By Seema Mustafa
There is urgent need now to restore not just law and order but communal harmony. This has to be done on a war footing, for it is already too late and one cannot say with any sense of certainty whether peace ---even if it is arrived at ---will be long lasting or short lived.
Jammu and Kashmir is boiling. And the Nero's of New Delhi are fiddling. They are holding all party meetings where every one sits around a table, gives vent to his or her views, and returns home without a single solution in sight. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil does not have even a half baked proposal to offer, and after the last round met the media to suggest that the Kashmiris could take their goods to Pakistan occupied Kashmir if Pakistan agrees.
There was no reaction from any of the worthies attending the all party meetings to this complete abdication of authority. It was as if the Kashmiri protestors were just out for a picnic, and the Indian Home Minister had decided that they could extend their trek to Muzaffarabad if they so desired. Of course, that many of them were being killed in the firing at about the same time was another story altogether, and one not referred to by Shivraj Patil.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been let down by the leadership of the state and the center. Earlier and again today. Not a single leader has risen above the separatist and communal politics to strike a real note of peace and harmony. All have sat back and fed into their little constituencies, even as they accuse the 'other' of fanning the flames. The issue is no longer of land, it is of alienation, of anger and resentment. In the process the fanatics and the fundamentalists have taken hold of politics in the state, with the mainstream politicians totally sidelined. The center, of course, has little to offer except the spiritual guru who has been sent as an emissary in what is perhaps a sad first in New Delhi-Srinagar relations.
Every one is now blaming the other, whereas actually all are at complete fault. Former Governor Lt General S.K.Sinha who is briefing the BJP these days, was wrong in moving a file without making a correct assessment of the consequences. And for doing so in a clandestine manner, on his last day in office. The Kashmir reaction was fuelled by created perceptions, with the people responding to rumours that their land had been permanently given away. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was wrong in allowing this to happen, and then for not stepping in with the vigour and determination needed to prevent the rumour from taking over the fact. New Governor N.N.Vohra was wrong in revoking the decision, again without a word of explanation.
The BJP was wrong in fanning the communal flames in Jammu and through the Amanarth Shrine Samiti actually organizing an economic blockade of the Valley. This was perhaps the worst move of all, and evoked memories of the ghastly and inhuman blockade of Gaza by Israel. The state government disappeared from the scene. The Hurriyat fanned the secessionist flames, with arch rivals Mriwaiz Omar Farooq and Syed Geelani making common cause in the Valley. Instead of acting with responsibility the Mirwaiz urged the people to march to Muzaffarabad, and quite forgot to inform them that the blockade was over by the time they actually faced the bullets.
The PDP joined the separatists and when asked about this its leader Mehbooba Mufti had little to offer by way of explanation. Her father and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was neither seen nor heard during the crisis. Former chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was abroad and returned hitting out at all and sundry. His son Omar, has barely been able to keep his inexperienced head above the boiling waters. The Congress is in the doghouse, the BJP is making hay, as the separatists and the communalists who had been totally marginalized, find themselves blessed with an astounding revival.
But as always, it is the government that emerges as the worst offender. For while the communalists and the secessionists have a declared agenda that works against the country, it is the government that is expected by the people to provide and protect. The state government has opted out of the crisis. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made mention of Jammu and Kashmir from the ramparts of the Red Fort, and while everyone shares the sentiment that peace must be restored the question reverberating around the nation is: How? This is what the government is required to answer, but the silence from Delhi's corridors of power is deafening, to say the least. The government appears to have no solution in sight, and clearly unless there is immediate intervention to cement ties the state is going to see even worse days in the immediate future.
What could have been done? The former Governor and the chief Minister should not have allowed to act arbitrarily but should have ensured that the decision to allocate the land was done with full consultations and in a completely transparent manner. Once taken, the decision should not have been revoked without discussions and consultations. The economic blockade of Srinagar should not have been allowed by the state and central governments for even a minute, and the army should have been moved in immediately to end this. The crisis could have been converted into an opportunity even at this stage, with the army being cast in the role of peace maker and provider of medicines and essential supplies, instead of the killing machine. But the government, very deliberately, let go of this opportunity and sat back leaving it to the people of both parts of the state to battle it out.
The all party meeting in Delhi should have been held much earlier, almost immediately, in Jammu and Kashmir. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister should have flown down and convened discussions with the representatives of all sides. If the army had busted the blockade, and the government had started the dialogue, those who continued to fan the fires would have again been isolated. At least to some extent. Instead, in the face of complete inaction, they have all become the heroes and are reveling in the spotlights.
There is urgent need now to restore not just law and order but communal harmony. This has to be done on a war footing, for it is already too late and one cannot say with any sense of certainty whether peace ---even if it is arrived at ---will be long lasting or short lived. Some one has to speak the voice of reason and cold logic, and it is time that the center takes control. Otherwise the voices advocating the religious trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir will be strengthened both in and outside the country. The dangers inherent in this demand are visible to all secular and responsible sections of society.