Why Celebrate August 14?
By Nawaz Gul Qanungo
14 August, 2010
The current turmoil in the valley has yet again exposed the farce of the “mainstream” political establishment, and brought the Hurriyat (G) to the forefront. But Geelani's call for the “celebration” of Pakistan 's Independence Day shows the gulf between the Hurriyat's politics and the larger scheme of political goals of today's Kashmir – a gulf that needs to be bridged before it's too late
The Kashmir Times | Srinagar | August 14, 2010
“If India agrees then we will get Pakistan to withdraw its security forces from Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan.” Syed Ali Shah Geelani said this while talking to The Times of India ( August 5, 2010 ) soon after he was released by the state government in a bid to cool the tempers on Kashmiri streets. The Hurriyat leader was explaining his stand on just what a lasting peace in Kashmir – indeed the subcontinent – would take: India should withdraw its security forces and agree to a plebiscite.
He continued: “The referendum should be for every citizen of united Jammu and Kashmir .” (Emphasis added.) “This is the basic demand of the people and has been for the last 62 years. We will accept whatever the majority decides.” Geelani seems to be strangely removed from the political reality of Kashmir today.
As the report suggests, Geelani wants that the referendum be in line with the 1948 United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the people of J&K to choose between India and Pakistan , as he has maintained for a very long time now. “He maintained,” the report adds, “there was no room for a third option of independence unless a tripartite dialogue between India , Pakistan and the ‘genuine leadership of the people of J & K agrees to put it on the table for popular vote.'”
The politics of Geelani it seems is stuck in Partition of 1947 and the ensuing tussle between India and Pakistan over who gets the prize of the valley of Kashmir clothed with the erstwhile “state of J&K” all intact, a sub-continental ambition that has left no one but the ordinary Kashmiri in a life of abject misery since more than sixty years now. The politics of today in Kashmir, on the other hand, is a discourse where the “two and a half districts” of Jammu – and even Ladakh – are better left aside to pave way to a genuine transition of power in Kashmir to its people, which they truly and rightfully deserve, in an independent state of Kashmir – just Kashmir . This discourse even presupposes that the two divided parts of Kashmir be reunited and the so called line of control be wiped off. In other words, it is a politics that challenges the very existence of the erstwhile state of J&K.
A clear indication of this should be found in Kashmir : Paths to peace, a Clatham House survey conducted in 2009 across the Line of Control. If the details of the survey proved anything, it was this: Imagining the so called state of J&K as some sort of an inviolable, united territory is one of the biggest obstructions towards a Kashmir resolution. What is refreshingly certain is the people of the valley are aware of this reality. 74-95 per cent of people Indian-held Kashmir demand independence – not Pakistan . In the valley, the “only region with anyone intending to vote to join Pakistan, the highest proportions, 6 per cent and 7 per cent, were in Srinagar and Budgam districts,” the survey finds. Needless to say, there are no takers for India either on this side of Kashmir or that side across the LoC. For the LoC itself, in its present form, there are no takers among those to whom it matters . Just as while Jammu is almost willing for India going to war against Pakistan , both sides of Kashmir demand complete demilitarisation. The space here doesn't allow a complete analysis of the survey, which excludes parts such as Gilgit and Baltistan.
Geelani's remarks as quoted above not just defy the current political atmosphere, but even the natural geography of the valley and the region surrounding it. Above all, in a sense, it defies Kashmir 's sense of an independent History.
Not more than two decades ago, Pakistan was a country that fables were made of. But Kashmir was certainly not to miss the effects of the extraordinary violence that marked the decade after Pakistan-supported militancy began in 1989. The violence that has left the valley torn with tens of thousands dead, thousands missing, thousands orphaned, thousands half widowed and many more widowed, towns and villages mass raped has not just had an impact on the Kashmiri psyche but its politics as well. This loss and bloodshed came fundamentally in the form of the gruesome military response the Indian establishment came up with as an answer to a Kashmiri armed rebellion. But in this gory tale lies muffled the fact that Pakistan was a primary contributor to this violence since the idea was its state policy. But, muffled it may be, not lost or ignored. The Kashmiri culture of support to the state of Pakistan perhaps lies cremated along with our countless brothers and sisters buried at Eidgah.
Geelani noted in his interview: “[ Pakistan or India , even China and Russia ] know that J & K will become a colony of the United States … Until all four countries, and Afghanistan , give guarantees to safeguard our boundaries, until we can arrange for our defence, I don't think independence is a realistic option.” It is this option that Kashmir today believes is the only one that can bring its people true peace – a peace that doesn't depend on the throws of either India or Pakistan . Kashmir today empathises with the tragedy of Pakistan and understands too how Kashmir is linked to that tragedy. But it doesn't want to be a part of either the tragedy or the country, Pakistan cricket notwithstanding. Not surprisingly, when the Hurriyat (G) came out with its protest programme last weekend and called for observing “black day” on India's independence day, and celebrations on the day of Pakistan's independence, the question raised in the Kashmiri cyberspace, but one that was left ignored, was why.
HOWEVER, IT REMAINS undeniable that the 80-year-old leader remains the most formidable proponent of Kashmir's long struggle against Indian's military occupation and its people's defiance against what has, since long now, been nothing but state-sponsored terrorism. Not for nothing was Geelani deliberately allowed by the state to come out in the open, after two long months of a bloody political repression on the streets, in a desperate attempt to send across the message that the politics of the street was finally being allowed to be expressed. No one else was believed to hold sway over the masses except the ailing leader. It is a different matter, of course, that it was too late. It is too late.
It was interesting to note how a phrase has caught the frenzy of anybody and everybody worth his salt of expertise in India during the ongoing turmoil: “Reaching out to the people – the angry young boys – of Kashmir .” Starting from the so called liberal Indian media, through the ramparts of the Indian intelligentsia, its bureaucracy and the political establishment alike, up to sections of the Indian civil society hell bent up on blaming the current agitation on “poor governance and lack of administration”, everyone addressed the state's political machinery and expressed the same dilemma: “Why don't you go and reach out to them, engage with the angry boys on the streets, convince them to shun the path of violence?”
A lost, depressed Muzaffar Hussain Beg gave in and finally replied: “I would have loved to go there to reach out to the protesters but these are young boys and they are very angry. They don't listen to anybody. ” He was right. The people on the streets of Kashmir have defied the so called leadership right across the board. They don't listen to anybody. But they listen to Syed Ali Shah Geelani. And they listen to him for he represents their collective defiance – defiance that they believe should not just be against India but equally against Pakistan , not just against August 15, 1947 but equally against August 14. It is time Geelani, in turn, listens to them.
Dr Qanungo is an independent journalist based in Srinagar . The article first appeared in the opinion pages of The Kashmir Times. Feedback: www.drqanungo.blogspot.com