Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani in an interview that was published in Rising Kashmir blamed the people of Kashmir for “failing their leadership” and applauded the youth for once again taking up guns“for their rights”. The two statements generated a lot of heated debate between the critics on the one hand and the devoted supporters of the octogenarian on the other. Note that, the support group exhibits the same kind of hero worship as was expressed by the hundreds of thousands of supporters of Jenab Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah many years ago, whose fate after his demise is not unknown to many a Kashmiri. Many articles appeared in several dailies of Kashmir in relation to the interview – both by people differing with his views and by the supporting lobby against the criticism. In fact, I also wrote a quick response to the interview in which I attempted to highlight some of the drawbacks of the separatist movement and hurdles in the path of a resolution. Today, I would like to present my responses to some of the objections made by the supporters of Mr. Geelani against the criticism:
One of the predominant positions justifying his allegation of “people failing the leadership” (honestly, that sounds funny, if not very awkward) refers to the “fickle-mindedness” of the people of Kashmir in having participated in the elections and chosen “bijli, pani, sadak” over azadi (whatever that means) in response to calls for the election boycott. That is a brazen lie. It is not the fickle-mindedness of the common people, but the lack of insight on part of the so-called leadership, particularly Mr. Geelani, that was a major setback to having achieved some kind of solution to the conflict. And I have explained that at great length in a number of articles published from time to time.
For decades people of Kashmir diligently and devotedly followed the anti-people hadtal calls and the boycotts, no matter how unsuccessful they were in achieving any political objectives – this, even at the cost of their personal freedoms, hoping for a solution. Recall that it was only after the failure of the separatist leadership to forge a joint alliance in 2008, which led to the population feeling deceived and disowned. And it was then that the people overwhelmingly participated in the upcoming elections later that year. For those who cannot remember, it was a statement by Mr Geelani, in front of tens of thousands of people gathered at Eidgah after the Amarnath land row, in which he decided to first settle his personal agenda of claiming the “one-and-only leader of Kashmir” role at a decisive moment when India was literally at its knees. This blatant disregard for the political differences that have existed from the very outset of the “separatist” movement (or prior to that) is not naïve but utterly foolish on part of a person who claims a leadership role.
Recall that it was also, Mr. Geelani who stood in the way of Parvez Musharraf’s four-point formula in 2007. The formula (which proposed a gradual withdrawal of troops, self-governance, no changes to the region’s borders and a joint supervision mechanism) was not only a doable solution but also well received by a majority of stakeholders. Unfortunately, it was outright rejected by the one and only Mr. Geelani in favor of his rigid and unchangeable demand for self-determination citing UN Resolutions.
Now here is the problem: under the UN resolutions, there are only two options available for the people of Jammu & Kashmir – either India or Pakistan, and no third option. Given the multi-religious, multi-ethnic composition of the region, it is practically impossible to arrive at a bloodless solution should there be a plebiscite; the gory history of the Partition is a testimony to the fact that the two-nation theory was an ultimate failure.
Although I completely agree that the people of Jammu & Kashmir have a right to choose their destiny, I have some reservations. I feel that a proposal for plebiscite is inherently defective in our context. It is good only for a region with considerable homogeneity in terms of its population make-up. Keeping the demographic realities and the uneven political aspirations of the different groups within the region into consideration, a proposal for self-determination is bound to lead to new disgruntled populations, and hence, a continuous political destabilization in the region. In this sense, therefore, Geelani’s rigid position on self-determination should not be treated as a “commitment to the cause” but as an inability to see through the imminent fallout of the proposal. That Mr. Geelani is unwilling to budge an inch from his political position is, in reality, not his strength, but a stark weakness. His grudges with the moderate factions of the separatist leadership, therefore, are ill founded.
Furthermore, it is not only unfortunate but also outrageously irresponsible on part of the senior leader to say that it was “good” that the Kashmiri youth were again taking up arms. As a responsible human being and a mother, I completely disagree and strongly condemn such irresponsible statements that could lead to the loss of more innocent lives. It is not good on any counts to use violent means in pursuit of human rights and justice unless in certain extremely unique and exceptional circumstances such as a civil war, etc., where violence is thrust upon people and is the only way to defend innocent lives. Every single human life is precious and we have no reason to lose more lives to mindless violence.
Finally, my criticism of Mr. Geelani does not amount to opposing a political solution or undermining the efforts of those who are perhaps honestly working towards peace, but to only highlight the drawbacks of a particular position so that a consensus towards achievable political goals can be built and eventually worked upon. There is no solution to Kashmir conflict except on the negotiating table but that cannot be done unless we involve representatives from all the different factions of the stakeholders capable of forging a strong alliance. In this exercise, the role of the Indian and Pakistani establishments in addressing one of the very important aspects of the conflict – the people-to-people contact – is paramount to peace making efforts in the region. Making borders irrelevant is not only a positive step in this direction but the need of the hour.
© Sadaf Munshi
Dec. 17. 2015.
(Published in the daily Rising Kashmir: http://www.risingkashmir.com/article/let-me-be-clear/ )