Kavita Suri

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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Towards “peace with dignity and honour” ... Yes, but ... 

It’s a festival time across Kashmir as the holy month of Ramdhan is in full swing. The time is just ripe. The sun has just mellowed down, gold has seeped into the valleys, stroked gently with russet, orange and red. The Chinar (maple) trees are auburn, the orchards laden with apples and the valley adorned in a saffron cloak. As the new Mufti Sayeed government has reduced the power cuts from nine hours to just four and a half hours, the shoppers in this season which is full of autumnal glory, remain out in the open till late, no hurry to rush back to the safe and secure surrounding of their respective homes. No Special Operations Group (SOG) or State Task Force (STF) “terror” looming large on their minds, no frisking or checking by the Army or para-military force as the Army has recently suspended their operations and routine checking for this holy month besides lifting the night curfew. There have been minimum hartals too. As markets are open till late, Kashmiris go out for shopping even after breaking the fast (Iftaar) after a long day of fasting. Id is just days away and the apparent change is already visible. Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik has just been released. JKLF commander Showkat Ahmad Bakshi, who masterminded the abduction of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's daughter Rubaiya, has also been set free on bail after 13 years. So is JKLF commander Nazir Ahmad Sheikh alias Gul Danter and Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mohammad Ayub who too were set free on bail after 12 years. Stage is also set for the release of hard-liner Syed Ali Shah Geelani who has been put up in Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi. Not only the hundreds and thousands of Kashmiris feel the perceptible change in the situation since the new government assumed power, but the new chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, 67, who nursed the ambition of becoming the chief minister of the troubled state, (even just for two hours as he had confided in somebody), feels that “atmosphere has been so relaxed after my government took over.” 

And suddenly it happens. Within a week of his taking over, Mufti government witnesses a major militancy related incident when eight CRPF men who are travelling to Jammu from Srinagar, get blown up to pieces as the vehicle in which they are travelling, hits a powerful IED triggered off by the militants giving a clear signal that Mufti’s words and actions are not acceptable to them. Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmir valley’s largest and indigenous militant outfit issues clear state statement saying that whatever Mufti government is doing, is not justified. “And they won’t stop for anything short of Azadi”. So does other groups like Jamait-ul-Mujahideen. Lashkar-e-Taiba , the pan-Islamic terrorist outfit also threatens to step up suicide attacks on security installations in J&K during Ramdhan. To add to all these, a strong opposition, this time in the form of National Conference, and obviously BJP-led NDA government, has started voicing concerns over the steps initiating by the Mufti which were a part of his elections manifesto. 

While the people of Kashmir seem to be “relaxed”,the political observers however are too worried over these steps initiated by the new chief minister who is known for his pro-militants leanings. Scrapping of POTA, merger of SOG into the regular police, release of militants and political prisoners…within days of its formation, the PDP-led coalition government has come under sharp criticism from various quarters. 

While the state police which was always in the forefront in the fight against militancy has been handcuffed by announcing the merger of SOG, a special wing of the state police created for launching anti-militancy operations against the terrorists along with army, BSF and other para-military forces, have not undertaken any operations against militants since the new government took over, the army too has now been forced to stay put, suspending its regular frisking and checking operations. Its much confusing for the forces. 

“Its lull before the storm. They have started releasing militants, no operations are being conducted, army is also lying low and thus, it is giving enough time to the militant groups to resuscitate and rejuvenate,” says Rajinder Singh Jamwal, Jammu Joint Students federation (JJSF) chairman, adding the Special Operations Groups was the main information gatherer and had many spectacular operations to its credit in the past many years. 

Not only the state police is feeling demoralized, a major reshuffle in the police and bureaucratic set up is on the cards with the present Director General of Police Mr Ashok.K.Suri being shifted (as he is considered to be pro-National Conference by the present regime). The move is being seen as a clear-cut signal to those who were close to National Conference that they would not be tolerated. 

Mufti, however, has won many fans in Kashmir. In these past few days only, the people who felt alienated, are happy with him and have too many expectations from the new government. 

“I pray for him. He will bring peace to Kashmir. See, in this month of Ramdhan when we used to get up to a dark morning to have our Sehri (snacks before a complete fasting day), there used to be pitch dark as Farooq Abdullah government used to give us no power, but now even for both Sehri and Iftaar, we have power. Its like Diwali for us,”said Haleema, a housewife living in Srinagar downtown’s Nowhatta area. 

Though the shrewd Mufti Sayeed, immediately a day after his swearing in, took a decision to reduce the power cut to almost half, people in Jammu feel that it is a part of his agenda to woo Kashmiris by giving them  “ a healing touch”. The man who has strongly been advocating “unconditional dialogue” with terrorists, separatists and Hurriyat leaders, they believe, has started implementing his separatist agenda. Many of them even go to the extent of saying that he is now an official spokesman of separatist conglomerate All Party Hurriyat Conference. 

“See, from the day one, he started implementing his agenda. Keeping Kashmiris happy with no power curtailments, releasing the boys who are in jails, suspending operations, scrapping POTA…After all these years of hardships, if an average Kashmiris does not find any Fauji stopping them for frisking or stopping of their vehicles, won’t he be too happy?”asks Prof Virender Gupta, Chairman, Jammu Mukti Morcha, an organization striving for separate statehood for Jammu adding that Mufti is eyeing for Kashmir which contributes 46 seats to the state assembly. 

“At least one thing is clear, this government will not complete a full term and Mufti knows it well. So he has started implementing his agenda- that is to strengthen his base in Kashmir so that next time if elections takes place, at least we can get maximum of 46 seats from Valley”, says Dr Agnishekhar, convenor, Panun Kashmir. 

Analyst believe that even if Mufti has to woo Kashmiri voters at the cost of Jammu or Ladakh,, he would hardly be bothered. But one factor that would force him to attend to them is its coalition partner Congress which has got 15 seats from Jammu. His People’s Democratic Party (PDP) hasn’t got any seat from Jammu which sends 37 MLAs to the assembly. Ladakh’s four seats can hardly make any difference to Mufti’s vote bank as all the parties in Ladakh, irrespective of their affiliations, have formed Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) to fight for UT status for Ladakh. Its two MLAs have supported the PDP-Congress coalition.   Significantly though, even if Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is also trying to win friends from Hurriyat Conference (APHC) by releasing their prisoner leaders “gradually’,(about 45 senior and middle rung Hurriyat leaders are in prisons), yet it may be extremely difficult for him to woo the separatist conglomerate. There is a widespread perception that the Mufti’s proximity with the Hurriyat leaders might help in breaking the ice in the Kashmir problem that has been haunting the Indian political establishment for over 12 years now. But it seems difficult too.Though Hurriyat has welcomed the move of releasing the political prisoner, yet threatened by Mufti having “hijacked “ its agenda, the APHC, recently discussed this issue in its general council meeting. Insiders said that the Hurriyat believes that if Mufti continues at the same pace, it would be a slow poisoning for them as till now, what they had been asking for, Mufti has started implementing it. Hurriyat, which faces tremendous threat of getting marginalized, has decided to have its own Common Minimum Programme focussing on self –determination. 

Slogans like “peace with honour”, Goli Nahin Boli Say Baat Banegi ( not bullets but dialogue will help resolve the issue) are easy to chant but practically speaking it is not easy and is fraught with serious repercussions. 

Besides, Centre is already offended with the Mufti government and has said that the state government has no power to repeal any law (POTA) enacted by the Parliament. 

“Militancy might get a boost by releasing ultras, non-implementation of POTA and call for cease-fire. It would also lead the militants to equip themselves and be more prepared," feels Sri Kumar, RSS-backed Jammu State Morcha chairman which recently contested nine seats in Jammu.Mufti government’s assurances that all the regions would be treated equally would be treated equally or that earlier panel reports, such as Wazir Commission (for creating more districts in Jammu), would be implemented have not convinced JSM chairman. 

Infact, Mufti’s adamancy over the issue of having the chief minister from Kashmir after the 10 October election results, have already created tremendous regional divide in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the Muslims living in Jammu now have started believing that they are not welcomed by Kashmiri Muslims as they are considered with Jammu people.   The example of LAHDC Thupstan Chewang submitting his resignation and then requested by Mufti and Ghulam Nabi Azad to come to Jammu and sort out their differences is also being considered as a desperate step towards balancing the regional aspirations which otherwise can pose serious challenges to Mufti government. 

Thus Mufti will also have to deal with the growing regional aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh regions. There have already been the demands for separate statehood to Jammu and union territory status to Ladakh. Besides, the displaced Kashmiri Pandits have also been demanding their rehabilitation by setting up a Homeland in Kashmir only. The statehood movement for Jammu, represented by the Jammu Mukti Morcha has already been gaining momentum. Although it could not manage any seat in recently concluded elections, but it has already made its presence felt and played important role in swinging the balance either way. How the Mufti will be able to tackle all these problems remains to be seen. 

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