. But Geelani and his associates continued to shout in the wilderness of state assembly about the issue as also against the tools of immorality which Sheikh was imposing on Kashmiris in the shape of opening liquor shops etc. Jam’at's stiff opposition to Communism in South Asia in 60s and 70s is the remarkable contribution the party made in saving the Muslim character of this region; and Geelani by the side of the likes of Saduddins, Qari Saifuddins, Ahrars and others played a significant role in saving the Muslim character of Kashmir.

But coming to the latest debate thrown up after the recent Assembly elections vis-à-vis Geelani, it merits thorough discussion. His role as the pioneer of "Azadi" movement notwithstanding, it is fraught with lapses. While his confidants and unquestioning supporters call them as aberrations but he is not in a position to perfunctorily dismiss them as aberrations, given his stature as a political leader.

Recent statement of Geelani hoping redress of people's grievances from the new coalition government has pained many. Though he tried to clarify it the other day but the damage was already done. It was seen as endorsement of the new regime, which according to him was an outcome of a "fraud exercise", called elections. Geelani has always termed the mainstream leaders as "Gumashte" (Storekeepers) of New Delhi. This time he, along with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and others, aggressively campaigned against elections, though the entire separatist leadership was behind bars. His speaking in a language and tone, that reflects hope-for-any-good from the government tantamount to endorsement of the regime. If this was the case he should have let the people decide as they did by defying his boycott call. It ill-behooves a leader of Geelani’s stature to treat the people as deaf and dumb and be on the path of carving out some space in the conditions that entail new government in the state.

Many people believe that Geelani sometimes is shaken with the governments in power (particularly of National Conference) and is scared of its tactics to show him down by Income Tax raids or intimidating or harassing his kith and kin. But on the face of it a leader of such a strong spiritual character can not expected to be scared of these tactics. He disappointed "his nation" earlier also on many occasions. During a rally at TRC ground he forced people to accept him as their sole leader which spoiled the atmosphere that otherwise deserved to be channeled collectively by the leadership. With strong resentment from all the quarters he retracted from the same dismissing it merely as "slip of tongue".

Geelani had supported the Muzaffarabad Chalo call which was meant to force India and Pakistan to open the road for trade. In the months long agitation, 60 Kashmiris laid down their lives including that of Hurriyat leader Sheikh Aziz. When the road was opened for trade, though symbolically, he termed it as a "non issue" and failed to explain why he supported the call which devoured 60 innocent lives. His recent faux pas was the needlessly made remarks about moderate separatist leader Sajjad Lone, pushing him to wall. Sajjad had actively associated himself with boycott call, may be for his own reasons, but by undermining his "gesture" Geelani further alienated him from the separatist camp and forced him to wash Geelani's dirty linen in public.

At the time the separatist leadership ought to introspect and review its strategy vis-à-vis the "struggle for right to self determination" they are sending confusing signals which only shows their inability to lead people. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also talked about people's expectations from the new government, though in vague terms. When they declared the elections as "Haram" why should they expect anything good from them! Better think over why they were "rejected" by people in the name of Bijli, Sadak and Pani rather than mending fences with the government in such a meek way.

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