Eight Point No One
By Nawaz Gul Qanungo
19 October, 2010
Never in the recent political history of Kashmir perhaps was a grave dug out so fast and filled up so quickly by anyone as Omar Abdullah has done for himself. Under eternal abhorrence of Kashmir’s men, women and children alike, he lies buried today. But, truth be told, New Delhi’s man he is after all; to them he isn’t quite a No One. In the process, however, New Delhi stands predetermined in dismissing the utility of, and concern for, people’s voice in Kashmir for a long, long time to come
“To the extent that the government’s approach is anti-separatist and pro-citizen, we will welcome it,” the Bhartiya Janta Party declared a day after the Indian home minister came out with his eight-point “proposal” to deal with the deepening political crisis in Kashmir. “Any dilution of this position will not find support from the BJP.” It is, basically, this politics of lies and deceit that is at heart of the farce of New Delhi’s fast dwindling Kashmir “peace process”. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yaseen Malik has rightly called it a joke. Beginning with the so called all-party parliamentary delegation, not a single reason has survived long enough for hope to be named genuine.
Nearly a month ago, an exasperated Naeem Akhtar of the Peoples Democratic Party told the media in the morning of September 20: “The delegation is being held hostage to the [state] government viewpoint.” It was early hours in Srinagar for New Delhi’s all-party parliamentary delegation that had come to take stock of the crisis situation in the valley. “They have been holding fake interactions... it’s like staging a fake encounter.”
Akhtar’s fear – or rather a politically motivated grouse – wasn’t too unreal for the time. For the worst part, his own party president had decided to stay away for no convincing reason. Tehreek e Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani had refused to meet the delegation, for “no talks within the Indian constitution were going to yield any results”. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yaseen Malik both chose to stay away, even as they sent a memorandum to the delegation. Commoners who did want to meet were not allowed to step out of their houses. Faxes were sought from people interested to meet but fax walas were not allowed to open their shops. A ruthless curfew took care of it all.
Still, little did Akhtar know what encounter was waiting to be captured by the media and beamed across to millions of TV screens. Extraordinary political reality television was waiting to happen. Five out of the 39 members of the delegation went to meet Geelani. The latter would tell them they were welcome, but only in presence of the media. The visitors were, well, trapped and there was no going back. “Our youth have decided they’ll die but will not surrender in front of the blind imperial might of India,” Geelani said. An embarrassed Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) replied: “Let us first restore normalcy. We can talk about all other issues later.” Millions were watching it happen, live.
Less than fifteen kilometres away, CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta told the Mirwaiz: “We’re not here to defend any indignity, barbarism or any wrong. We represent different political voices.” The Mirwaiz replied: “You cannot force the will of India on Kashmiris. You’re witnessing the reaction to the force.” Yaseen Malik met the team visiting him at his office, where Ram Vilas Paswan spoke as if to a sage: “We’ve come to seek your counsel. What is the way out? What is the way to stop the bloodshed?” Mercifully, sagacious indeed was the response: “Do not give the Kashmiris a sense of defeat. Give them a sense of hope. Or you will push them to revolution.”
Dramatic images of the meetings filled the screens of every major television news channel. It came so close to define in substance New Delhi’s parliamentary delegation, that next day when Sushma Swaraj – the BJP president and head of Oppostion in the Indian Parliament – dashed hopes wherever they were raised, the Opposition PDP back home would have heaved a sigh in relief. The cynicism, even if with misplaced reasons, was real after all.
Swaraj told the media that even though some delegates had gone to meet the Hurriyat, it was their personal decision and not that of the delegation. “Some delegates went to meet the Hurriyat but the BJP did not go. That was their personal decision, not a decision of the delegation. If some people want to go we cannot stop them but we decided not to go. It was not a mandate. It was not discussed in the delegation.”
That the pitch had indeed been queered was clear from the words of Sitaram Yechury, who still continued to maintain that the visit was official and represented the entire delegation: “It was officially on behalf of delegation that we went to meet them.” And that it all ended up in Indian home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram’s eight-point “formula” which didn’t, and doesn’t, have the mileage to even go a baby step ahead – to borrow words from Chidambaram’s own Kashmir manual – should hardly be a surprise.
Appalling, this comes after Chidambaram standing on the floor of the Indian parliament himself acknowledged the “unique circumstances” of the accession of Kashmir to India and a “unique problem” that it was, requiring a “unique solution”. Indeed, this “acknowledgment” is a lie, familiar deceit. But to this sham of politics, the BJP’s fanaticism vis-a-vis Kashmir is not an impediment; they inform, support and consolidate each other.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s five-point proposal as a pre-condition for formal talks with New Delhi was even by his own standards a departure of sorts. All that was needed was sincerity and sense of purpose on New Delhi’s part. That Delhi hasn’t given a damn is just the same old same-old, but what is horrifyingly unbelievable is that back home, Omar Abdullah, the chief minister, has shown not an iota of earnestness to come to forge a deal for talks between New Delhi and the Hurriyat and come to the rescue of the common people, something long overdue.
Never in the recent political history of Kashmir perhaps was a grave dug out so fast and filled up so quickly by anyone as Omar Abdullah has done for himself. Under eternal abhorrence of Kashmir’s men, women and children alike, he lies buried today. But, truth be told, New Delhi’s man he is after all; to them he isn’t quite a No One. This is not to suggest that his removal would help; nor does he deserve to be raised from the grave. It must be said, however, that in the process, New Delhi clearly stands predetermined in dismissing the utility of, and concern for, people’s voice in Kashmir for a long, long time to come.
The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. Follow him at www.drqanungo.blogspot.com