The real motive behind the violent protests in Kashmir is terrifyingly sinister

By K.N.Pandita

Recent events have once again exposed the much-touted ’secular’ credentials of mainstream political parties in the Kashmir Valley. It would be incorrect to link the response of these parties to the Government’s decision, which now stands cancelled, of temporarily allotting land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board to this year’s Assembly election in Jammu & Kashmir.

On hindsight, the PDP, a coalition partner in the Congress-led Government in the State till it pulled out on Saturday, has hardly been cooperative after it handed over power to the latter three years ago. Its performance during the first three years of the coalition’s tenure hardly bears testimony to its claimed non-partisan style of governance.

Under the guise of ‘respect for the wishes of the people’, the PDP has in the past blatantly played the pro-separatist card on issues such as demilitarisation of Jammu & Kashmir, joint regional council with Pakistan occupied Kashmir, inflow of Pakistani currency, lifting of all restrictions on trans-border movement, etc.

Under the much-touted cover of providing a ‘healing touch’, militants were set free from prisons by the PDP. They were given financial and other forms of support without eliciting their commitment of laying down arms and joining the national mainstream. In doing so, PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Saeed has created a formidable constituency on which he and his party now bank.

It is inadvisable to treat the ongoing phenomenon as either a political manoeuvre or a sadist desire on part of the PDP to pull down the Congress-led Government. The motive is far deeper than that.

The statements issued by the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and the Mufti himself show that Kashmiri leaders of all hues have forged a common understanding among themselves to fight Indian presence in the Valley along with Pakistan-sponsored outfits.

The statements of National Conference leaders, Mr Farooq Abdullah and Mr Omar Abdullah, have brought little solace to the tense situation that prevails in the Valley. Curiously, Mr Omar Abdullah has described the anti-Government demonstrations as an expression of “Kashmiri nationalism”.

He has thus drawn a line between Indian nationalism and Kashmir nationalism. In other words providing for Haj complexes in various parts of the country is ‘Indian nationalism’ and denying Amarnath pilgrims some relief facilities is ‘Kashmiri nationalism’.

The people in the Valley have to understand that politicians are manipulating their religious feelings under the garb of ‘Kashmiri nationalism’. This is a new approach to the old practice of whipping up religious sentiments at the time of Assembly elections. The National Conference is notorious for brandishing green handkerchiefs and rock salt in its election rallies. These have now been replaced by slogans promoting ‘Kashmiri nationalism’.

Incidentally, the ideology of Kashmiriyat, to which the Kashmiri political leadership and intelligentsia have stuck tenaciously for more than two decades, has also revealed its true colours. In April, Ali Shah Geelani, the veteran separatist leader, while speaking at a public rally in Sopor, said it was a fallacy to label Nund rishi as an outstanding rishi or sufi saint of 14th century. He said Sheikh Nooru’d-Din (not Nund Rishi) was a zealous Muslim missionary who contributed enormously to the spread of Islamic culture and faith in the Valley during his time.

Contemporary Kashmiri historians have now joined Mr Geelani’s voice. Those who were till the other day brandishing Kashmiriyat as a manifestation of Kashmir’s sense of communal harmony and peaceful co-existence, are now rejecting Kashmiriyat as a mischievous attempt by Indians to impose ‘cultural hegemony’ on Jammu & Kashmir.

The current row over allotment of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board has shown that the majority of Kashmiri leaders believes that secessionist struggle should be carried out by political parties in a manner that is subtle and an erosion of Indian presence in Kashmir should be effected.

This should serve as a warning to the Indian political leaders that something serious could happen once elections are held in October and the Assembly sits down to do business. It should expect no quarter from any of the mainstream political parties, including the State Congress in the Valley. New Delhi would also be well advised to think of the dangers inherent in the policy of divide and rule. That lesson should have been learnt long ago when the conspiracy of replacing Mr Farooq Abdullah with Mr GM Shah was masterminded.

Jammu & Kashmir’s political situation has come to a critical point. Any mishandling, any unrealistic and euphoric response to the situation will be fraught with the gravest of consequences.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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