By ND Jahangeer
“Separatism in Kashmir is just a battle of ideas,” said Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in one of his media interactions before his demise. It could have been so for Mufti Sahab, but it is not out of contention that separatism in Kashmir is beyond that (battle of ideas). The PDP itself is often alleged to be a party of ‘soft separatists’ by opponents for their statements on respecting human rights in J&K, unconditional talks with separatists and Pakistan, and other peace initiatives it often asks New Delhi to implement.
Kashmiri separatism is of a unique nature and character as is obvious from the reactions of Kashmiris at any event of socio- economic or political nature that is directly or indirectly linked to the Kashmir dispute. Since the morning of 7th January 2016, when the CM of J&K breathed his last, this separatist tendency has again been showing its teeth. Many people joined the mourning, including political opponents, irrespective of ideological differences, and paid tributes to the deceased CM. There were a few corners of the Valley which are highly volatile which ‘celebrated’ the death and some others came on social networking sites to berate the deceased. A militant outfit also warned Syed Ali Shah Geelani on paying condolences to the bereaved daughter.
All the three reactions do not constitute Kashmiri separatism but at the same time do represent some of its dimensions.
Kashmiri separatism can be measured and judged from historical evidence, which shows continuity even after about seven decades of signing of the instrument of accession. It can also be measured from the number of families who sacrificed their lives and the chastity of their daughters fighting against Indian rule. It can be measured from the economic loss Kashmir bore and is still bearing from hartals, shutdowns and fires that engulf mansions during counter-insurgency operations. It can be judged from the fact that for a land row Kashmiris gave more than a hundred souls and bore innumerable atrocities at the hands of security personnel.
The indices are innumerable, factual and objective. The blood and psyche of Kashmiris doubts everything that seems Indian to them. They get their admissions cancelled from different universities spread over the country because they clap for the cricket team playing against India. Even if it is not the Pakistan cricket team, and is Australia, South Africa or New Zeeland they will still clap for the other side.
There may be doubts that people with such tendencies do not constitute the majority, but this is a myth. Because when the funeral prayers of a slain militant are being offered, the minority-majority problem gets solved. Still, it can be said that a majority does not indulge in direct confrontation against the state apparatus, especially the security forces. But that also has a reason behind it, which is quite simple: they are oppressed because of this security apparatus, and inside this security setup everyone does not get the chance to express his separatist tendency. Everyone is also aware what will happen if today or tomorrow demilitarisation takes place, which day by day is becoming a necessity for New Delhi to enhance its global prestige and give weight to her claim of being the world’s largest democracy as well as her struggle to get a permanent berth at the UNSC.
This does not mean that every Kashmiri is a separatist. India does have proven nationalists inside Kashmir. They publicly express their belief and conviction that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Among others, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was one such Indian nationalist. He also tried to implement the healing touch policy, transparency in administration and other initiatives like peace talks with Pakistan and separatists. It is only because of the efforts of these mainstream or Indian nationalist leaders that J&K shows a rising poll percentage at each election as against the boycott calls of separatists. Yet, the poll percentage should never lead anyone to conclude that separatism is declining. Now, when such staunch Indian nationalists are being labeled as soft separatists anyone can imagine the depth and conviction of Kashmiri separatism.
The more disturbing fact for New Delhi is that ‘new separatists’ like new militants do emerge in Kashmir, but Indian nationalists like the late Sheikh Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed and Farooq Abdullah are not emerging from Kashmir.
—The writer is a teacher in the Department of School Education