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Why Everybody Hates Three Idiots

By Nawaz Gul Qanungo

26 October, 2010
Kashmir Times

It was no surprise that the three interlocutors from New Delhi stood rejected and disgraced before they even set their foot on the ground in the valley. Despite this, the trio might as well leave with some degree of success at the end. Such could be the cost Kashmiris pay for playing political double agents; for doing ‘Bharat ka jhanda ye ragda’ one day and running to polling booths like wild monkeys let loose the next. And just another reason why a genuine resolution process appears elusive even today

It was a cold November Sunday, a long decade ago. The then Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, had, to the horror of his larger pro-Hindutva right-wing, announced a unilateral ceasefire against militants in Kashmir as part of a process for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. It was a grand design of none other than the prime minister himself for bringing peace to the subcontinent.

Dismissing the euphoria generated by the Indian media around the initiative, an analysis went thus: “A real peace process in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be manufactured: it needs to emerge from real political activity, not closed-door intrigue and diplomatic manoeuvre. It will need mass mobilisation, and the creation of genuinely democratic fora in which issues, not deals, are discussed.” Words of wisdom indeed, these were written ten years ago by – hold your breath – Praveen Swami. Kashmir, it must be said, however, has since pronounced loud and clear that there are no “issues” to be discussed. The only issue at hand, whether India likes it or not, is the issue of Kashmir’s Independence.

Praveen Swami went on: “And it will need to foreground the diverse cultural, economic and democratic aspirations of the peoples of the state, not meaningless cliches. Such a process, sadly, appears nowhere near even its beginning.” (Emphasis added.) Such a process appears nowhere near its beginning ten long years later, even today. Even the ghosts of that Vajpayee initiative of the year 2000 are long dead. In reality, countless such “initiatives” – even when they had the blessings of, and were led by, Indian prime ministers themselves – have received a burial of betrayal in Kashmir without leaving even a feather ruffled.

Today, three Indian jokers have come to town with the blessings of one Palaniappan Chidambaram. This, after a summer of bloodshed has already been prolonged into a winter of despair leaving more than 110 unarmed Kashmiri anti-India protesters – boys, girls and young adults – dead at the hands of Indian troops and police. Is it a wonder that the trio stands rejected by all alike, disgraced before they even set their foot on the ground in the valley?

“The political input is missing,” said the PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti. She was bang on spot.

At Tangmarg, where Chidambaram led a part of the parliamentary delegation he was heading last month in September, he was, now famously, told by a youth: “You call Kashmir the crown of India, its integral part, and Kashmiris your own people. How can you not then feel pain by inflicting wounds on us?” A few more taunts later, Chidambaram mustered some courage and said: “The time for us to talk has not yet come.”

When the time to do the talking finally came, New Delhi “advised” the state government to immediately release all students and youth detained or arrested for stone pelting and to withdraw the charges against them. New Delhi “advised” the state government to immediately review the cases of all PSA detenues. New Delhi “requested” the state government to “immediately convene a meeting of the Unified Command and to review the deployment of security forces” in Kashmir. New Delhi “requested” the state government to “take steps to immediately reopen all schools”. If the scorn that this “request” and “advice” was met with in the valley wasn’t enough, the Rs 5-lakh ex-gratia relief to the families of those killed by the police and troops during the current protests met with a deeper sense of insult.

However, as should be evident now, the biggest source of disenchantment in the latest 8-point initiative from New Delhi remains the appointment of “a group of interlocutors under the chairmanship of an Eminent person to begin the process of a sustained dialogue with all sections of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, including political parties/groups, youth and student organizations, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.” The clumsiness of the language of this clause brings sense to what has since been repeated a zillion times: That the interlocutors are going to consult “all” the people – stone pelters, unemployed youth, traders, students, Facebookers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, actors, artists, writers, journalists, chemists, industrialists, shikara walas, taxi drivers, bus drivers, their conductors, auto walas, shopkeepers, barbers, grocery walas, fruit vendors, bakery walas, Bihari labourers, pick pockets, north Indian beggars and their dogs – they “all” have to be consulted. Do not be surprised if the Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik, their servants and the rest are each given a tourist visa to Timbaktoo and sent on a family tour package never to return. For, precisely out of these – “all” the people – may well “emerge” a fresh batch of factory-made leaders that New Delhi will manufacture, prop up, nourish and inflate. To spend yet another decade, fifty years or more playing politics over the blood of Kashmiris. Many a donkey from the countryside after all have before been picked up and jailed, simply to be released years after with the paraphernalia of a “leader” all in place.

The Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone said recently: “The choice of interlocutors is spiteful and insulting to say the very least. It is not that their eminence is ambiguous, it just that they are the wrong people for the right job.” Spiteful is not just the choice of interlocutors. Spiteful also is the idea behind the choice of the spectrum of people they are supposed to engage with. But a question still remains. Does such a process have any credibility outside Kashmir? Or even outside India? Yes and no. And then, how far can the Indian government hoodwink with such great success its own people over what it is doing in Kashmir? The fact is it has been doing it time and again, and with rather effortless ease. Will “all the people” meet the interlocutors? They will. But imagine if the whole civil society completely rejected the invitations of the trio – social boycott as someone said. The truth is that won’t happen. The political storm that the stone-pelters have created notwithstanding, a genuine pro-independence political mechanism at the grassroots is missing in Kashmir.

It’s not that just the Hurriyat is responsible. The people are very much a part of this failure, perhaps because such a mechanism doesn’t guarantee them an immediate promise of jobs. The politics of independence even stands denied by some because their hard earned rapport with the establishment will be at stake. How else will their daughter-in-law’s transfer to the high school situated just outside the window of her bathroom happen? “Even the people of Kashmir are not serious about a resolution,” said an observer in a recent public discussion held at the lawns of an upmarket coffee shop. Sadly, it is true.

The fact that the interlocutors will still be able to create some sort of success, even after being snubbed by the pro-independence political establishment across the board, must tell us just why a genuine “resolution process appears nowhere near even its beginning.” That could, well, also be the cost Kashmiris pay for playing political double agents; for doing ‘Bharat ka jhanda ye ragda’ one day and running to polling booths like wild monkeys let loose the next. Kashmir needs to realise that it cannot slaughter the Indian cow and milk it too.

The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. Follow him at www.drqanungo.blogspot.com