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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Did Hurriyat Flunk the Elementary "Politics 101" Test?

Javid suggests that the Hurriyat Conference should introspect and correct its politics in order to remain relevant

(Mr. Javid Ahmad Dar, 26, was born and raised in Srinagar. He received his Bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar and secured first position (Gold Medalist)in Master's degree from the Political Science Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Dar passed the National Eligibility Test held by the University Grants Commission (UGC-NET) for lectureship position and started as a Guest Lecturer in the Department of Law, University of Kashmir, shifted for a short-term to the faculty of the Government Degree College, Baramulla, and presently holds the position of Assistant Professor in the Post-Graduate Department of Political Science in the University of Kashmir. He is also enrolled in the M. Phil program.)

Lessons From Past

Summer 2008 witnessed an unexpected large scale uprising in response to Land Transfer to Shri Amaranthji Shrine Board (SASB) and economic blockade at the hands of Hindu fanatics. More than 50 people lost their lives and nearly two thousand were injured in the clashes between the Indian troopers and unarmed people. On the one hand, the State used its coercive machinery to curb the movement at higher degrees and larger levels, committing human rights violations. And on the other hand, the Co-ordination Committee, an amalgam of various political, social and trade organizations, under the leadership and guidance of Hurriyat Conference was highly busy only in framing up the programmes of Hartals (strikes) and announcing Chalos—Pampore Chalo, Sonwar Chalo, Eidgah Chalo and Lal Chowk Chalo. (The last one could not materialize as the Government imposed strict curfew and closed all the routes heading to Lal Chowk by installing Iron barricades and fencing some of the roads with tin sheets). Millions marched towards these destinations and million others greeted them and offered them drinks and eatables. People faced bullets on their chests and challenged batons by offering their shoulders and heads. Hundreds donated blood. Women didn’t take a back seat and participated in protests; young girls even donated blood, especially at the Kashmir University Campus. Some collected money, rice and vegetables for people who ran short of food due to Strikes, Hartals and Curfews. Trucks loaded with vegetables, rice and pulses started coming into City. Villagers and sub-urban population donated whole-heartedly, as they had done in the Past. The tune of Azadi floated so melodiously that even lame rats started jumping. Cats too were compelled to join the chorus of rats so they would not have to face the brunt of feeble flock. They (mainstream leaders) too thought of, what they called, respecting “people’s aspirations”.

Many a people thought that the goal was so close; but, unsurprisingly, they stand disillusioned now. Few month practitioners of Ragda Ragda Hindustan (Trample India!) embraced mainstream parties which were thought to be Gaddars (traitors). What went wrong for Hurriyat or where did Hurriyat miss the game? Were they [really] commanders/leaders or important players in the field? Was mainstream leadership strong enough to attract people to its agenda of development and resolution of Kashmir Issue within the four walls of Indian Constitution or was Hurriyat Conference weak to sustain the Intifida! Did Hurriyat Conference correctly understand spontaneous reaction of people to Land Transfer and Economic Blockade? If so, why did (characterless and dumb-driven cattle, as ‘history’ calls them) people vote? And what did they vote for? Or, did Hurriyat Conference fail to convince people (Voters) that participation in voting is, what they used to call, selling off the blood of martyrs?

It was thought that the atmosphere in Kashmir was not conducive for elections. Some were reluctant to have elections in such a hostile environment in the State, particularly CPI (M) and PDP. The announcement for Assembly elections was thought of as pregnant with many ill-consequences. A general feeling among the masses was that elections were being ‘imposed’ on them. The Co-ordination Committee and the Hurriyat Leadership were all set to manipulate the charged atmosphere for election boycott. People were on the toes to welcome the Old-Man, who had gone to New Delhi for his treatment. Government came heavily down on Separatist leadership and put them behind the bars under Public Safety Act. Meanwhile, the Co-ordination Committee chalked out a strategy for boycott asking people “to march to those areas” where elections were to be conducted in different phases on their scheduled dates (Jahan Election, Wahan Chalo!). Consequently, strict restrictions and undeclared Curfews were imposed through out the Valley; save the areas where elections were to be conducted on those dates.

Elections were characterized by long serpentine queues outside the polling stations, some protests against elections in which one was killed and scores injured and common practice of group fighting between the supporters of mainstream parties. And to the surprise of one and all, Kashmir witnessed a heavy turn out.

Over a period of last twelve years or so, the Hurriyat Conference used people’s boycott of elections (alienation factor) as an instrument of de-legitimization of Indian control over the State. They would highlight it wherever they went and propagated the same to whosoever visited them. They consciously or unconsciously confined their politics of action only to Strikes, Hartals, Boycott Calls and recently-devised Chalos. It weaved a Cocoon for itself and is miserably caught in it now. It miserably failed to catch hold of the opportunities provided to it by the turn in events and by the people whose representatives they claim to be. It neither could provide a quality leadership which could unite the people for one political goal. It was carried away by the public sentiment and started building ivory towers and badly lost the ground. The Separatist leadership through out its working has proven its short-sightedness and intellectual bankruptcy.

The NC-Congress Coalition of mid-1980’s created a vacuum. They could not emerge as vibrant socio-political force highlighting the mutilation of democracy in these decades. The imposition of six year Governor’s rule, in 1990’s, created another vacuum. With the emergence of mass uprising and armed struggle, mainstream camp lost its footing and became highly irrelevant. Separatist Camp could not prove itself as an effective alternative force. It didn’t address the problems created by violence and was a mere spectator to whatever was happening in Kashmir. It did nothing for the victims of violence. Number of orphans and widows and half widows increased and the graph of property loss went high; It had no efficient plan for welfare and development. Some work was started in the shape of Hilal-e-Ahmar (Red Crescent), but that too didn’t develop into an organized welafare system.

Summer 2008 was thought to have changed the things in Kashmir radically, as millions of people protested against India, and Kashmir again became a focus of world attention. Instead of coming out with some creative means and methods, the Hurriyat Conference was more conventional and orthodox. It did expect a large scale boycott. No doubt, it faced a heavy crackdown and most of the leaders were put in jail under Public Safety Act. Its influence of election boycott calls could not last for even a month! Factions within Hurriyat started fighting within as if they had to board a bus with limited seats for the formation of New Government without contesting elections.

At this point in time Hurriyat faces challenges within and without. Separatists have a tough time ahead. It has to go for a serious introspection and come out with a creative and people friendly mechanism if it wants to have a say in the making and shaping of the history of Kashmir. It has to understand the dynamics and challenges of contemporary world order and learn to adapt to change. It has to learn from the past mistakes, devise a more accommodative platform, sort out the differences and learn to live with them. It will have to devise such policies which are not only acceptable but beneficial to the masses if it really wants to do something meaningful for the subjugated lot. If the Separatist leadership continues with the current means and methods, it is doomed.

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