Immediately after assuming office as Chief Minister on Sunday, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed addressed a press conference and admitted a harsh reality. He thanked Pakistan, the militants and the Hurriyat leadership for allowing what he called free, fair and peaceful elections in the state.
Mufti’s ‘admission’ evoked a severe reaction from the former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, who tweeted: “Pakistan, Huriyaat and Militants ALLOWED peaceful conduct of elections” says Mufti Syed. I guess we should be grateful for their generosity.”
“Dear @BJP4India please explain roll of security forces and polling staff considering your CM just said “Pakistan allowed elections in J and K.”
“Dear Mufti Sahib, thank you, thank you a thousand times for this press conference.”
Omar Abdullah, it seems, has a weak memory. After the 2008 elections which gave the National Conference 28 seats, the NC patron, Dr Farooq Abdullah, had also thanked Pakistan and the militants for their ‘generosity’ in allowing peaceful, free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir. This was carried by the local press and Omar Abdullah can go to the archives to ascertain the truth if he is really unaware of his father’s statement.
Both these politicians admit the role of Pakistan in Kashmir. But Mufti’s statement is important, and merits more attention. Before having become the Chief Minister of the state, he has headed the government of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs in the crucial 90s. Which means that intelligence agencies would brief him daily on the situation in Kashmir. He knows how anti-insurgency forces operate and how much success they achieve. Having controlled the anti-insurgency forces for two years, he knows them and their psyche better than anybody else. He, therefore, understands the gravity of the statement he made yesterday.
Was he trying to convey that Pakistan, the militants and the Hurriyat Conference have finally given up their mission Kashmir? Even if this were to be accepted for the sake of argument, have the realities in Kashmir changed? It is necessary to understand the psyche of the Kashmiris to find the answer.
Another Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, too has spoken his mind. On the sidelines of an ex-servicemen’s rally at the Sainik School in Nagrota last year, he said: “Stone-pelting has an old relationship with Kashmir, and stone-pelters are not against any mainstream party in the State but throw stones against India.” Surprisingly, the Jammu media did not pose the most important question. They should have asked him whether he considered himself an Indian at all.
Omar Abdullah’s statement must be read between the lines. What did he want to convey, by the way? He had made a bold confession. He had conveyed that he was not an Indian. He had also conveyed that the other so-called mainstream political parties were not Indian either.
At a convention in Sopore in 2010, senior Congress leader and former minister Ghulam Rasool Kar said that all Kashmiris were Pakistanis.
“Every Kashmiri is emotionally attached to Pakistan, whether they are in Congress or the National Conference,” he said, as the state Congress president, Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz and other leaders watched helplessly.
Kar urged the Congress leadership to accept this harsh reality.
“Congress should have cordial relations with Pakistan,” he further said. “The party must strive to resolve all disputes with Pakistan, especially the dispute on Kashmir.”
Stressing the need for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with Islamabad, he said: “I am an Indian, but I am pained to see Pakistan in trouble. When a Pakistani gets killed in a bomb blast, my eyes turn moist automatically. This is how every Kashmiri feels.”
Kar was very much right. India played Pakistan in the ICC World Cup last month and lost. This put Kashmiris in agony. Mufti cannot be unaware of this. Therefore, by thanking Pakistan and the militants, Mufti has admitted that the Indian troops in Kashmir have failed to strangle the Azadi sentiment. According to him, it is Pakistan, militants and the Hurriyat Conference that call the shots in contemporary Kashmir. He has conveyed that the ‘favourable turn’ the Kashmir situation has taken (if at all it can be described in such terms) is because Pakistan and the militants have allowed it.
Although, the Hurriyat (G) has strongly contested Mufti’s statement, saying that (its leadership) had been placed under house arrest, the realities remain unchanged. Pakistan, the militants and the Hurriyat Conference have a role to play in Kashmir resolution. The government of India cannot ignore any one of them in talks concerning the future of Kashmir. And this is precisely what Kashmiris have been demanding.
Similarly, Dr Abdullah too understood all too well what he said after the 2008 elections. Earlier, when he would often outdo any External Affairs Minister of India, and regularly fire verbal missiles at Pakistan for “aiding and abetting” terrorism in Kashmir, nobody in New Delhi or Islamabad would take him seriously. But his statement after the 2008 elections made an impact. By thanking Pakistan and the militants, he too has admitted a harsh reality of Kashmir.
Even if people have voted in large numbers during the assembly elections, ‘separatism’ has not ended, although, of late, some ‘separatists’ have been showing signs of fatigue.