Focus on Muftis and Abdullahs, not Modi

What has Syed Ali Geelani achieved by telling a presser that Narendra Modi, unofficially anointed as the next prime minister of India, had sent two Kashmiri Pandits to initiate some sort of dialogue on Kashmir, and that the emissaries had also met some other resistance leaders?

Apparently, from a very obvious reading of his press conference, it seems that the ailing resistance leader wanted people to know about the plans of the fascist rightwing leader under whose watch an anti-Muslim pogrom took place in Gujarat in 2002.

The other reason that might have spurred him to make public the not-so-surprising backchannel engagements with Kashmiri leaders appears to be a reiteration of his stand on dialogue:  that unless India gives up its “integral-part” rhetoric, talks are futile.

The fresh rejection of Modi’s overtures also springs from the literal reading of the BJP’s manifesto, which has called for a rethink on article 370 amid rising apprehension that India under Modi would be a nightmare vis-a-vis its policy towards Pakistan and by extension, Kashmir.

Is the openness with which Geelani sahib warned people of what he sees cooking away from public glare desirable? Given what has happened in the past, I believe it was a deft and appropriate move by the veteran leader. And it has several secondary benefits too, especially at a time when a lot of empty talk is the main ingredient of the speeches of the Muftis and the Abdullahs.

First, a struggle for the right to self-determination cannot become subservient to a leadership’s penchant for giving media bites even when none are needed. And going to the press without having a cohesive policy on how to deal with Indian leaders of different hues has damaged the struggle in the past. That holds true for all resistance leaders.

In my understanding of developments in Kashmir, I don’t see any resistance grouping in possession of strategies and plans to deal with the political establishment in New Delhi. In such a situation, making statements that can have a bearing on future engagements can be counterproductive.

For example, whether Modi will toe Vajpayee’s line or not remains to be seen. If he does, it might provide an avenue for engagement. If he doesn’t, we might be stuck in the muck we already are in for a longer period. However, Modi and Vajpayee are temperamentally different people. Even though he has been described as a fascist and rabid anti-Muslim child of the RSS, Modi might throw up a surprise that could dwarf even Vajpayee’s effort. But till then, he must be judged for what he is. A Vajpayee had a Musharraf to talk to. And the reality at present is that the former Pakistani president was recently charged with treason. Besides, 2014 is not 2002.

Still, it appears good strategy to put the ball in Modi’s court by hoping he follows in the footsteps of his party’s most respected leader. However, when these statements are made around the time when the Muftis and the Abdullahs are on the campaign trail and appropriating the freedom struggle’s motifs, resistance leaders ought to be careful.

Mahbooba and Farooq Abdullah are freely invoking Afzal Guru’s martyrdom, opposing trifurcation of the state, hailing martyrs, and at the same time paying women to dance in front of an election crowd and getting children to recite the Qur’an before making deceitful speeches. Both have made Modi an agenda of their election campaigns. In such a situation, speculating about the BJP prime ministerial candidate’s future moves would not only drown the resistance leadership’s statements about him, but also mislead the people.

It is probably for the first time that all resistance leaders are actively engaged in exhorting people to boycott elections. The most important task before the leaders therefore remains to expose the Muftis and the Abdullahs. Rather than attempting to sound statesmanish on what Modi might or might not, should or should not do, it is better to issue statements on how the NC and the PDP are fooling the people. It also makes sense strategically, because when you are running an election boycott campaign, your concern should be the Abdullahs and the Muftis, rather than distant the Modis.

The PR people of the resistance leaders should read carefully what the Muftis and the Abdullahs are telling people in Kashmir and Jammu. It would have made sense to tell people what Mufti meant by saying at an election meeting in Jammu that his party, if voted to power, would “settle once and for all, the problem of refugees from PoK”.

The statement was not reported in Kashmiri newspapers, because that part was cleverly deleted from statements issued to newspapers in Kashmir. Which resistance grouping actually sends people to listen to the speeches of pro-occupation politicians, and then informs the masses about their content? What appears in press statements is not all that the Muftis and the Abdullahs say in their speeches.

The phenomenon of electoral deceit is more complex. In the absence of adequate media coverage, the burden of unmasking the pro-occupation leadership falls on the resistance leaders, not all of whom are actively stepping out of their homes to get a pulse of the situation on the ground.