As if Kashmir has not shed enough blood in the two decades of militancy and turmoil that the Muttahida Majlis-e-Mushawarat (MMM), the joint front of separatist organisations spearheading the agitation demanding return of Afzal Guru’s mortal remains, on last Saturday asked people to hoist red flags. While a few over fired-up youth sprayed red paint on the streets, suspected militants “gunned down two police constables in broad daylight at Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Saturday”.
At least in the recent public memory, no issue has been able to unite the public opinion in Kashmir as absolutely as Afzal’s case. It was only expected that Afzal’s hanging will continue to agitate the public discourse till public emotions cool down. And what else are the separatists supposed to do if not capitalise on the issue? However, the manner in which the so-called mainstream politicians from Kashmir, almost in unison and straight away, sided with the public opinion succinctly tells the story of widespread drift in the Valley. For that matter, Kashmir was always at adrift. There has always been a hardcore separatist sentiment prevalent in the Valley. The deceitful way in New Delhi has traditionally dealt with Kashmir may tend to justify the separatist argument, but more ridiculously New Delhi failing to uphold the commitments made to people of Kashmir time and again unwittingly makes every generation witness to the continuous saga of betrayals.
One incident does not form the collective memory of a people; but continued experience of a particular treatment over a period of time only hardens the belief of a society. Jawaharlal Nehru promised plebiscite, the 1953 conspiracy is also part of history. Failure of the 1975 accord and tormenting events of 1984 finally firmed the belief in armed struggle; however the rigged election of 1987 just proved to be a trigger for militancy. Quoting history here may well be construed as an irritating habit of the Kashmiri victim mentality. However, these are the events which go on to form the collective Kashmiri psychology. It is easy to say let bygone be bygone and let’s move on. Who would not like to live in peace and people of Kashmir, even after experiencing so much bloodshed and undignified existence, are basically peace loving people. But where is the hope of peace?
For the people of Kashmir, Manmohan Singh, like every other prime minister before him, has failed to live up to his commitments. Soon he will also be part of history. In case time grants him a chance to introspect on why he failed on Kashmir, he may not need to consult history. The only thing he will have to do is to recall all his false peace initiatives and go through all his statements on Kashmir. I hope that there will still be some degree of conscience left in him to discover that he had invariably failed to fulfil all his commitments made on Kashmir. All the roundtables, working groups, appointment of interlocutors and track-two dialogues were actually part of a calibrated state craft to manage a problem instead of resolving the issue. Since a seemingly peace-loving and honest person like Manmohan Singh has failed to resolve the conflict, how come a proponent of aggressive nationalism Narendra Modi will bring peace to Kashmir?
Obviously, Kashmir is a complex problem and every Indian prime minister will lack the necessary political will to resolve the issue in a manner that can satisfy even the minimum expectations of Kashmir. Therefore the political management — read making promises and buying time — becomes the time-tested mantra. While every prime minister has had to eat his words, every subsequent generation of Kashmir is made to experience the saga of betrayal: A a diabolic cycle of political management and betrayal that in the end only sustains the conflict. In such a situation, where is the hope of peace?
Meanwhile, eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani has severely criticised the way Afzal was discreetly hanged. “It is sorry to say but the reality is that Gandhi’s India has turned into Hitler’s Germany,” he said. Pertinently, he has asked the government to return the Afzal’s body. he said, “On the pretext of law and order problem, the government can’t deprive his family of his body... if the government will let loose a reign of terror then what is the difference between terrorists and the establishment?” The learned lawyer timely cautions the rulers, “A spark neglected burns the house. Save Kashmir before it burns”.