Why I Said Good Bye To JKLF?
By Dr Shabir Choudhry
Time and again people ask me why I left JKLF, or more precisely, why we dissolved the JKLF. They know I have worked hard for the party and jeopardised my future ambitions and academic career because of the JKLF and its ideology. After working so hard and making so many sacrifices why on earth I left the JKLF and became part a of new and smaller party Kashmir National Party.
Friends and colleagues have every right to ask these questions. People in public life must be open to criticism and accountability, as no one is above law or criticism. One reason why the JKLF has lost its appeal and is in many small groups is that there is no system of accountability in the party. Those who become Chair, even ad-hoc one, assumes that he is infallible and must remain in that position without any criticism or accountability.
Those who advocated accountability and transparency and wanted to strengthen institutions within the party that the party can flourish were projected as 'agents' and enemies of the party. These leaders became 'Chair' with idea of holding this title for life. When it becomes difficult to cling on as a result of opposition within the party, then either expel those 'rebels' or make structural changes and create another post which can give same unrivalled and unquestioned powers.
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front was established in 1977 in England. I was among those who helped to set up this 'unfortunate' organisation and played vibrant and leading role to advance its 'cause'. Despite differences and controversies and some what 'rebellious' attitude I remained among the senior and prominent leaders of the JKLF.
In my opinion there was nothing wrong in JKLF and its ideology, and until 1988 everyone worked sincerely to advance cause of the party which was based on democracy, liberalism and secularism with high level of importance attached to individual dignity and equality to all citizens of the State. Ideological and tactical change came with expulsion of then JKLF Chairman from England.
Frustrated, heart broken and disillusioned Chairman became easy prey of Pakistani secret agencies, hence a change of JKLF ideology. He secretly agreed to play their game of launching a 'proxy war' in the Valley which was presented as a war of liberation to us and the people of Kashmir. Result of this ideological somersault was unleashing of communalism, extremism, sectarianism, regionalism and violence, which later on Pakistani President said was 'terrorism', and that he would not allow it to continue from territory under his control.
It is a long and complicated story and one needs more than one volume to encompass all aspects of this 'struggle', 'terrorism' or a 'proxy war'. My aim is just to enlighten people that the name of JKLF was maligned with kidnapping, innocent killings, extortions, promoting communalism, regionalism, nepotism, tribalism and advancing interest of our neighbours at the expense of interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Many including me were seriously concerned about this, and we fought our corner within the organisation to put things right, but those who were giving dictations to the top JKLF leadership and those who directly benefited from this were too strong. Their personal interest demanded that this trend continues that they can reap benefits with both hands.
When the JKLF Chairman caused another split in 1995, once again 'in the larger interest of the JKLF', a new Chairman was announced from Srinagar on ad hoc basis (after thirteen years he still continues to hold that position, and no elections of any kind have taken place). Many hoped that the young man might put things right, but he proved to be no better than the old man - the other Chair, and both wanted to continue the same policies and were in competition to win favours of secret agencies. Net result of this was more splits within the JKLF ranks. Senior members either became inactive or they formed their own groups.
Furthermore the name of JKLF was further blackened with open flirting with secret agencies of both countries. If one leader of JKLF managed to get his photo taken with General Musharaf the other will try to outmanoeuvre him by getting his photo taken with Musharaf and the Indian Prime Minister. If one manages a ride in a land cruiser the other will try to get a ride in a helicopter provided by our occupiers.
General Musharaf presented a number of proposals for resolution of Kashmir dispute, and they all were revolved around division of the State on communal lines. Kashmiris who loved their mother land strongly criticised this, but one JKLF leader said Musharaf has shown his 'love and affection towards Kashmiri people' by presenting these proposals. Furthermore this leader or businessman highly appreciated Musharaf's 'courage and wisdom to offer new and creative thoughts'.
How can one remain in the fold of JKLF in situation like this, especially when one has loyalty to ideology of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, and not to these leaders who are exploiting sentiments of the people? For ordinary citizens it was the name of JKLF which was sacrosanct, and now when its name is associated with corruption, communalism and hatred it is name of JKLF which is blackened.
The JKLF group with which I associated myself had highest number of founding members, and we all believed that the JKLF ideology has been hijacked, and its top leaders have betrayed the JKLF ideology. The present day JKLF ideology is similar to that of Muslim Conference with difference that the Muslim Conference leaders have guts to openly say that they are pro Pakistan and that they are pro Muslim and don't believe in nationalist politics.
We strongly believed that the JKLF had lost its direction, and that its top leaders had their own agenda which had nothing to do with unification and independence of the State. Despite that we continued with our efforts to put the party back on ideological track, but once we realised that these top leaders are incorrigible and their followers either feel their leaders are infallible, or have no sense of right and wrong, we decided to say good bye to the JKLF.
We founders of the JKLF strongly believed in right of expression, accountability and equality for all. We advocated struggle and politics based on principles and democratic ideals and this could not continue in the kind of political environment created by tyrants within the JKLF. Curbs on right of expression, regionalism, tribalism and political suffocation encouraged and promoted within the party by the top leaders meant that only opportunists, flatterers, collaborators and yes men could survive in that kind of organisation.
I am not
suggesting that there are no sincere members left in the JKLF. Still
there are some honest, hard working and dedicated people in various
groups of the JKLF. Either these people don't know game plan of their
leaders or they don't realise that the struggle has been transformed
into a business, and those with better business skills are having
upper hand in this competition; or they still hope that with some
miracle will change things for the better.
It was not easy for me to say good bye to the party I worked for so earnestly. Founding members of the JKLF decided to dissolve the party more than a year ago, as it no longer advanced the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, but I was dragging my feet and kept on delaying its implementation; but for how long- I also had to accept the ground reality and with heavy heart closed the chapter of the JKLF.
Our new party- Kashmir National Party is making a new start. We have a strategy in place and dedicated team which wants to advance politics of toleration, accountability and promote and protect rights and privileges of all citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. What progress we will make in a political culture which supports corruption, hypocrisy, communalism, regionalism and interests of our neighbours remains to be seen.
Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To view other articles see my blog: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com