Delhi should not expect much from setting free the top three separatist leaders in Kashmir from the House arrest , particularly Syed Ali Shah Geelani who now stands as an elderly and unyielding icon of “ resistance” against the Indian rule in Kashmir . First of all , if there were not any substantive charges against these leaders Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik , why should have they been kept under house arrest for so long . In that case , it is mere course-correction, which Delhi hopes will serve as an olive branch to them and it may help pave way for dialogue in the not so distant future.
As citizens of India , they have every right to enjoy access to their places of worship and deliver religious sermons and air political views . That is what keeps them alive in the public eyes in Kashmir, where they represent who face up Delhi . They challenge Indian rule in Kashmir and they cannot , and will not, change their views , for they don’t want peace in Kashmir unless a dignified solution as per the United nations Resolutions of 1949 is delivered to them . They will not budge an inch from their stand unless Pakistan wants them to move in a particular direction . Pakistan has given no such indication .
If Delhi’s objective is to use them against the common enemy – the rising attraction for the Islamic State ideology in Kashmir – it is forgetting that they are His Masters Voice of Pakistan . They will preach what Islamabad-Rawalpindi will tell them . They are not working for the people of Kashmir nor they are talking of preserving Kashmiri identity vis-à-vis Pakistan. To them, the religious and political identity of Kashmiris is akin to that of Pakistanis . the linguistic and ethnic identity of Kashmir melts before that . If they are offering any hope to the contrary , then Pasthuns would not have risen in revolt in Pakistan. Their thesis that Kashmiri Muslims are Pakistanis is patently wrong. And, if they are taking their silence as acquiesce , again they are wrong, because it is the fear of the gun that keeps them silent .
Delhi can gain , provided it avoids selling their release as confidence building measure . It should be seen as a normal administrative step , it will gain the status of CBM ,only if Delhi goes in for risk taking exercise of releasing the political prisoners and creating an atmosphere of peace . There is nothing wrong if the military footprints are reduced from the civilian areas . It would lower the pressure on the security forces and less the interaction between civilian population and the uniformed men in the conflict situation, the better . Secondly, in case of any violence , there would be less chances of the collateral damage , and most important , if militants establish their bases in residential areas , the whole onus for going anything wrong would be on them .
In today’s context, the need is to prevent the growth of the religious seminaries and the fantasy storytellers in the localities and villages . That is challenging the very Kashmiri ethos . Here are the interests of the mainland and Kashmir merge with one another.. But that requires deft handling of the individuals and collective will of the people. The release of separatists may be a baby step in this direction , if at all it is one.