Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rejection of a Myopic and Decadent Leadership

Following is the text of the speech Hameeda Nayeem made on 5th January in a seminar organized to mark the right to Self-determination Day

(Dr. Hameeda Banu, 40+, was born in Tral, now in Pulwama district. She received her primary and secondary education in Tral and completed her college education in the Government Women's College, Srinagar. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Kashmir, and has been teaching in the Department of English at the University for the past 17 years. She is an excellent orator and an internationally travelled human rights activist. Her personal interests include campaigning for women's rights, global peace, interfaith dialogue, philosophy, psychology, literature, history and religious studies.)

Mr. Chairperson, first of all I seek your permission to be a truth–teller rather than a tranquilizer given the things as they are because I have no words of comfort for you, I mean for the top Hurriyat leaders both within and outside the two factions of Hurriyat camp. Though this time I will not take on those who are outside the camp and their antics and theatrics during the agitation.

Let me begin by interrogating the topic for the seminar and then go on to say how you miserably failed us when we were close to achieving our right of self-determination. Reminding UN of its commitments and asking it to implement the same is an exercise in futility as we have done so in the past without getting any dividends. UN resolutions are the basic document which endorse and legitimize our right to decide our political future and should be taken as the basis of our demand but let me dislodge your misplaced confidence in UN as a body that can implement these resolutions. Firstly because it is already written off as a grand failure in addressing the issues of peoples’ rights and demand for justice around the world. Secondly it is a bonded maid of Euro-America and they use if occasionally to serve their own interests and crush the rights of people and sovereignty of nations as is duly testified by the recent world history.

It is the Indian people who could help us in getting us our right to determine our future and we have to invoke their conscience persistently. They almost did it this summer when they responded to our unprecedented protest demonstrations in very positive terms but alas !it was the top leadership in freedom camp that let us down who fumbled and stumbled and helped Indian establishment wittingly or unwittingly in suffocating people’s voice and scuttling the peaceful revolution with all the conceivable repressive measures. On seeing a sea of people on the grounds and streets of Srinagar and other parts of the valley and Jammu, top intellectuals of India advocated in unequivocal terms our right to decide our future and asked GOI not to hold Kashmiris against their will. Sawaminanthan Ayer, Vir Sanghvi, Jug Suraiya, Arundahti Roy and many others. Not only that. 59% respondents in a CNN IBN poll agreed to the demand for Azadi of Kashmiris and their right to secede from India. Besides, Omar Abdullah, then played a very positive role in highlighting the aspirations of Kashmiris and on acceding to their demands by India. It was the sacred duty of freedom leadership to build on that, to broaden the support base in Delhi among intellectuals and Indian national political parties and keep up the momentum of the movement but most deplorably the leadership capitulated to authorities in several ways.

Yeh nadan girgayay sajday main jab waqat-e-qayam aya

Nay, hang on, not because of ‘nadani’ which one could forgive but because of naked capitulation to the authorities.

First by recalling two members from the Coordination Committee (CC) who were spearheading the unity moves which was an abject surrender to the demands of the dubious elements in Hurriyat for no other perceivable reason but to abort and scuttle the movement as they were out of it. Going by the calls at that time which people made to TV channels for the sudden, unwarranted and anti-movement decision, one can scale the disappointment in people and they started smelling something fishy in the Hurriyat camp.

Secondly, by committing the historical monumental blunder of calling off the strike abruptly on the pretext of the month of Ramzan when people had girded up their loins and were ready to do or die for the attainment of the right to decide their future.

In this decision, Mr. Chairperson, you were not alone, you had the holier – than – thou chairperson of the other faction with you, who gives the impression of being `always in communion with God and defending Islam,’ `infallible while branding everyone else as a traitor to the cause’. Both of you strangulated the revolution by calling off the strike call in September 2008. After your abject capitulation there was selective crackdown on those who were the mobilizers and organizers of the public demonstrations, and the unifiers of Hurriyat ,with the active connivance of black sheep in Hurriyat Camp.

Both of you particularly Geelani Saheb committed another blunder after having served one week’s imprisonment in posh hotels by describing the land issue as a non-issue forgetting within no time, that land issue had fuelled and rejuvenated the movement of the right to self-determination as also provided you fresh oxygen for survival when you had become almost defunct.

These series of bunglings greatly disappointed people and they started audible whisperings on the streets, in public places and in drawing rooms and started questioning not only your lack of commitment but your capacity to lead the movement. This was the turn around in the situation which your crass insensitivity to public sentiments and opinions missed, the public sentiment which you always invoke for your survival! People were disgusted with your leadership and found themselves in a deep sea of despondency not knowing what to do. How long could you take people for a ride and continue to commit blunders and serve your own selves? How long would you escape the public wrath? You stumbled when the iron was hot. You have taken people for granted. They had given you a fresh lease of life when you were faced with identity crises because of your acts of omission and commission. After this debacle, you made half-hearted, luke-warm statements which inspired none. It seemed you had already sung a dirge on your leadership, mind you, not on the movement. Then comes another thunderbolt from Geelani Sahib on his return from Delhi where he was convalescing when he accused Sajad Lone of fielding a candidate in Kupwara district and then the latter’s response in which he crossed all limits of civility, set people pooh phooeying you.

Instead of lambasting at the authorities for unprecedented curfews, arrest of leaders and the youth, Geelani Sahib chose petty squabbles with his own kind. Even if Sajjad Lone had done what Geelani Sahib alleged, it was only one out of 87 seats, which could not have dented the boycott call in anyway. By his ‘puritanical attitude’ towards others, not for himself, mind you, he is frightening away not only minorities but also the well-meaning people from his own community.

In the midst of all this one faction of Hurriyat closed down all the fledging organizational structures of Hurriyat in districts, which could have given a body to the movement, a solidity of specification and helped in the implementation of boycott call.

Mere sloganeering and emotional demagoguery do not help in achieving solid objectives, it is institutional base which concretizes your objectives. plus humility, accountability and transparency which engages people and not mere statements by one and appeal to religious sentiments by the other.

And when elections were announced, you once again gave a clich├ęd boycott call, being frigid of new ideas, you had not learnt from past experience of 1996 and 2002 when GOI managed to impose a government on us and boycott calls fully helped pro-establishment elements to strengthen their base. The popping up of PDP is a direct result of your boycott calls because people had no other alternative which you could have provided by defeating the colonial power with her own weapons.

Once again you fell in the trap of identifying elections with a sort of referendum for Indian control on Kashmir or so it was presented by GOI.

Having already disappointed people enormously which you missed in your perceptual blindness, the less politically conscious and under privileged out of anger did not heed your boycott call to show their disappointment with you.

They knew you could be of no avail to them as you are neither clear in your understanding of the issues involved nor capable of leading the movement. Geelani Sahib is too busy in issuing fatwas, others in ego tussles and power politics within and outside Hurriyat, yet others in increasing the graph of personal profiles, while throwing the interests of the people to winds.

People to you seem to be as expendable material as they are to the establishment. You did not feel the agony and pain of the families who lost 60 precious dearest souls and bread earners and over 2500 youth who have been crippled and disfigured for life. It meant nothing to you. People from all walks of life were ready to contribute for their welfare and I wrote at that time that Hurriyat or CC should form a committee to collect and distribute aid to the victims and the devastated families. But as usual there was no response from your side.

People knew you could not get your act together given the so-called forum politics and wretched collective leadership mantra. Those who boycotted did it out of their own volition. Having a raised political consciousness they knew their vote could be misinterpreted by GOI in the presence of boycott call and those who are less fortunate were taken in by the rhetoric of development, and voted for the administrative promises and not to endorse status quo in Kashmir, as I have explained in my earlier write-up.

Geelani Sahib did not realize for all these years that human life cannot be suspended, it needs governance on daily basis and there has to be some structure that will do just that and elections have only that limited mandate. Larger issues like Kashmir dispute which have far reaching consequences are decided by referendum, he did not realize that unless the body is taken care of, it cannot think of freeing the spirit. Mehjoor says:

“Ye Azadi chehh sorgich hoor ye phereya khaane pate khaanai”

Unless the belly is gratified it cannot crave for the luxury of freedom. This reality dawned on him too late when much was lost for him.

If people voted under whatever circumstances they still showed the wisdom of separating elections as an administrative affair from larger political dispute of Kashmir. And all the actors of the election have declared the same and now if GOI is celebrating the victory in Kashmir as legitimization of her control on Kashmir, she is suffering from self-deception. If she really believes in her fictions, let her have a referendum tomorrow and put a find seal of her control on Kashmir forever.

This vote, was, therefore, also in part, a rejection of divided, myopic, passive and decadent leadership out of a concern for a new vibrant, dynamic, inclusive, indivisible and pragmatic leadership.

If you want to continue in spite of all this, it is high time for you to introspect and take cognizance of the historical blunders you committed and make an agenda for this year because whichever new government comes in Delhi after the forthcoming general elections, cannot put Kashmir on the back burner any more. They have to take it by horns and you should be ready with an agenda of what you will dialogue about and achieve this year.

1. Apologize to people and selflessly make one broad party with one leadership, dismantle the present hierarchical structure and let those run the movement who are committed and capable of doing so and let others gracefully pack up and go and rid this movement of sickness, of petty bickerings, of paralysis of action and monotony of ideas. And much much more of the same stuff! The present state of affairs is a travesty of movement which means flow, kinetic flow rather than static arrest.

2. Demilitarization and internal sovereignty should top your agenda for the first phase.

3. Spell out clearly in written form the safe guards for minorities like Pandits and Sikhs. Make every effort to bring back our Pandit brothers and sisters who are living a miserable life in Jammu camps as they have been much abused by politicians across the political divide.

4. Bring on board all the three regions and give them written assurance of proportionate equitable distribution of resources and jobs. Look into their real and imagined fears.

5. Clearly Geelani Sahib’s ideology will not work. If you are interested in keeping the whole state together then make your agenda inclusive, a state that has more than 30 person non-Muslims can’t have Azadi Barai Islam as a slogan. Prophet of Islam never taught us to coerce people into submission or to force any system on people which they are not ready to accept.

If you insist on the actualization of your ideology in political terms, then what is the difference between you and Sangh Parivar who are also trying to impose their ideology on the whole of India where Muslims and Christians form a sizable minority?
We always castigate them for trying to impose tyrannical and oppressive majoritarianism on minorities. Your refrain of Azadi Barai Islam has also been frightening away minorities and they are skeptic about their future in that kind of setup even though you may give guarantees to the contrary.

Secondly, the concept of Ummah is an utopian dream which doesn’t exist anywhere. If the sovereign powerful Muslim countries of the world are not united and do not do anything for Palestine and other repressed Muslim of the world ,what can hapless, helpless and besieged people of Kashmir do to help your dream of Uma to became a reality and who is going to accede to that demand? If you really want to serve Islam, reform the people at every level to make them good, practicing and conscientious Muslims who could really help stem corruption at all levels be it social, political, moral, intellectual or economic which could make Kashmir an example for others to follow. If, even after getting what we want, people are the same, the Azadi could become sour within no time as it did in India and Pakistan!

PS: Yes I forgot to remind Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of his promise of releasing all the political prisoners the moment he takes over. What has happened to that promise?

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