Delhi’s baby step , is it ready for  long journey

Binoo Joshi


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.

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