Who is calling the shots in Kashmir?


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University of Kashmir

By Gowhar Geelani

Perhaps it is the state’s worst-kept secret that politics of any kind is not allowed inside the University of Kashmir. Since past two decades the so-called mainstream politicians, perhaps deeply disturbed by the popularity of leaders belonging to the pro-resistance camp, have been pitching for “de-linking politics from academics”. In this very context, everything was done from ‘stick to carrot policy’ to ensure that the University remained apolitical during the turmoil years. The continued ban on the Student Union is a case in point. On the other hand, a handful of professors, lecturers and teachers who write for various newspapers in Kashmir limit themselves to issues pertaining to religion, morality, culture and literature only. And those who dare to write on the current affairs, politics and history of Kashmir can be counted on the finger tips. This needs no proof. But now we are hearing that the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has launched his party’s first Student Union. Interesting.

“Dialogue, discussion and debate are the essence of democracy and need to be promoted for a healthy strong polity….,” Mr. Omar has been quoted having said so while interacting with the office bearers of newly founded Student’s wing of the National Conference [NCSU]. The fact remains that Mr. Omar won’t allow Geelanis, Mirwaizes and Maliks to visit the burnt Shrine, built in the memory of revered 11th century Sufi Saint Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani  [Dastageer Sahib], at Khanyar to express grief and show solidarity; he and his government place a blanket ban on their movement on Martyrs’ Day (13th July) and prevent them from paying tribute to martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the dawn of freedom (against Dogra autocracy in 1931); his administration places all major resistance leaders under house arrest, sometimes even on Fridays too, to disrupt their intended communication with the people of Kashmir, and then he is loud-mouthed about the 3 D’s; ‘Dialogue, Discussion and Debate’. Mr. Omar should actually be talking about the real 3D’s: “Deceiving, Dillydallying and Dodging”. It would be naïve on part of the Omar Abdullah-led government to insult the intelligence and wisdom of the people of Kashmir. People are mature enough to understand his ‘Selective Democracy’!

If at all Mr. Omar is seriously genuine in what he is trying to make us believe in, the real test of his genuineness then lies in allowing the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Mohammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan to visit all the Universities in the Kashmir Valley to launch membership drives for their respective amalgams and parties. His government should allow formation of Students’ Unions of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat, Hurriyat Conference (G), Awami Action Committee, Hurriyat Conference (M), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, J&K Democratic Freedom Party and J&K National Front, etc. We should be seeing pictures of garlanded youths photographed with Geelanis, Mirwaizes, Maliks, Shahs and Khans inside the Universities of Kashmir and Jammu. Only then shall people start believing in what otherwise only seem to be deceptive politics and theatrics of absurdity. At the moment it only means democracy for the selected few and advocates of status quo.

On a different wicket, the Indian Army has been focusing on ‘Heart is My Weapon’ doctrine. While analysing Kashmir and its people, Lt. Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) at Srinagar-based 15th Corps, writes on southasianidea.com: “For far too long this concept [‘Heart is My Weapon’] has received lip service with reliance being on hard power – ‘Kick them in the pants and the hearts will follow’….The challenge thus is taking public stand on nominating ‘Hearts’ as the stated doctrine. This thus is an initiative which at the best of times is fraught with dangers of backfiring…The neglected intelligentsia, media and opinion makers were thus instrumental in building the right atmospherics through ‘intelligent integration’ as part of the solution.”

It is another matter that one more innocent youth Hilal Ahmad has allegedly been killed in cold blood by the 27-RR personnel at Aloosa in Bandipora, in North Kashmir. That said, the ‘Heart is My Weapon’ strategy seems to be ‘working wonders’ though, as the news about widespread condemnation over the killing of hapless Hilal is a page 7 item in one of the widely circulated dailies in the Kashmir Valley. This news fails to grab the space on the front page or even Page 2. Travesty of journalistic ethics and sensitivities.

What better proof of how the militarization of Kashmir could not only be justified but prolonged as well than the candid admissions by none other than Lt. Gen Syed Ata Hasnain himself in his long analysis of the Kashmiri minds. This is from the proverbial horse’s mouth: “….Kashmiris are hugely talented and grossly misunderstood people. They like ‘Taqrir’ [debate] to vent their feelings. Understanding these cultural sensitivities thus is crucial. Historically, in order to draw attention to their sufferings, they have tended to exaggerate them. This also needed to be understood by the ‘Dil Se’ forces with sensitivity. This needs to be channelized optimally in favour of hearts.” The Army commander further writes: “The heart of the strategy lay in winning the psychological operations by a mix of hard and soft techniques.” Talking about the turning point, moving from conflict stabilisation towards peace, Mr. Hasnain opines: “‘Awami Sunwais’, change in convoy timings, Jee Janab, Kashmir Premier League [cricket tournament], football and basketball tournaments, tours by youth to various parts of India and helping them engage in education and employment were the corner stones of the concept of ‘Heart is My Weapon’….In the networked environment of today, print media follows electronic media, which in turn follows cyberspace, a space that respects no boundaries. All three media, namely print, electronic and cyber were harnessed to achieve own objectives…”

And all this while, many would have been under the impression that a civilian government was in charge of the proceedings in Jammu and Kashmir. Thanks to candid army commander they’ll now realise who actually calls the shots!

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The piece was written for Kashmir Times.

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