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Saturday, October 8, 2016


Three months after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in Kokernag on July 8, 2016

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

October 8, 2016


Weeks after the September 7 devastating flood, Assembly elections were announced for Jammu and Kashmir in October 2014. Then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was the only politician who begged for postponement of the elections for some time which, he contended, would help the government to provide relief to the flood hit population. On Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's sustained emphasis, ECI announced the elections. We remember vividly there was no heroism among militants, nobody knew Burhan Wani or any other iconic militant, though Abu Qasim of LeT was known for being the most wanted militant. Just a couple of minor attempts of disruption of the Army operations were reported from a couple of places. Remember, two young boys were killed by Army’s fire as they didn't halt their motorcycle at Chhatergam.

Suddenly, there was unprecedented election euphoria and enthusiasm. From one end of Kashmir to another, we witnessed massive poll rallies and well-attended campaigns with the colourful banners, buntings, posters, flags and sizable hoardings of different political parties welcoming the visitors and seeking vote from the electorate. We saw dozens of Rahul-Sonia hoardings and perhaps more of Narendra Modi’s "44-Plus" hoardings, particularly across breadth and length of South Kashmir. Not a single of these hoardings or banners was pulled down or burnt down or stoned by any Burhan fans in the three months of October, November and December 2014. Not a single of these symbols of the great Indian democracy was secure because of Police, paramilitary or Army protection.

In November and December 2014, Kashmir witnessed the history's best held elections ever conducted by Election Commission of India. There were no allegations of coercion against Police or security forces as we previously saw from 1996 to 2002 and no allegations of rigging and unfair means as we witnessed in almost all pre-1990 elections with glaring exception of those held in 1977. Enthusiasm, unprecedented post-1987, marked the high voter turnout and everybody accepted the results---victories and defeats. Separatists, militants and Pakistan seemed to have been completely marginalised by the voters in Kashmir. Significantly, a large number of Kashmiri youths did for the first time participate in the Assembly elections. Even in January and February 2015, there was no perceptible change in the mood.

Think for a while what changed everything after Mufti Sahab became Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP-PC coalition government. Every one of us can have a different assessment and analysis and we should agree to disagree. That's the essence of a free society and we need to respect it. I may be a bad reader and processor of the political data but I strongly believed that "separatist language of the mainstream politicians" would soon turn everything topsy turvy. [Let it be clear that loss or achievement of the separatist or the mainstream leadership was not my headache. I was concerned strictly about the creation of a theatre of hypocrisy by politicians, like they did in 2008, in which the common ordinary hapless civilians face the brunt of destruction and the rulers of both the shades enjoy unscrupulously]. I felt such language and symbolism would only accord sanctity and legitimacy to the ideology of the separatists and militants who would feel emboldened and revive whatever they had lost post-2010. Remember, they stood marginalised and decimated to the extent that they could not stage any Ragda even during the most furtile environment of Afzal Guru's execution, killing of 6 protesters in Gool and Kishtwar communal riots in 2013. Nobody died out of any resultant convulsions.

Most of us were not satisfied with Omar Abdullah's way of governance  (I did series after series on corruption and other malpractices of his Ministers). However, there was no stone pelting, no major demonstrations and protests and no firing on civilians in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Today’s Kashmir is a total contrast. It's only Pakistani flags and slogans from one end of Kashmir to another. Even the marginal areas like Gurez, Uri, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch are involved in the current turbulence which seeks total separation from India and does not recognise any of our mainstream political parties as representing the masses. Let us ponder on what precisely has changed everything. 90 Kashmiris, mostly in age group of 12-23 years, have been killed in Police and forces action in the last 90 days. Thousands have been injured, rendered maimed and turned blind. Public properties have perished. Curfew and shutdown have denied the penurious an opportunity to earn for the morning bread and the evening meals. Transporters, traders, industrialists, hoteliers have been crushed under the burden of bank loans and cumulative interests. They have given their sacrifices though, nobody has made it clear to them how a prolonged strike would force India or the world at large to solve the Kashmir problem. May be the architects and sponsors of the infinite shutdown have a blue print in their mind, but none of us ordinary humans has been able to comprehend it till date.  

Owing to the unrelenting turmoil, our economy has suffered cumulative losses of Rs 10,000 crore to  Rs 15,000 in last 90 days of continued shutdown (coupled with weeks of curfew). We have already lost a bustling trade and tourist season and a full academic year of our students has been completely ruined. We have observed that even a large section of our civil and Police officers is either sympathetic to or key drivers of the turbulence. With one hand they arrest the youths and detain them under PSA but with another, many of them subscribe to the mayhem and the secessionist mindset. Because of this dimension, many of them just pose to be working against the "miscreants" while continuing to avoid substantive action against them. This is called a system failure in governance.

I had perceived this horrible scenario way back in April 2015. In an article that was published in all editions of The Times of India (editorial page) on April 21, 2015, I wrote that with their pseudo-separatist language, symbolism, gesticulation and actions like the much trumpeted release of Massarat Alam, our PDP rulers could again create a situation which Omar Abdullah created in summer of 2010 when one day he sent his confidante and emissary DS Rana to beseech the detained SAS Geelani at a Cheshma Shahi hut. I cautioned that the ruling people, who were ostensibly pleading for "a little of political space" for the separatists, would create for themselves an extremely hostile situation that one day entire political space would be grabbed back by our separatists and militants and our mainstream politicians would be soon craving and begging for an inch of the political space before Mr Syed Ali Shah Geelani which he would be denying to them, perhaps arrogantly. We saw it come true in just one year. When Mr Naeem Akhtar literally begged before Mr Geelani and requested him to lend an inch of the political space to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti  by treating her as his own daughter. In turn, entire PDP and Chief Minister was publicly shamed by the separatist leader. Such insult to Chief Minister’s chair and grace stands unparalleled in the political history of Jammu and Kashmir.

Now see the irony. Like any other separatist, Geelani Sahab had been forgotten after the Assembly elections of 2014. In 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, he had silently returned to his Srinagar residence from New Delhi after spending every winter there and entertaining even the political minnows like NC's Rattanpuri. It was Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed who released the much forgotten Massarat Akam in first week of taking over as head of the government. He permitted Massarat to hold a strong pro-Pakistan show in reception of Geelani Sahab. It was first time that Hafiz Sayeed's high voltage slogans were shouted high pitch by a huge crowd and a barrage of Pakistani flags was waved enthusiastically by Massarat and his followers in front of the office of Director General of Police. I strongly believe it was the turning point and today's unceasing turbulence owes its existence to that show. BJP leaders tried to play it down saying that such things had happened "also in the past". When BJP came under pressure of the Indian national media, particularly Arnab Goswami's News Hour daily on Times Now, Mufti Sahab was forced to rearrest Massarat. But enough of damage had been done. All the youths who had started pursuing their studies, with exception of a handful like the unknown Burhan Wani, and aspired to become IAS and IPS officers like Dr Shah Faesal and Imtiyaz Ismail Parray, began looking the other way. Charged up with the "josh" of Geelani reception, followed by a similar show in Tral on funeral of Burhan's brother Khalid on April 14, 2015, some of our young boys picked up guns, some snatched weapons from Policemen and some started abusing, attacking  and challenging India on Facebook etc.

Our regular media did rest of the job. The 22-year-old boy Burhan Wani was decorated as an icon of Kashmir’s Generation Next. His combat gear photos, video messages seeking azadi and Islamic caliphate in Kashmir and the stories of his playing cricket and a mega tournament being held in Tral in honour of the young militant commander made him a hero in Mufti-Modi rule. For Mufti and PDP itself, being permissive to this whole series turned out to be a Himalayan mistake. Remember just a motley gathering of 4,000 people attended Mufti's funeral, neighbours didn't allow his burial in his ancestral graveyard and not a shop was shut in his honour in Bijbehara or elsewhere. Around 8000 attended his neighbour militant's funeral and 5000-plus another militant's when 3 militants of Bijbehara died in an encounter in Siligam Mattan. Burhan Wani’s funeral broke all records of popularity after Sheikh Abdullah's in 1982. Even the journalists closest to the PDP claim that 200,000 people attended Burhan Wani’s funeral on July 9, 2016. I believe it was 50,000 plus. Rest is the history. Government has been completely crippled in the last 90 days. Pakistan has jumped in to fish in the troubled waters and raised the Kashmir issue aggressively in the UN. Situation of war has been created in the Sub Continent. God forbid, it can even lead to a nuclear confrontation and destroy both India and Pakistan including every part of Jammu and Kashmir.

I have reached the conclusion that nothing other than WAR can change the status of JAMMU AND KASHMIR. However a big demonstration, fidayeen strike or long shutdown, nobody will listen to the Muslim Kashmiris as long as Pakistan, with no other country on their support, is their advocate. In pre-9/11 era, situation would have been perhaps different.

Back home, we the Kashmiris are the worst sufferers and victims of the situation of our own making. I think rather than holding Pakistan and India responsible, we must gracefully accept total responsibility of the situation of chaos, confusion and anarchy---that is completely going unreported in media---we have pushed the valley in. Youths who have no concept or knowledge of slavery and freedom have overnight become street sahabs and leaders and the senior separatist leaders themselves have got stuck in a quagmire where it would be hard for them to grant even a day's relaxation in the shutdown. For now, threre is no exit route. Chief Minister and her Ministers are holding their luxury and status. BJP is least disturbed by the damage snowballing into a catastrophe for Kashmir and its Muslim population. Getting tough and tougher will in fact help them win elections in UP. All the unspent funds will be soon diverted and spent in Jammu. Over 90% of our new KAS/KPS officers will come from Jammu. Few of them will be Muslims in the country's only Muslim majority state. We all need to dispassionately think over it and find how this kind of a situation has developed and left all of us helpless.

Next time, if one day we will be out of this mess, when you will hear a mainstream politician eulogise and appease the separatists or disputing accession to India, calling for plebiscite, adopting green as the colour of his flag and Syed Salah-ud-din's pen and inkpot as his election symbol, speaking about "zulum" and becoming more Pakistani than Jennah, rest assured he is doing emotional blackmailing of the gullible, naive Kashmiri Muslims only to get vote and power. Kashmir and the Kashmiris will remain in eternal trouble and anguish as long as the separatist politicians, apparently seeking azaadi and plebiscite, shall hold VVIP status and India’s Z-plus security and BP cars and escorts and as long as the so-called mainstream politicians, contesting elections and taking oath in the name of Allah to protect India’s sovereignty and integrated in Jammu and Kashmir, do continue to provoke the gullible Kashmiris for separation, azadi and accession to Pakistan. This all is hypocrisy and not politics. 99% of our population is bearing the brunt of its consequences and our politicians are living as viceroys with no fear of accountability. Intelligentsia has a special responsibility and accountability in such crises and it cannot play mute as the posterity will ask tough questions one day.

[This is a passionate personal observation and not intended to be a piece of journalism]

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