Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wise, but controversial



Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat has done it again. It was in January last year that he made another wise but controversial statement that Kashmiri dissident leaders such as Abdul Gani Lone and Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq were not killed by government forces but by “their own people”. This time around he has questioned the contemporary significance of the UN resolutions on J&K. The controversy kicked up by Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat’s comments refuses to die down, leading to ideological, bordering physical, clashes within the moderate Hurriyat. I have known both Prof. Bhat and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for a very long time: both are wise, visionary and able leaders and hence I would hesitate to dub the ongoing debate over the UN resolutions as a leadership struggle within the ranks of the Hurryat. I would see this as a genuine debate to explore the future directions of Kashmir’s embattled Azadi movement. 

Three ‘sins’of Prof. Bhat
Prof. Bhat made three inter-related arguments: one, it is not practical anymore to implement the UN Resolutions in Kashmir; two, the Kashmir formula suggested by former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraff is worth serious consideration and; three, it may not be a bad idea to think of forging a common minimum political agenda with the PDP and NC. In response to Prof. Bhat’s suggestions, Mirwaiz argued that the UN Resolutions form the bedrock of Kashmir’s azadi movement. Mirwaiz has a point, although it is a symbolic one. However, it may be recalled that Mriwaiz himself has been a fan of Musharraff’s ideas on Kashmir and so he is only opposing two of Prof. Bhat’s suggestions: of going beyond the UN Resolutions and forging alliances with NC and PDP. Let’s unpack to understand each of these two suggestions made by Prof. Bhat.

What do the Resolutions say?
What was the basic argument made by the UN Resolutions that the Mirwaiz argues forms the bedrock of Kashmir’s azadi movement? In fact, I would argue that many Kashmiri dissidents have often overstretched the significance of these Resolutions. Consider this: if one goes strictly by the sequence of the UN Resolutions, Pakistan will have to withdraw from Azad J&K (‘PoK’) and Northern Areas since it is referred to as the invading party, and before a plebiscite is held in Kashmir, Indian troops could potentially move into the part vacated by Pakistani troops to maintain law and order. Mind you, Pakistan had also ceded a small part of J&K to China decades ago which will have to be taken back from China so that the original Princely state in its entirety can be put through a plebiscite by the UN. Thereafter, even if there is a plebiscite, people of J&K will be able to choose between India or Pakistan. The UN Resolutions promise no azadi to Kashmiris, let’s be clear about it. I am not convinced that it is such a choice that forms the bedrock of Kashmir’s azadi struggle. 

So considering the fact that azadi-seeking Kashmiri nationalists won’t be the real beneficiaries of the UN formula, who is likely to benefit out of it? Will India benefit from it? I am not so sure. If one were to argue that India is very unpopular in certain parts of Kashmir, there is a possibility that while Jammu and Ladakh would vote for India, a large number of people in Kashmir are unlikely to vote for India. What about within Pakistan? I am equally unconvinced that everyone on the Pakistani side of J&K is in love with Pakistan either. That means that some people on that side are likely to vote for India as well, just because there are only two choices. The rest is a game of numbers. So if Pakistan gets more votes in the Plebiscite, which I am not so sure of especially after meeting scores of people form the Pakistani side of the state, Kashmiris will have to join the Pakistani state. In other words, the decades-long Kashmiri nationalism will find its final resting place within the ideological anarchy of contemporary Pakistan. Would the Mirwaiz like it that way? Unlikely. Then why fault the good old Persian Professor for what he said in simple words? 

More importantly, even though Pakistan would stand a chance, just as India would, to win from a game of numbers if the UN Resolutions are implemented in Kashmir, the former has indeed given up on the Resolutions. So has the United Nations. 

Let’s now take the other ‘objectionable’ part of the Professor’s argument. Prof. Bhat argued that alliances should be forged with NC and PDP. Forget the names ‘NC’ and ‘PDP’. The Professor’s message is that it’s time to try different, read ‘mainstream’, methodologies to take the azadi movement forward. It may look contradictory at the first instance but that is precisely what ‘former’ dissidents such as People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone are successfully doing: work for the ‘achievable nationhood’ even as keeping the ‘desirable nationhood’ as the guiding principle. In other words, joining PDP or NC is not the operative part of what the Professor said, rather it is using mainstream tactics and politics to achieve the goals of the azadi movement. 

I have often argued, in my columns and elsewhere, that Sajad Lone has indeed shown the way for the future direction of Kashmir’s azadi movement, but then that’s my personal opinion about a movement of which I am not personally part of, even as I am sympathetic towards it. It’s for the Hurriyat Conference and the people of Kashmir to decide which direction they would like to take. 

That said, one thing is pretty clear. The Hurriyat needs to better respond to new situations, new movements, new political demands and a whole new generation that has a lot of political innovation and vibrancy about them. For many years now, the Hurriyat has not shown exceptional leadership skills in spearheading the movement in Kashmir. So why not listen to the Professor? 

(Greater Kashmir, May 27, 2012. URL: )

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