Mr. Omar Abdullah, I have a small request


By Syed Asim Ali

It is one of the very rare occasions where I like to agree with you. I would like to support you for condemning the attack on separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. I would further like to cut-copy-paste your recent tweets. “The heckling of separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Delhi during a seminar is of no help in solving the Kashmir issue. These Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (BSKS) and Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarti Parishad (ABVP) goons are bloody idiots. Anyone can assault an old man. As if attacking SASG (Geelani) will make the Kashmir issue just disappear“.

What I find really troubling is that the Indian polity and the intelligentsia always seem to accede to the bully’s demands. Earlier, this year, theSymbiosis University cancelled the screening of documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak’s Jashn-e-Azadi on Kashmir, after the right-wing student organizations led by ‘bloody idiots,’ ABVP, raised objections to its ‘separatist’ nature. The film was supposed to be screened at a three-day national seminar at the Symbiosis.

The ‘bloody idiots’ are slowly but successfully turning out to be one of the most active and influential student organizations in the university campuses of Delhi and other places. After a huge success in the Delhi University polls, the Bhartiya Janta Party gave more responsibilities to their student’s wing. ABVP later officially intruded the Anna Hazare movement. No matter, how much ‘India Against Corruption’ officials deny, the ABVP is active in the support of Hazare’s movement. The ABVP has constituted a group named, ‘Youth against Corruption’ (YAC) to connect to the youths all over the country on this issue. So they are not that idiot after all. Let us have a look at what their mentors are upto.

With all things happening, I have my suspicions that the BJP is trying to convert Kashmir into another Babri Masjid/Ram Mandir issue for electoral gains. It can be learned from the experience of 2011– Republic Day, when making trouble, not peace and unity, was the real purpose of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ekta Yatra to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. The people and the government of the troubled State of Jammu and Kashmir certainly did not needed this disintegrative march by leaders of the country’s principal opposition party, who seemed intent on heightening tensions and provoking violence rather than on healing wounds and restoring normality. In the face of a potentially explosive situation, the law-enforcing authorities in Jammu and Kashmir had no choice but to stop the Yatra at Lakhanpur and arrest the leaders. Clearly, the BJP wanted to use the Kashmir Valley as another stage for furthering its communal agenda. I believe Kashmir, like the Babri Masjid, is seen by the BJP as a tool for political mobilization of the majority across the country.

As the Yatra, which set off on January 12, 2011 from Kolkata, looked more like an expedition to conquer enemy territory than a march for a national unity. The political target was not only separatism in Kashmir but the communal harmony in the main-lands. Sushma Swaraj, one of the expeditionary leaders, outlined how the BJP intended politically to use the stopping of the yatra: while those who burnt the national flag were being given security, she said, those who held up the tricolour were being arrested. Such oft-repeated confrontational tactics offer limited purchase. An opposition party would be expected to concentrate on issues that resonate with the people.

The BJP and the other Indian cultural nationalists want to treat Kashmir as a land that marks India’s victory and its citizens as their subjects. Perhaps this is why the Indian Nationalists do not condemn killings of citizens in Kashmir—even though they claim they are Indians. The attitude of the Indian leadership and smug middle class society towards Kashmir reminds me of the way the British used to see their colony, India. They were as immune and indifferent to the English atrocities on the freedom fighters as we seem to be towards Kashmiris today.

Other than the ‘bloody idiots’ and their seniors, let us have a look at what the centre is doing.

The Indian state is suppressing dissent by criminalizing innocent people. My biggest fear as a citizen of this nation is of the federal government’s suppression of dissent by laying out false charges against those who speak out. India is becoming ‘dangerous’ for people fighting for social justice. Not long ago, civil rights activist Dr Binayak Sen was booked for sedition and alleged of links with the Maoists.

Recently, Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh was quoted in a US based science magazine saying, “the atomic energy programme in Kundankulam has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly based in the United States, don’t appreciate our need to increase the energy supply.” That was more than enough for the bureaucracy, political class and media to paint over 33, 000 NGOs that receive foreign funding with the same brush. So, all these NGOs are now anti-national and their activities are under scanner.

Indian democracy and economic power has failed to win the hearts and minds of people in Kashmir. There is a ‘so called’ elected government in Kashmir which is led by you but it does not enjoy the same legitimacy as elected state governments enjoy in the Indian main-lands.

South Asian expert and professor emeritus at the University of California, Stanley Wolpert in his latest book, India and Pakistan suggests: “India should stop the military occupation and praetorian attacks on Kashmir’s Muslim majority.” Wolpert added that the New Delhi should solemnly commit to support human rights of the people in Kashmir.

Unawareness about the Kashmir conflict in the Indian main-lands is a concern. An ordinary Indian citizen who spends half of his/her day earning a living and making ends meet is understandably ignorant about Kashmir, while the elite are reluctant to accept the ground realities in Kashmir. However, can it be dismissed as a simple unawareness or is it a ‘forced ignorance’? Is India ready to be an enlightened democracy to address grievances of a people who want to maintain a historic separate identity? Kashmir is a complex issue that admits of no straight or quick solutions.

If the military might could not hold south Sudan with the north, if enlightened despotism could not stop the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in Tunisia and if strong armed tactics couldn’t curb the democratic aspirations of the people of Egypt—can the controlled mandate in the Kashmir Vale and ABVP hooliganism against Geelani resolve the conflict of Kashmir?

Mr Abdullah, I have a small request to make. The next time, you write off the ABVP as a ‘bloody idiots’, please do remember to accuse their mother organization, namely the BJP and their political alliance of the NDA who gave you the opportunity to serve as the Union Minister of State for External Affairs. I hope you remember that the former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayi tried his best to convince you not to resign from the cabinet. Well, the day you will have the guts to say the BJP and the other cultural nationalists are ‘bloody idiots’. I will believe that you are not a hypocrite.

However, I do share your view in condemning the attack on Syed Ali Shah Geelani. There is no way that the attack on the 83-year0ld man can be justified.

Syed Asim Ali is from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. He is a senior journalist and has worked with The Asian Age, The Statesman and Times Now. Currently he works as a researcher in Delhi.

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