Monday, September 14, 2009

Kashmir Issue and Dialogues

At a time when it was being expected that the dialogue on the Kashmir issue might resume and that separatist leaders may also be included in that India-Pakistan dialogue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described separatists "irrelevant." He has, thereby, given rise to a new debate.

Addressing the nation on India's 62nd Independence Day, his assertion that separatists have lost relevance made separatists greatly annoyed. Even pro-India leaders like former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed are surprised to a great extent and accused the Prime Minister of ignoring the ground realities.

Changed Attitude
They are expressing apprehension that the improving situation in the state may deteriorate yet again. Ever since Manmohan Singh resumed the Prime Minister's Office for the second term, he has changed his attitude and has been striving to prove himself to be a strong taskmaster. From his tone and tenor, it appeared that he feels that the separatist movement has been quelled for good, and his attitude was full of confidence.

Time for Permanent Peace
The Prime Minister claimed that there was no place for separatist ideology and separatists. It came against the expectation that he would invite separatists, during that address, for talks and would give the impression that with the situation improving in the valley to some extent, the Indian Government would utilize the time and strike for permanent peace.

Also, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had conveyed precisely this impression that he had explained the importance of holding dialogue with separatists to New Delhi and measures would be initiated soon for the dialogue.

However, the Prime Minister, instead of adopting the path of wisdom, described separatists "irrelevant." At that very time, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was addressing a gathering at the Bakshi Stadium. At that very time, Kashmir observed a total strike at the behest of these very separatists. The Prime Minister claimed that he was closely watching the situation in Kashmir, and that elections to the state assembly and to Parliament had successfully been held in the state, in which there was an overwhelming turnout of voters.

He said that all people and sections participated in these elections, which indicated that there was no place for separatist ideology in the state. He made that assertion at a time when on that very occasion, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was extending an invite to separatists to shun violence, give up the path of militancy, and hold talks. It was only on the eve of the address by the Prime Minister that Omar Abdullah and his ministerial colleagues strongly advocated dialogue between New Delhi and the separatists. They had termed it the greatest need of time.

Union Government's Thinking
Reading between the lines, the Prime Minister's address conveys that New Delhi has mistaken the activities of separatists as improvement in the situation and everything has been set right. Further, he felt that there was no need for holding any talk with separatists. Yet, several pro-India leaders, including Omar Abdullah, former ministers, and former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed differ with this kind of thinking of the union government.

Going by the attitude of his boss, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah somewhat changed his stance at his Independence Day speech, and stressed the need of dialogue between India and Pakistan instead of with separatists, which he had advocated a day earlier. Yet, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed categorically expressed his reservations on what the Prime Minister had said, and warned him not to close his eyes to ground realities in the state.

Prime Minister maintained that the union government was wrongly taking the peaceful holding of elections in the state as the final resolution to the Kashmir issue, and warned against the tendency. He called on the union government that taking peaceful holding of elections as a first step, it should move forward to find the final resolution to the Kashmir issue, failing which uncertainly would rear its head again and we may return to square one.

In another statement, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that there was lack of coordination between the state government and the union government, and by rejecting the chief minister's suggestion, the Prime Minister had deflated it. In his statement, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed asserted that while Omar Abdullah trumpeted dialogue between the union government and the Hurriyat Conference, the union government had rejected his suggestions of dialogue in toto. It is an indication that there is no coordination between the union and state governments.

Referring to fail separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Gilani and others, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that it was strange that leaders with whom the claim of holding dialogue was being made were languishing in prisons. Throwing a challenge to the government, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that if it had the power and the strength, it should come out and compete with separatists democratically.

By saying this, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed has recognized the stature and reliability of separatist leaders, and has said that not holding talks with them is a serious blunder.

Wrong Assertion
Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is not the only mainstream leader who has described the Prime Minister's assertion as a blunder. Several organizations have also expressed their annoyance with this, but in a subdued tone. The Communist Party of India (CPI) termed the assertion wrong, and held that separatists continue to be relevant. CPI National Secretary Shamian Faizi, rejecting the Prime Minister's statement, demanded at a press conference that the union government should immediately initiate action to hold talks with separatists. He added that the talks with Pakistan on all pending issues, including the Kashmir issue, should immediately be resumed. He termed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and other similar black laws in the state draconian, and demanded their immediate revocation. He maintained that separatism and separatists continue to be relevant in Kashmir and that dialogue with Pakistan be resumed immediately and unconditionally.

Unrest is also spreading in the National Conference on the issue, though the ruling party for the lust of power has quietly swallowed the bitter pill that the Prime Minister gave. It would not be out of place to mention that all National Conference leaders, including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, had repeatedly said in their election campaign that the Kashmir issue has nothing to do with holding of elections. Instead, the process is being adopted only for formation of an administration.

No comments: