Kashmir’s Competitive Holiness


Dr. Samuel Johnson once said: “God Himself, Sir, does not propose to judge man until the end of his days. Why should you and I?” While prejudging a man we often risk being governed by false assumptions and imaginations. We believe that we have an inherent authority to judge and criticise others, and when others judge and criticise us, we take offence. Criticism? Yes. But it must not be at the cost of imposing divisions among people. Once the masses are divided the already divided leadership finds it even more difficult to unite. A divided leadership is one of the biggest obstacles in achieving objectives and goals.

          Geelani Sahib recently dropped a bombshell by disclosing that two Kashmiri Pandits had met him on behalf of Narendra Modi and sought his help in resolving the Kashmir dispute. In a press conference after returning from Delhi, Geelani Sahib said: “They conveyed to me that if I am ready to offer any assistance… I can contact Narendra Modi directly and seek some commitment on the Kashmir issue.” He further said that he rejected their request of rendering some “assistance” to Modi “there and then.” Here I will not like to debate whether it was necessary to offer this ‘secret’ meeting for public consumption. That is altogether a different subject.

But Geelani Sahib did not restrict himself to recounting facts.  He went several steps further: “Those who issue statements that Modi’s policy on Kashmir would be soft after he becomes the Prime Minister of India, and have expectations from him, might have met his representatives in Kashmir also.” Now, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that Geelani Sahib was referring to the Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the Ameer of the Jama’at-e-Islami (J&K), Muhammad Abdullah Wani.

While the Mirwaiz had recently said that he was hopeful that Modi would pursue Vajpayee outlook on the Kashmir issue, the Amir-e-Jamaat had said that Modi would be soft once he became Prime Minister.

          Let us try to analyse the two statements. The Mirwaiz says that he is hopeful that Modi would pursue the outlook of Vajpayee. So, is being hopeful about something an unpardonable crime? Or should the Mirwaiz scare people by saying that Modi would massacre Kashmiris once he came to power, and in the process, create fear and panic? Politically also, it is not advisable to jump to conclusions about individuals deemed to be front-runners for the Prime Minister’s post.  How have the Mirwaiz’s words damaged the sacred cause? And how does it amount to what Geelani Sahib often calls a “sell out”.

Come on! The Kashmir issue is not a commodity in the retail market that anyone can sell by holding ‘secret’ talks with Modi’s emissaries. Not even the leader of the stature of Syed Ali Geelani can afford to do so. Gone are the days when people used to say al kari wangan kari bab kari lo lo. Now, if you claim to be a leader, you are accountable. Accountable before the people.

          A compelling reason Gen Pervez Musharraf gave for his coup in Pakistan and exiling the then Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharief, was that the latter had succumbed to US pressure and withdrawn Pakistani forces from Kargil. After the General took over, was there another adventure like Kargil? Was any part of Kashmir liberated? How many wars did he fight against India after becoming the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?

Instead, he made borders soft. He facilitated cultural exchanges. He opened up trade links. He made it a point to accord the India a Most Favoured Nation status. He tried his luck in Agra. And so on. This is how the responsibility of governing a nation makes you soft on certain issues. You show flexibility. You make affordable and acceptable compromises. When the Amir-e-Jama’at says that Modi would be soft once he becomes the Prime Minister of India, this is what he means. Being the Chief Minister of a state is different from being the Prime Minister of a country. A Prime Minister has not only to “satisfy the collective conscience of the people” but also to manage the pulls and pressures of international politics. Most of this may not hold true of Modi given his communal approach and past history. I personally am not much optimistic about him. But if the Amir-e-Jamaat is, should I, therefore, label him? Should I cry sell-out? Should I force my opinion on the other? And should I, in the process, forget the sacrifices that individual and his party have made? Should I imply that “might have met” should actually be read as “have definitely met”?

There is a growing public perception that we may be left adrift after Geelani Sahib. What after Syed Ali Geelani? Such questions do not take hold automatically but are deliberately planted and nurtured in public minds by associating words like “trust” with one single individual.  We want Geelani Sahib to remain within us for as long as possible. We want him to see the shackles of occupation breaking. We love Geelani Sahib for many things. We respect him. We revere him. But having said this, would you, therefore, snatch from me my right to think, to express, and to believe? To have my own independent opinion? If you do so, you are definitely killing a thought.

Mirwaiz Sahib’s reaction, though a result of provocation, too was unbecoming. He should have exercised restraint. A large chunk of people revere and follow Geelani Sahib, and the Mirwaiz also has a considerable following, particularly in the city. He also claims to be the leader of the masses. Besides, he is a Mirwaiz. And one who delivers sermons at the Jamia Masjid.

          Such statements and counter-statements do nothing but create confusion among the masses. They divide people, not on the basis of belief and ideology, but on regionalism and other such petty issues. By indulging in attacks and counter-attacks, the pro-freedom camp has now almost lost its ground. Most of its concepts, roadmaps and slogans have been appropriated by mainstream parties. The azadi camp seems to have been reduced to taking satisfaction from enforcing hartals and lecturing people on social evils.

Kashmiris got the Amarnath land transfer decision reversed when their leadership came on a single stage. But today we now feel helpless in stopping the army’s lease on Tosmaidan from getting renewed.  As JK Rowling puts it: “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

-the writer is an advocate at the High Court of J&K, Srinagar