J&K: Geelani demands separation, Farooq prepared to look beyond autonomy
by Hari Om on 24 Mar 2011 15 Comments

The respective speeches of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference–Geelani chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani and National Conference president cum Union Minister for Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah at the India Today conclave have established that the “mainstream” NC and radical separatist pro-Pakistan APHC (G) are almost on the same page (New Delhi, 19 March 2011).


This can be seems from their statements during the session, “Kashmir – What Next?” Geelani, inter-alia, said: “He represents majority of people of the state… When I talk about Kashmir, I mean the entire state and not just the valley. Kashmir means Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. I can tell you with authority that I represent majority sentiment of people of all the three regions… The Kashmir issue (is the fall-out) of the broken promises… Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had made a promise with people of Kashmir in Lal Chowk that Indian forces had not come to stay in the Valley forever and people of Kashmir would be allowed to decide their fate. This is a historical fact which still exists… Indian Home Minister (i.e., P. Chidambaram) has acknowledged that Kashmir problem is about broken promises. The promises made to Kashmiris have been broken time and again… In January 1948 India took Kashmir issue to UN, where 18 resolutions were signed by India. We want implementation of those UN resolutions… Solution to the longstanding dispute lies in right to self-determination… I want freedom from the forcible occupation of India… I fought elections because I was looking for a democratic way to solve the dispute. And for that matter, the Indian National Congress also fought elections in 1935 under the British rule and nobody questioned them why were they demanding freedom from British. There is a tension between India and Pakistan due to Kashmir. Forty per cent of India’s population is living below poverty line. It is in the interest of India to resolve Kashmir by granting us right to self-determination… Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave Kashmir under a well planned conspiracy supervised by the then Governor Jagmohan.”


[Actually, elections were not held in 1935; they were held under the Government of India Act of 1935, in 1937. The same year, the Congress formed ministries on its own in 7 out of 11 British Indian provinces: Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Orissa, Central Provinces, the United Provinces and the North West Frontier Province. In 1938, the Congress formed coalition governments in Assam and Sindh. Non-Congress ministries were formed in Bengal and Punjab in 1937 – by Praja Krishak party in Bengal under Dr Fazal-ul-Haq and by Unionist Party in Punjab under Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sir Chottu Ram, a Jat leader].  


Farooq Abdullah inter-alia said: “Secession of J&K from India is just ruled out… His party is ready to move beyond its Autonomy proposal and support any other solution which brings peace to the state and is acceptable to people of all the three regions of the state. Kashmir would never secede from India… Plebiscite is not possible; we can’t go back to 1947… Which Pakistan are you (Geelani) talking about? Where a Governor is killed in broad daylight and no funeral is allowed for a slain Christian leader? Pakistan is a divided state where moderates like Salman Taseer and Christian minister Shahbaz Bhati were murdered and the murderers were welcomed.”


What was common between what these two Kashmiri leaders said and where they differed, genuinely or otherwise, or as part of the diligently evolved strategy to hoodwink and mislead India, so that the gulf between Kashmir and the rest of the country is further widened?


The areas of agreement were: Muslims of Kashmir are feeling alienated from India; the history of relations between Kashmir and New Delhi is a history of broken promises; Kashmir indeed is a problem that needs a permanent solution; if peace was to return to Kashmir then a lasting solution has to be found and the solution obviously has to be outside the political and constitutional organization of India; it is the Kashmiri leadership that represents the general will or it is the Kashmiri leadership that is the chief determinant, with the people of Jammu and Ladakh having no other option but to throw in their lot with the Kashmiri leadership and suffer; fanatics and secessionists in Kashmir were not responsible for the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus; India is a colonial power and it has been treating Kashmir as its colony; and so on.


The upshot of the arguments advanced by Geelani and Abdullah was that since Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state, it is imperative that India either treat it as a republic within the Indian republic or allow it to go out of India. Jammu and Kashmir cannot have any kind of constitutional and political truck with New Delhi.


That Jammu and Kashmir just can’t afford to have any kind of constitutional and political truck with India was, in fact, their major refrain. In other words, both maintained that the fundamental factor responsible for the alienation of Kashmir Muslims from the national mainstream is the application of Central laws and institutions in the state. What they said left none in doubt that they still believe in the pernicious two-nation theory that led to the communal partition of India in 1947 and culminated in death, destruction, rape, loot, arson and displacement of the population on an unprecedented scale.  


However, there were a few differences between them as well. While Geelani straightaway demanded separation of the state from India, Abdullah upheld the view that the grant of greater autonomy to the state could help resolve the 63-year-old conflict and restore peace and normality in the region.


And while Geelani harped on plebiscite, Abdullah dismissed the idea outright. Abdullah knew full well that plebiscite is not possible because Pakistan will never vacate the aggression and withdraw forces from the illegally-Occupied areas (read Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan) – a precondition for holding plebiscite. The United Nations resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir require Pakistan to vacate the aggression and India to station its troops in the occupied areas to main law and order there.  


Abdullah also opposed the idea of Jammu and Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. Here again, his opposition was well-founded and based on the fact that Pakistan has consistently maltreated his co-religionists in POJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. It was also based on the fact that Islamabad doesn’t have in its scheme of things any place for dissent on any count whatever, and that Islamabad construes dissent as an act of sedition.  


Yet another difference was that while Geelani asserted that he enjoys the confidence of the entire population in the state and is their genuine representative, Abdullah said his party is prepared to look beyond autonomy if that could help resolve the issue and that the solution has to be acceptable to the people of all the three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Geelani’s assertion was as ludicrous as it was outrageous. The people of Jammu and Ladakh, and even a very vast majority of Kashmiri Muslims, are vehemently opposed to what Geelani stands for. They hate his ideology as well as his methodology. 


Anyway, what Abdullah said was meaningless, in the sense that his son and state chief minister Omar Abdullah, his brother and MLA Mustafa Kamal and the NC’s ideologue and general secretary Sheikh Nazir have consistently maintained that NC would accept only that solution that brings the people of Jammu and Ladakh under its purview and that keeps the state intact as one political entity. As late as on March 19, Sheikh Nazir made a similar statement.


In other words, the party’s bigwigs want an autonomous Jammu and Kashmir and within that autonomous state they want the people of Jammu and Ladakh to exercise a semblance of regional autonomy, which would be a meaningless sham. Thus, they stand for a dispensation that is outside the constitutional framework of India and helps Kashmiri leadership to not only rule the state unhindered, but also exploit the people of Jammu and Ladakh politically, economically, socially and culturally, as it has been doing since October 1947. The Kashmiri leadership has converted Jammu and Ladakh into its colonies and created an environment under which the people of these two regions are entitled to only crumbs. 


Thus, there was no fundamental difference whatever between what Geelani demanded and what Farooq Abdullah advocated at the India Today Conclave. One sought total separation in the name of religion and the other demanded just a step short of complete separation for the same reason. The very fact that Farooq suggested that the NC was prepared to look beyond autonomy suggests his party would not mind if the state is segregated from India.


All this suggests that both Geelani of Jamait-e-Islami and the so-called mainstream NC are on the same page. This should not surprise anyone in the country because Geelani and Abdullah are known for advocating unsettling and communal views. They belong to a school of thought that is exclusivist and sectarian.


What is alarming is what the Prime Minister and Home Minister say day in and day out, making the prevailing confusion worse confounded with ridiculous statements as “neighbours cannot be changed but borders can be rendered irrelevant”, “Kashmir is a unique problem that needs a unique solution”, “promises made with the people of Kashmir have to be respected” and “solutions that are applicable to other parts of the country cannot be replicated.” Such statements have only encouraged the likes of Geelani and Abdullah to preach hatred and heighten their anti-India campaign.


The impact of a section of the print and electronic media has been no different. In fact, a section of media, like certain elements in the establishment, has consistently accorded legitimacy to the divisive and communal politics practiced by the likes of Geelani and Abdullah. That India Today, which organized the two-day-long (March 18-19) Conclave, would ensure the participation Geelani and Abdullah but rigorously exclude those representing the vast nationalist constituency in the state is just one glaring example of the extent of media perversion.


The nation can tackle the likes of Geelani and Abdullah, and even Pakistan, in no time. The real problem confronting the nation is what certain elements in the establishment and a section of the media is doing to cause an irreparable damage to our paramount sovereign interests. Sometimes one is provoked to think India has become a banana republic which can be coerced, browbeaten and blackmailed by any Tom, Dick and Harry, leave alone the United States, which has been allowed by the ruling coalition and the main opposition party to interfere in our internal and external affairs with impunity.


One thing is clear: India is in a gigantic mess. It’s time for the concerned citizens to speak out and act to secure the future of the Indian State. Tinkering in any manner with the sovereign status of the country in Jammu and Kashmir would mean a great victory of the ardent believers in the concept of two-nation.          


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research

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