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.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

History is Whatever the Historian Wants it to Be

Zahid provides an interesting perspective of a multi-facted issue by picking and choosing history to his taste. The bottom line is nothing can change nor will change

(Mr. Z. G. Mohammad, 60, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the University of Kashmir and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

History Has Lessons

It is a season of marriages. I am not talking of political marriages that are in full bloom during the elections but I am talking about mundane wedlocks that bind two humans together. This week I was at a marriage party. It was long wait for the bridegroom. More than two hours idle wait- and during these idle waits one has to listen either to religious discourses that often end up in acrimonious debates without reaching an agreement on the rituals or a sermon against extravagance in marriages. While waiting for the bridegroom I was a captive audience to a monologist religious zealot believing that his understanding of religion was the only right one.

Much before I could plug my ears with my fingers a lawyer punctured his monologue by talking about the contemporary political scene in the state. He had a plethora of questions on the subjects I had touched over a period of time in my column. What was bothering him more was that the concepts of forum politics and collective leadership were not going to help in ending political uncertainty nor was it going to bring tangible political dividends that would satisfy urges and aspirations of the majority? He was in agreement with me that there was no example worth quoting in the history where a collage of political parties would have led any movement to a logical conclusion. He was in agreement with me that it was one leader, one party and one goal that had led all major struggles and movements in the world to logical end.

His grouse was that I often in my column raised issues and posed questions but did not suggest solutions nor did I answer the questions raised. He had a question for me and so had a university time friend a senior bureaucrat. The question revolved around the statement made by Home Minister, P. Chidambaram regarding likelihood of initiating a dialogue with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, APHC (M) leader. The question sounded well and I could start a whole discourse on it touching its hidden and apparent dimension. Like most writers, believing that as someone has said, ‘I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing.” I instead of answering the question and giving an elaborate discourse thought of taking up his question as subject for this week column.

The proposed talks between New Delhi and APHC (Mirwaiz) raise many questions. one, has there been change of heart at New Delhi barely a month after Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh denounced the APHC and other leaders outside it as irrelevant. Two, what is it that now makes them relevant. Three, is New Delhi really serious in holding a dialogue with Mirwaiz led Hurriyat Conference. Fourth what can be the agenda for talks and fifth if an agreement is reached between New Delhi and the leadership what could be the agreement will it be in consonance with their demand for allowing the people to exercise their right to self-determination.

There are many stories in the Kashmir political circle of New Delhi about the proposed talks between Kashmir leaders and New Delhi. One of the important stories is that there has not been much of a change in New Delhi’s evaluation of Kashmir leaders as manifested in the Prime Minister’s statement and it also reflected the understanding of the establishment including the PMO. If the grapevine in the capital is to be believed, it is a former union minister having a friend or two in the APHC (M) who is engaged on the track two for setting a thaw in the relation between the APHC (M) and New Delhi. It is a different question if he is a self-appointed interlocutor between New Delhi and Srinagar or has ‘go on signal’ from the power centers in the capital.

The question of proposed talks of the APHC (M) has more than meets the eye. It needs to be looked at both in the contemporary and the historical perspectives. The engagement of New Delhi with Mirwaiz is not something new. The behind scene dialogue between New Delhi and Kashmir leaders started before 1993 the birth of the multi-party combine. It would not be stretching thus far to say that it were these behind the scene talks between New Delhi and Kashmir leaders during their detentions that caused the birth of the conglomerate. Scores of NGOs or groups of intellectuals including some human rights activists who have been talking to APHC since the start of armed “struggle” have not been doing it without blessings from New Delhi. It were both the efforts of various NGO activists and back channel engagements that paved way for opening of front channel dialogue between the APHC(M) and New Delhi. The Kashmir leaders having chosen to be called as moderates for not adhering to the demand of plebiscite have been meeting leaders of both the NDA and UPA governments. The last meeting between six leaders of the APHC under the leadership of Mirwaiz and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was held in September, 2005 at New Delhi. It was nothing but a photo-session. The APHC (M) had not done any spadework before meeting and nor had it set an agenda for the meeting. It was a flop show. The prime minister asked the delegation to ‘come next time’ with some concrete suggestions that government of India could consider. There was no direct meeting between New Delhi and Srinagar leaders after September 2005. However Prime Minister asked these leaders to join round table conference of all parties mostly those believing in the finality of accession of the State with Indian Union.

The question that apparently demands an answer is what is it now that has made New Delhi to drop hints to the “moderates” for a resumption of a dialogue. Much before coming to this question and looking at the new development in relation to related developments with regard to Kashmir I am reminded of the dialogue between New Delhi and the National Conference in fifties that ended up in signing of Delhi agreement. The agreement survived just one year and debates about it along with other factors landed Sheik in jail for eleven years. The dialogue that started in seventies between the Plebiscite Front and New Delhi culminated into Indira-Sheikh Accord of 1975. The accord did bring Sheikh Abdullah to power and also assured power for his scions but historically it is not seen as an achievement of Kashmir leadership but as its surrender. To understand this surrender there is need to read between the lines the factors that led to it.

The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 dampened the initiative of Kashmir leaders fighting for the cause of right to self-determination. This followed by an agreement between India and Pakistan at Simla had seen Kashmir problem being relegated to the background. The Problem of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the words of Alastair Lamb ceased to be an “active territorial dispute”. The agreement between India and Pakistan did make a mention of Kashmir and Pakistan after the agreement did reiterate that it did not compromise on Kashmir but Z.A. Bhutto did throw a challenge to India by stating, “It was up to India to demonstrate to the world opinion that the inhabitants of State of Jammu and Kashmir were willing to accept what India had to offer them.” The government of India took a cue from it and started a dialogue with Kashmir leaders. It first involved the smaller organization and then by playing carrot and stick policy also involved the Plebiscite Front. It may be a matter of debate if the smaller parties were caught in the booby-trap wittingly or not but the movement for right to self-determination did suffer an erosion with minor players like the Jammu and Kashmir Jamat-e-Islami, the Political Conference and Srinagar based the Awami Action Committee joining directly and indirectly in the electoral process and isolating the Plebiscite Front that had boycotted the elections.

It was not the lack of negotiating skills in the Front leadership that failed it in making New Delhi to agree to its terms and conditions but it started a dialogue from a weak position that culminated into an accord with zero achievement. The accord for its inherent weaknesses and required guarantees hardly survived for a period of seven months then it was story of compromises for remaining in power.

The Kashmir problem diplomatically and politically today is on a stronger pedestal than it was after 1971. The APHC (M) before entering into a dialogue with New Delhi will have to realize that it was no more on the slippery ground of 9/11 situation that had made some of its leaders to see their own Waterloo before it happened but instead it will have to reevaluate its strength and make its relevance felt. The dialogue with New Delhi held in isolation of other leaders outside its ambit will not be of much consequence.

To see the dialogue with New Delhi reaching to a logical conclusion it will have to work for arriving at a broader consensus with the other faction of the conglomerate, organization outside it and the combatant leadership.

Since the proposed dialogue is on the front channel it should not be held in hush-hush manner but transparently. The agenda for dialogue with New Delhi should be without any ambiguity and it should have people’s approval. The public approval should be sought in a session meant for the purpose.

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