During a meeting held recently in Srinagar, the former chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Dr Haseeb Drabu, raised some very valid points with regard to the Resistance Leadership and the Movement in Kashmir. As a highly-educated, widely-travelled, and well-connected individual, Dr Drabu is bound to be quite acutely aware of what bearing geopolitical realities have on our neighbourhood. As a Kashmiri – and one educated in Delhi and abroad – he is also certain to be aware of the realities that govern life in Kashmir. His arguments, therefore, ought to impel the Resistance Leadership to undertake some soul-searching, if not a course-correction.
In the meeting, Dr Drabu spoke at length about the “lack of imagination in methods,” restricted mostly to boycotts and hartals. He praised the innovative Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir initiative which drew media attention to problems common Kashmiris face under Indian rule (occupation?).
There is much truth in what Dr Drabu has to say, but he should also understand the history and rationale behind the mistrust Kashmiris harbour of every move Kashmiri politicians make. It is this deep-rooted mistrust that has led to rigid and inflexible stances of many senior Resistance Leaders in Kashmir.
This column has argued that geopolitical realities are fast-changing, especially in the Muslim world, and hence policies must be pro-active, not reactive. A country may exist today, but be gone tomorrow. Where does Kashmir – a dispute between two neighbours, and a legacy of the Past, with little present relevance, save for some hydro-electric projects – stand in the mayhem reigning globally, particularly in the Muslim world. India’s 1.2 billion people have not seen better economic, military, or political times, and are now being led by a strong, one-man army at the centre. The Indian Army itself has never had it this good. This may, or may not change, but one can safely argue that it would take an earth-shaking event for a nation the size and power of India to change its views. The government at the centre has little to worry about so far as Kashmir is concerned: the Army will stay, the AFSPA will not go, and the Chief Minister’s residence will continue to remain a game of musical chairs for New Delhi’s stooges. To illustrate public contempt for Pro-India Kashmiri politicians, here is a case in point: a current central government Minister who formerly was a top Army officer has been repeatedly summoned by State’s legislature over statements implying that Kashmiri politicians have been on New Delhi’s payroll right since 1947.
Dr Drabu is not wrong, but his context could be misleading.
The Kashmiri Resistance Leadership is unfortunately divided among itself. Besides the conflict between Pro-Pakistan and the Pro-Independence groups, there is an undercurrent of mistrust and one-upmanship. It is rare to see the entire Leadership on one platform. This has led to a drop in their popularity, and a resultant ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach towards the people, where the leadership fails to see the realities. In the current scenario in the Indian subcontinent, the Leadership needs to ask: Should the issue of Kashmir be allowed to hold back the development and integration of the two countries? Is economic integration of India and Pakistan, not a path to peace? And in that scenario, where is their political legitimacy?
To answer Dr Drabu, the Kashmiri Resistance is hamstrung by its own, legitimate, insecurities.
It is the fence-sitters who had the most to take home from what Dr Drabu said – those who are not a part of this party or that, nor those with blood on their hands, and neither those who receive wads of cash from various ‘agencies’ operating in Kashmir. The common Kashmiris. It was to them that Dr Drabu posed the most important question of all: what, in your opinion would (or should) the future of Kashmir look like? It is this section that needs to lead the charge in Kashmir: to wrest control of the state’s institutions from the ‘stooges’ who have run Kashmir since 1947. It may, undoubtedly, mean a change in methods, but the aim will remain the same: to be masters of our own destiny.