J&K: Peace by Pieces?
by Sandhya Jain on 10 Oct 2010 17 Comments

On 29 Sept. 2010, an NGO called the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA), organised a dialogue titled, Sisters for Peace: Voices from Kashmir, at the UN Conference Hall at Lodi Road, in collaboration with the National Foundation for India and UN Information Centre.


When some nationalists arrived at the venue on learning of the event, we found to our dismay that not a single Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or Shia or Tribal Muslim sister or brother had been invited. The Dialogue was essentially a stage for fundamentalist Sunni Muslim women of the Kashmir Valley to air venomously anti-India views and demand secession from India in the name of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. It is a scandal that the venue was the official premises of the UN Information Centre, an international platform in the national capital.


The organisers included Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Hameed, who enjoys Minister of State rank in the Government of India; former National Women’s Commission chairperson Dr Mohini Giri, wife of late President V.V. Giri; former MP Subhasini Ali, the principal of a Delhi University college (a government employee); a number of leftist activists and journalists.


This raises serious questions about dual employment and loyalties – persons with employment and status in one arena (often Government) are misusing that status to undermine the foundations of the Indian state, that too, in concert with foreign agencies.


The United Nations has played a dubious, anti-India role in the Kashmir crisis from the beginning. We need only recall the role of Sir Owen Dixon and Josef Korbel, and never forget that the Western agenda of an independent Kashmir is very much alive and kicking. The seminar was clearly a build up to the arrival of American President Barack Obama in Delhi next month; on 5 Sept. some American Embassy officials visited the Valley.


Unfortunately, a section of the Indian government seems to have facilitated this seminar, otherwise United Nations would not dare operate in a manner so contrary to its Charter, and injurious to the interests of the host country. Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai was asked to come at the end to receive the recommendations of the seminar, and no one in the UN staff in Delhi warned him that secessionist slogans were made throughout the day and it would be advisable for him to stay away.


The bias of the organisers was visible throughout. A young man, Sajjad of Kargil, Ladakh, sitting in the back row with us, stood up to intervene in the debate. He said, “it is only the Valley that wants azadi, and even these groups are divided. We are being hit, tourist buses are being attacked and sent back, and we are the losers. We do not want azadi. We have no identity till today, we are not recognised, even the peace delegation (led by Chidambaram) never came here.” The organisers immediately asked to him to stop, and when he tried to persist with his views, was rudely told to ‘shut up.’


Then, a doctor from the Kashmiri Pandit community, who had fled after the brutalization of the community in 1990, stood up and said, “we are 4 lakh refugees today from the 1990 mass exodus. Only one side of story is told. There was the 1997 massacre of Sangrampura, then Nandimarg, then Chittisingpora… The whole conflict is about erasing the Indian identity and pluralism; recently ultimatum was also given to the Sikh community. The core issue is the Indian identity of Kashmir. Pandits are stakeholders, but only 2500 are left in valley. So are Ladakh Buddhists, Sikhs, Jammu widows. We want political rehabilitation of minorities. A nurse keeping tabs on the militants in the valley, Sarla Bhatt, was divided into two pieces…” [This was too much for the organisers and he was sharply silenced].


Not one of the organisers/panelists had the moral or intellectual integrity to ask how the situation in the Valley deteriorated to the point that a small community of Hindus was raped, killed, brutalized and terrorized and made to flee in the biting winter of January 1990? Or question the subsequent massacres of Hindus. Yet they had the audacity – or monetary compensation – to say that Hindus (and Hindus only) must stop the litany of injustices and break out of victimhood. Such dishonesty raises questions about why UN allowed this meeting on its premises. Government of India must insist on an enquiry and removal of all involved in this decision.


The day belonged to the Kashmiri Muslim women and their quest for Azadi. Anjum Zamarud Habib of the Geelani Hurriyat faction made a sharp political speech about self-determination. “Boys with stones in hand can never be defeated. I tell you, they can never be defeated,” she screeched. Asked to wrap up, she said, ‘I will not speak at all if you stop me.’ They were cowed down and never stopped another Muslim speaker that day. Habib continued, ‘The youth daily carry coffins on their shoulders; the women are dishonoured, the men are alive to take revenge – that is the reality.’


A young Muslim woman with a black scarf said, “Hamara buniyadi haq hai azadi…” She was allowed to show a film clip showing some scenes of violence allegedly by security forces, and a picture of Geelani. She raised shrill slogans about dismembering India, against which Mrs Nancy Kaul, a Pandit activist, protested strongly. At this, Ms Syeda Hameed and Mohini Giri rushed from across the hall and physically silenced Mrs Kaul and made her sit down. The young woman continued to shout for some time.


When the commotion ended, I took the mike and raised a point of order: “The seminar cannot continue without a clarification. We were told this is not a political forum, yet slogans and demands for secession from the Indian nation have been raised openly in the presence of a sitting member of the Planning Commission and a former chairperson of the National Women’s Commission. So you two please clarify your stand on this.” Startled, Dr Syeda Hameed clammed up and Dr Mohini Giri pleaded, ‘my daughter, she has a right to speak, let us listen to all.” A rabid woman journalist added, “everyone speaks like this in Srinagar and the streets of Kashmir.”


Then, Quratulain, a teacher in a government college in Srinagar, Hameeda Nayeem of Kashmir, and another gentleman, made similar hate speeches against India. When the recommendations were finalised, Subhasini Ali said we must demand 50% women among the interlocutors on Kashmir being appointed by the Home Ministry. It is our considered opinion that none of the women present at this seminar should be included.


The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com. The article was written for Panchjanya weekly

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