The all-party delegation going from Delhi to Kashmir to offer balm and salve must keep in mind that the last vestiges of Kashmiriyat have been torn up and thrown into the Jhelum. The message of political Islam is all pervasive in the Valley
In the chrysalis of myth-making in Kashmir Valley’s fast circulating tittle tattle, India is now perceived to be the undisputed enemy and with its neo intifada succeeding in removing security forces from large pockets of the Valley, the general impression on the rumour circuit is that India is on the rails and ready to give in. While the forced removal of security forces is being seen as a victory by the enforcers of this doctrine, the Government of India is not sitting idle. In the ever changing tableau of Kashmir, nothing is constant.
In one fell swoop, it has put Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani under house arrest while Awami Action Committee chairman Moulvi Mohammad Umar Farooq has been detained in a temporary jail of Chashmashahi, JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik has been detained in central jail Srinagar, DFP president Shabir Ahmad Shah has been detained for long in his house. Further tier two of the separatist movement – Jama’at-e-Islami leaders from Sopore Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf has been detained in district jail Kupwara and Abdul Majid Fazli detained in Udhampur jail, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Mohammad Altaf Shah, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saif-ullah of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, advocate Mohammad Shafi Reshi president DPM have all been put under house arrest, as have social activist from Doda advocate Babar Hussain and EJAC president Abdul Qayoom Wani along with his colleagues.
All of them have come under the umbrella of Ittehad e Millat or Banner of Unity to expel Indian security forces from the Valley. Unfortunately, this unprecedented unity is a first in a long time in Kashmir and its urgency is driven by the rapid Islamisation of the Valley in the recent past where Kashmiriyat has been consigned to the ashes of history.
At the vanguard of this change is the Jama’at-e-Islami which on its website and FB page has sent an incontrovertible message to India – The Jama’at sincerely advises the Government of India to keenly understand the voice of Kashmiris and not to give deaf ear (sic) to them: “The on-going peaceful movement has been started by people themselves only to achieve their cherished right of self-determination and to blame any group or individual for provocation is quite senseless… This human issue can be easily resolved if government of India demonstrates realistic approach and sincerity towards the pledges made by it to the people of entire Jammu and Kashmir.” Similarly, the Jama’at’s Facebook page gives daily updates of its version of events in the Valley. Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s political Islam antecedents can be traced back to the Jama’at of which he was an active member. This evolved into the Tehreek e Hurriyat subsequently. He was an MLA from the Sopore constituency of Jammu and Kashmir three times (1972,1977 and 1987).
A more rabid version of the Jama’at; the Jamiat Ahlihadith Jammu & Kashmir is now propagating and circulating evangelist Zakir Naik videos in Kashmir Valley. Its FB page says that – Jamiat Ahlihadith Jammu & Kashmir is predominantly a da’wa and reformation movement which is struggling to wipe out the non-Islamic concepts and tradition that have crept into the Aqeeda with Srinagar as its headquarters. Incidentally, the Jamiat Ahle Hadith is also a religio-political party in Pakistan promoting the Ahle Hadees religious movement led by Prof Sajjid Mir and funded by the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. It runs The Muslim newspaper and has a large number of mosques affiliated to it across the Valley.
It isn’t that the separatists have not participated in the political process in Kashmir. In 1987, the Muslim United Front (MUF), an alliance of mostly religio-political and pro-plebiscite parties such as Jama’at-e-Islami, Jamaat-e-Tulba, Ummat-e-Islami, Jamiat-Ahl-e-Hadis, Anjuman-Tahfaz-ul-Islam, Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen, the Muslim Employees Front contested the Assembly election.
The ruling party in Kashmir, the National Conference, in alliance with Congress, engaged in the alleged blatant rigging of the 1987 elections. This electoral fraud meant that the MUF, expected to win around 20 seats, tasted victory in only four of the 43 electoral constituencies, despite receiving a high vote share of 31 per cent. This is considered by many as the turning point in Kashmir’s immediate history as it led to these MUF splinters to profess independence and taking up arms. The MUF leader Muhammad Yusuf Shah would take on a new name Sayeed Salahuddin, and rise to head the Hizbul Mujahideen, the military wing of the Jama’at. His election manager from the same 1987 poll, Yasin Malik, would go on to head the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front. The plates of history shifted unequivocally with this election.
With the Prime Minister reaching out to Kashmiris, having spoken of a permanent solution within the framework of the Indian Constitution, it will be imperative to speak to the separatists either individually or collectively. Autonomy has to be given, its form and shape amorphous and unknown. It isn’t that separatists have not been spoken to the past. In late January 2004, just months before the general election, deputy Prime Minister LK Advani met Maulana Abbas Ansari, 64, Ittehad -ul- Muslimeen, Abdul Ghani Bhat 60, Muslim Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, 33, Awami Action Committee, Bilal Ghani Lone 41, People’s Conference and Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi 57, People’s Political Front. A joint communique issued after the meeting encapsulated the gains and stated that the next round of discussions would be held in March. This is when the Indian intelligence agencies had driven a wedge in the Hurriyat and the more militant Syed Ali Shah Geelani was marginalised, and it was the moderate faction that met Advani.
An all party delegation heads for the Valley once again, it has to open a dialogue with the separatists for at this precise moment, their writ runs large in the Valley. It reprises a 39 member similar All Party team which went in 2010. In September, a five-member team including Sitaram Yechury, TR Baalu, Ram Vilas Paswan and Asaduddin Owasi met Syed Ali Shah Geelani – leader of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference – at his home. Geelani suggested that Parliament should constitute a committee to go into all the issues faced by Kashmiri people. “We have given five-points for starting the dialogue process for resolution of Kashmir issue which includes accepting Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory.” Among the other conditions laid down by the hardline leader include initiation of complete demilitarisation of the state. The delegates later reached the residence of moderate leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who met them wearing a black band in protest. The Mirwaiz, in a memorandum to the delegation, wanted a negotiated solution of the Kashmir problem.
Once things normalised in the Valley, everything was forgotten and Kashmir grew distant from Delhi. Now a new delegation will return to offer balm and salve. The Government of India will have to do much more, it will have to ring in autonomy of some kind and give the populace something to chew on. The Kashmir of 2016, again September coincidentally, is starkly different from the Kashmir of six years ago. The message of political Islam is all pervasive. The last vestiges of Kashmiriyat have been torn up and thrown into the Jhelum. Pellet guns have done incalculable damage to the already brutalised psyches of Kashmiris. They have to be told that you can’t wage war and talk at the same time.