Azadi not viable for Kashmir: Omar Abdullah

7 09 2008

Source: Rediff.com

September 07, 2008 16:26 IST
Independence or accession to Pakistan is not a viable option for the people of Kashmir, says National Conference chief Omar Abdullah while noting that essentially a political solution needs to be worked out for the ills plaguing Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

“I do not believe that independence for Kashmir is a feasible or a viable option and I stand by that,” he told Karan Thapar on Devil’s Advocate programme.

Abdullah also felt that India “flunked a single window system” opportunity under then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [Images] to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Asked if he was prepared to voice his stand on the issue of independence in Srinagar [Images], which recently witnessed protests with people shouting slogans for azadi, he said: “Be that as it may, it’s not my job to follow popular mood. It’s my job to tell the people what I believe is in their interest and I sincerely believe that it is not in their interest. It is not a viable alternative to suggest azadi or even accession to Pakistan,” the NC leader said.

He said “I believe that you can give Kashmir independence but you cannot give Kashmir freedom under the circumstances that prevail within the subcontinent –India, Pakistan and China. Even if India and Pakistan were somehow to decide to give the state independence, it will never be really free.”

On the problems facing Kashmir, Abdullah said the Valley needed political handling and not economic reconstruction packages and confidence-building measures.

Noting that he has been voicing his view that Kashmir is essentially a political issue in various forums including the Prime Ministers round table conferences, Abdullah said, “It needs political handling. Its not good enough that you give a Rs 24,000 crore economic reconstruction package or you announce all sorts of confidence-building measures. Its essentially about the political solution that you need to work out there.”

Backing the recent agreement between Jammu and Kashmir government and Shri Amarnath Yatra [Images] Sangharsh Samiti, he said, “the bottom line for me is that if you dont agree with this agreement you might also turn around and say that you are against the yatra because there is nothing in this that should give anybody a cause for concern.”

On if India had lost a chance to sort out the Kashmir issue in 2005-2006 with Musharaff, Abdullah told Thapar that the former Pakistani military ruler was a “single window system” and India flunked this opportunity.”We lost it. Its gone. Musharaff was a single window system so to speak, that we had to deal with in Pakistan. That window has gone. We flunked it. All of us, we all played a part in it….Well we are living to rue it now. Had we worked out a solution with Pakistan in 20062007, we wouldn’t (have) seen Kashmir inflamed in 2008,” he said.

Asked if he agrees with National Security Advisor M K Narayanan’s view that the Kashmir situation was not as bad as in the 1990s, Abdullah said,”Its bad. The difference between now and 1990s is that there are no guns and to that extent yes, the NSA is right when he says its not as bad as 1990 because in 1990 people like myself, my party colleagues, we were all fleeing.But I think he is being a little careful in assessing the actual mood of the people because the size of the protests that you saw in Kashmir, I think should give him more cause for concern than he is publicly stating,” he said.

The NC chief also claimed that the recent protests in the Valley were spontaneous and that there was no Pakistani involvement in them.

Replying to questions on assembly polls in Kashmir keeping in view the present situation, Abdullah said they were possible by January next year, the due date.

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Kashmiri separatists are isolated from reality Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)

2 09 2008

source: Rediff.com

Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)
September 02, 2008

The second part of Colonel Athale’s analysis of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir [Images]

Part I: Why Kashmir is up in flames

In a television debate, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah mocked a Jammu Muslim who supported the agitation. Little does he or others realise that the Muslims of Jammu have also suffered from the stupid government policy of appeasing the separatists and kicking the nationalists. Just one example should suffice. School teachers’ jobs in even remote Jammu regions go to Kashmiris from the valley. The teachers so appointed (at a good salary) are absent most of the time except on the first every month to collect their salary. The education levels among Jammu’s Muslims are abysmal. In a tehsil of Mendhar in Poonch district, for example, there is not a single graduate!

In Rajouri division, when I led a team of scientists ten years ago (in an attempt at bringing in horticulture technology to J&K to better people’s life), we were aghast to see a soil testing laboratory that had a clean look about it — all the equipment for soil testing was never used! This is the legacy of valley appeasement that the Jammu people revolted against.

The Hurriyat and other separatists, marginalised by the peace process, jumped into the fray, cried wolf and went back to the bad old days of shutdowns and marches to the United Nations office in Srinagar [Images]. A new innovation this time round was a call to march to and a threat to take their fruits to Pakistan. In a reversal of fortune the slogan of ‘Azadi’ (freedom) was replaced by the cry for merger with Pakistan.

Root causes of current unrest in Kashmir

The root cause of the present trouble in the valley is the fact that beginning in the 1980s the Sufi tradition of Kashmir has been on the retreat and in its place the virulent Waahabi/Deobandi Islam has become the dominant creed. Saudi money, the influx of mullahs from UP have dealt a death blow to the Kashmiriyat that took pride in tolerant Islam. The burqa, totally alien to Kashmir, made its appearance. Sufi shrines like the one of Baba Rishi at Tannemarg (on the way to Gulmarg) and Charar-e-Sharif were burnt down by the militants. Girls schools were destroyed and Ayesha Andrabi of Dukhtaran e Millat was emboldened to throw acid on girls daring to wear jeans. The State, such as it was, abdicated its responsibility and watched helplessly. This is the underlying cause of the present unrest — neither the use of force by security forces nor the so-called economic blockade.

The idea of Kashmiriyat today exists only in the minds of a lunatic fringe of candle carrying peaceniks and in the studios of politically correct television channels.

But it will be wrong on the part of the Indian State and even more for the Kashmiris to think that they can repeat the shenanigans of the early 1990s.

Changed geopolitics

The world, specially the West, has changed radically since 1989-90. The sole superpower was then in support of the Kashmiri cause, such as it was. BBC, the paragon of Western objectivity, repeatedly showed a clip of a toothless old Kashmiri woman shouting ‘We want Sharia’ in Kashmir. The US was bent upon teaching a lesson to erstwhile Soviet allies like India. Osama bin Laden was the blue-eyed boy of the Americans and Mujahids (Muslim religious fighters) were still basking in the afterglow of the victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan. The West had still to learn the disaster that awaited it by patronising the Waahabi creed.

The attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, changed all that.

One wonders if the Kashmiri separatists have noticed the absence of any comment from the West on the current happenings in Kashmir. Even the Pakistanis appeared surprised, though delighted, by the present happenings. The Pakistan Senate promptly passed a resolution condemning ‘excessive’ use of force by the Indians. It was comic since at that very time Pakistan was using helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft against its own tribals in the frontier area. The day the march to Muzaffarabad took place, over 50 Shia Muslims were killed in an attack on a hospital in Pakistan. Pakistanis were delighted that while Baluchistan and the tribal areas were in open revolt against the federal authorities, Kashmiris were clamouring to join them. Pakistanis were indeed grateful that at least someone in world thought that they were not a failed State.

But despite some noises, even Pakistanis seemed aghast at the movement in Kashmir. Thanks to the peace process and people to people contacts, most Pakistanis now accept the secular credentials of India. The average Pakistani is keen to establish trade, cultural and educational contacts with India.

Is there a way forward?

The valley Kashmiris’ outburst was and is like a reaction of a spoilt child who revolts irrationally when denied his demands. The reaction in Jammu was the first time ever that the valley people received a jolt. It is noteworthy that the troubles in J&K, of the separatist variety, are confined to Srinagar valley. It is the valley that is out of sync with the region and the world. There is no hope of any support to the irrational demands of a fundamentalist minority.

Neither the US nor UK wants another safe heaven for the Al Qaeda [Images] to come up in the subcontinent. Even China, which faces Muslim separatism, is wary. The Russians know what it is like to create another Chechenya.

Kashmiri separatists are isolated from reality. India must sit tight and not succumb to pressure tactics. After relative peace that Kashmir has got used to, let there be a dose of unrest for the Kashmiri to come to his collective senses.

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institution, Delhi [Images], and coordinator of the Pune-based Institute for Peace and Disarmament





Why Kashmir is up in flames ?

29 08 2008

Source: Rediff.com

Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)
August 29, 2008

As someone who has been active in resolving the Kashmir issue since 1990, recent events did not come as too much of a surprise. Many observers have commented that the situation is back to the days of 1989-1990. They are only partially right, on the surface it does appear so, but there are major differences. How the situation is similar and yet different is an important issue since the Indian response has to be based on sound analysis lest we repeat our past mistakes. Public memory is short but it is the job of analysts to remember the past and bring it to public notice.

Rollercoaster public opinion in the Kashmir valley

The first thing to understand about the people of the Kashmir valley is that their views are fickle and can see radical changes.

In 1947, in the wake of the tribal invasion led and masterminded by Pakistan, the valley welcomed the Indian Army [Images] with open arms. One of INPAD’s members, retired Lieutenant General Eric Vas remembers that the soldiers were showered with rose petals. It was thanks to Sheikh Abdullah’s secular leadership as well as the Sufi tradition that Kashmiris rejected the poisonous Muslim League propaganda. In 1965, when Pakistan repeated the 1947 feat and sent in infiltrators, there were very few takers for the idea of merger with Pakistan and the infiltration failed to achieve the goal of engendering an insurrection.

In 1975-1976, when Sheikh Abdullah was the chief minister, there was a widespread movement in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to march to Indian Kashmir — an exact opposite of the present Kashmiri slogan of ‘Chalo Muzaffarabad’.

On April 1, 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by military dictator Zia-ul Haq. His hanging sparked off large-scale violence in the Kashmir valley. Those owing allegiance to the Jamaat-i-Islami, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were the main target of attack. Their houses were destroyed by firebombs. The provocation: The Jamaat had distributed sweets to celebrate Bhutto’s hanging. It was the Indian Army that rescued Geelani and his people.

On April 4, 1979, Kashmiris held a massive congregation in Hazratbal to thank Allah that they were a part of India and paraded a donkey with a placard that read ‘I am Zia-ul Haq’.

The flip side

Post-1947 support for India vanished in a few years. In the late 1950s when Nehru sent Haribhau Pataskar to gauge public opinion in the valley (in order to hold the referendum he had promised), Pataskar told him that the valley was all for joining Pakistan.

Sheikh Abdullah, who was elevated to the status of ‘Pir’ (holy man) by Kashmiris, fared no better. He died in 1982. Within seven years, his birth and death anniversary became occasions to burn his effigy. A police guard was placed to protect his grave from vandalism. He now became the ‘great betrayer’ from his erstwhile position of ‘Lion of Kashmir’.

Zia-ul Haq, the Pakistani dictator, saw a total reversal of fortunes. His bemedalled photographs began to adorn the homes of Kashmiris.

The late Hamid Dalwai, a Muslim reformist from Maharashtra, recounted his encounters in Kashmir that aptly sums up the reasons for Kashmiri flip-flop. He asked several people as to why they were unhappy in India. The answer given to him by one shikara owner was that they had everything going for them in India, “but after all, must we not care for the flag of Islam?”

Understanding the present crisis

The year 2008 till July was extraordinarily peaceful by Kashmir’s standards. Pakistan was so embroiled in its internal crisis that it had no time to devote to Kashmir.

The present crisis in Kashmir erupted when an innocuous transfer of land to build temporary facilities for Amarnath pilgrims was made an issue by politicians like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. The usual Srinagar [Images] protests by unemployed youth and crowds on hire so rattled the government that it revoked the land transfer. At that stage, a little firmness and explanation that the land was being given to a statutory body established by the state legislature and that too for temporary structures should have doused the fires in the valley. But with an eye on upcoming elections, the People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference jumped into the fray and made allegations about attempts being made to change Kashmir’s demography!

When the land order was revoked, the government thought that like countless other surrenders earlier, it will get away with this one too. In any case the prime minister was busy sewing up the nuclear deal with the US and the supreme leader of the ruling combine was enjoying the Beijing [Images] Olympics [Images] in the company of her family! Nobody had much time to devote such trifling matter as a major crisis in Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

The reaction in Jammu came as a surprise to one and all (including the ineffectual Bharatiya Janata Party which later tried to jump on the bandwagon). Frankly, the protests in Jammu had very little to do with the Amarnath land transfer issue. It was a spontaneous outburst of pent-up anger at the last 60 years of mollycoddling of the valley and discrimination towards the region. Other hilly states like Himachal Pradesh [Images] or Uttarakhand [Images] are marching ahead of J&K.

It is the obduracy of the valley — that sees demons in any and every attempt at economic development as ‘Indian imperialism’ — that has got the people of Jammu agitated.

The measure by former governor retired Lieutenant General S K Sinha to extend the Amarnath Yatra [Images] saw a bonanza in the shape of over 500,000 pilgrims making the arduous trek. Even at an average spending of Rs 2,000 per pilgrim, it meant over Rs 100 crore was pumped into the state’s economy, directly benefiting the common man. That this was opposed surely takes the cake, as the world over religious tourism is being encouraged.

To be continued…

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institution, Delhi [Images], and coordinator of the Pune-based Institute for Peace and Disarmament