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, October 11, 2010

Did Omar Abdullah Really Say Something New? Two Competing Perspectives From the Valley

Rafiuddin suggests Omar Abdullah made a historic statement to restore his legitimacy. That may be so, but what he said - was it really historic? Fayyaz challenges that contention.

Point and Counter-Point by two eminent valley journalists

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.

Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

...and Omar condones Azadi

Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s unusual but historical speech in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on October 6 has kick-started a controversy over state’s relationship with New Delhi. The statement that questions the foundation of accession with India has set a new discourse on the subject that too at the time when New Delhi is grappling with many issues connected with this contentious problem.

Omar is himself facing the toughest challenge of his political career as the unrest with which valley is enveloped has not only taken lives of 110 civilians but put the Valley backwards in every direction. His priority at this juncture is to restore the order, which gives him legitimacy to remain in power. He is under fire from all quarters for what they believe is mishandling of situation taking Kashmir to a new edge. But the support he has been receiving from Government of India and more significantly from Gandhi family is crucial to his continuance in the high office.

During the past over three months, Omar has given an impression of flip-flop if his statements are taken into consideration. From hurling “virtual threats” to people for co-operating with security forces in enforcing curfew by stating that “Taali ek haath se nahin bajti” (it makes to two tonga) to his repeated assertions that this agitation would bring nothing but misery, it needs to understand the timing and necessity to decipher the assembly speech.

Omar’s assertion that Kashmir was an international dispute and that state had not merged but only acceded has in otherwise given legitimacy to people’s movement for “Azadi”. And the reaction from Separatist both hard-liners and moderates in that backdrop is not surprising at all. Whether Omar was speaking from heart or his “outburst” was to gain sympathy from the people with whom he has been at war for past 12 weeks, is difficult to understand at this juncture. Only time will tell whether he means it and in case he does not retract under pressure, it will be seen as “authenticity” of a cry that has taken over everything in Kashmir.

But playing Devil’s Advocate, one can look back and see that how the politicians have easily used these jargons to hoodwink people’s opinion from time to time. Here one can go through pages of history to only see how these “timely changes” have been the trademark of Omar’s grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah or his father Farooq Abdullah. Even other National Conference leaders have taken on Delhi to send a message across that they care for “people’s aspirations”. Sheikh Abdullah’s 22 year long “struggle” for Plebiscite is a glaring example of how he behaved when thrown out of power. Infact the inkling about the “maltreatment” Sheikh would be met with was evident before August 9 episode of 1953 when his close confidant Mirza Afzal Being spoke in the same assembly almost on the same lines. That was also taken by Delhi with a pinch of salt and soon after Sheikh was dethroned. Mufti Sayeed also gave a dimension to this type of politics by introducing passive separatism to remain relevant with the people. Whether Omar will meet the same fate as the BJP and other parties have lit fire on this cannot be judged right now as people are sceptical here as always given the fact the politicians have lost credibility among masses. Many would argue that Omar would have got a prior sanction from Delhi for taking such a line, but would they go to the extent of asking him to question the accession is a million dollar question. Omar’s father is a known Indian who recently told the Parliament that “India was inscribed in all the four parts of heart of every Kashmiri”. But he is also known for changing colours. In November 2007 he stunned people by saying “People like Farooq Abdullah will also have to start thinking twice about it whether we right, is our accession to the nation - done by my father or by Maharaja Hari Singh - absolutely straight and right. Because what these Army people are doing is trying to harm us who stand with the nation." It was in response to excesses by the Army. Again in December that year aired the same views almost questioning the wisdom behind acceding to India.

What Omar Abdullah did is somehow different from his lineage, as he is known for taking a stand, which he can hardly dilute later. Amid suspicion that he might have taken this “extreme step” to “save his eroded image”, he has given a new direction to the whole process New Delhi has taken into hand. It is not difficult to comprehend that in the given circumstances GoI may not afford to project Kashmir issue this way. With Foreign Minister S M Krishna even questioning Pakistan’s legitimacy of control over Pakistan Administered Kashmir in New York recently, the State Assembly echoing with the view the separatist or Pakistan have been airing puts New Delhi in a bind.
Not only that the point of reference for any discussion on Kashmir would be Omar’s historical speech as introduced to media by State Information department, but the timing of this “new discourse” from the biggest pro-India party is surely to influence the forthcoming visit of US President Barrack Obama. New Delhi has been trying hard to give an impression that Kashmir was not an issue, which should invite full time attention of US or United Nations at this juncture, and Obama’s visit cannot go without noticing the “flashpoint” which is at the edge for over past three months. Has Omar Abdullah provided fodder for such an attention certainly deserves consideration?

Moreover the task for group of interlocutors takes a different shape now. So far the threads, which they could pick, were not necessarily linked to the international dispute theory and could easily go around issues, which could not make Kashmir a “threatening” dispute. But with Omar setting a tone it is not easy for GoI appointed interlocutors to ignore the reality, which come from the floor of the state assembly, which New Delhi sells as the representative body of people of Jammu and Kashmir. Omar’s historical speech might have caused ripples within Congress circles but for seeing it to confirm what BJP has been crying the party has chosen to downplay it. It may face this music in the elections and may not necessarily cast a shadow over the health of NC-Congress alliance here but it is difficult for UPA government to ward off the disputed nature of Kashmir issue in view of credibility lend to by none other than the elected chief minister of the state.

Who is not a Separatist in Kashmir?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: This is now a million dollar question to answer that who is not separatist in Kashmir after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made his historic speech on the floor of assembly on October 6 . The points he (CM) justified on the floor of the state assembly were no different from what Syed Ali Shah Gillani and other separatist leaders have been raising for decades. In his speech, Omar clarified that calling Jammu and Kashmir state as an integral part of India commonly known as (Atoot Ang) was not correct as per the accession agreement . He also declared "Kashmir" as an international dispute which was the long pending demand of hard line Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Even in recent past, Geelani released his five point demands as precondition for restoring time being peace in the state. In his five points, accepting Kashmir as an international dispute was at the first number.

In fact, this is not some thing new in Kashmir politics. Looking back to the history of Kashmir since 1947 one finds that every Kashmiri politician started his career with separatism and ended with a power deal in Delhi . Let us start with the tallest leader of his times Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, grand father of present CM Omar Abdullah, who started his political career as separatist leader when he launched a movement against then Dogra family rule . Though he succeeded to get the people of the state liberated from the Dogra slavery but he continued his separatist attitude even after signing an accession pact with India. History says, when ever Sheikh Abdullah felt loosing his grip on the power by any means, he raised Kashmir issue by challenging the accession pact saying that the agreement with India was temporary . With this tactic, Sheikh always killed two birds with one stone . On one hand Sheikh made his electorates to realize that he was not puppet of Indian government and wanted to fight for "Azaadi" , an emotional slogan , on the other hand Sheikh used to send threatening signals to the government of India that if they ignored him,he could withdraw the accession pact . Not only, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah , even the other Kashmiri leaders who came in power in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on different platforms had their roots in separatism . For instance , Bakshi Gulam Mohammad who had been prime minister of the state after Sheikh was jailed was front runner leader of Sheikh's Muslim Conference which was later converted in to National Conference . Similarly , Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq and others were also members of Sheikh Abdullah's Muslim Conference in the early age of their politics . Muslim Conference was the first separatist organisation of the state which fought against the Dogra rule . However , it was converted in to National Conference in late thirties when India managed a power deal with Sheikh.

One can understand the sentiments of Kashmir constituency by taking the example of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syeed. Although Mufti Mohammad Syeed enjoyed a portfolio of Union home minister in centre but he was never taken seriously by the Kashmiri people untill 1999 when he left Delhi and landed in Srinagar with a popular old Kashmiri slogan 'Kashmir Issue'. Playing tacit politics, Mufti pitched his fire brand daughter Mehbooba Mufti in the field with all freedom that matched with the sentiments of Kashmiris .She almost hijacked all slogans of Separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference. And she succeed to install her 'PAPA' as CM of the state in 2002 which was the long cherished dream of senior Mufti Sahib . She continued her campaign and managed to grab almost double the seats in 2008 elections as compared to 2002.

So, this is not something new in the Kashmir politics that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised the Kashmir issue and declared accession of the state with country temporary . Observers are of the opinion that Omar raised this slogan after he felt the ground slipping under his feet and tried to give an impression to his electorates that he was not puppet of Delhi as was projected by his opponents in the past few months . It is also said that the separatist slogan was raised by CM Omar Abdullah after due permission from Delhi . Because , in the past few months Delhi used all its channels and means to bridge the alienation gap between Omar and common masses. And this is the part of Delhi strategy . Moreover , he also wanted to sideline his opposition PDP which was gaining support due to its Kashmir stand.

In fact, all the Kashmiri leaders have always exploited the people of the state in the name of Kashmir issue and AZADI just to reach at the power chair. For reasons apparent, it is very difficult to identify a single politician in Kashmir valley particularly who is not separatist . One can categorise them in various forms but can not ignore or overlook their separatist approach. Needless to mention there are three types of separatists in Kashmir. One, hard line separatists , moderate separatists and mainstream separatists . The hard line and moderate separatist both do not believe in Indian constitution , but the mainstream separatists are those who play separatist card only to achieve the power. One can put Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah in mainstream separatist category and there is no need to worry on their any slogan.

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