Srinagar, March 7: There is still a chill in the air. Winter is not yet over and spring is slow in coming. As the people of Kashmir move around wrapped in their warm firans through the sunlit cold haze of a late winter, they are waking up to the possibility of momentous political developments in the offing.
The Kashmir issue may be slowly moving towards a solution, if not a final resolution, but the Kashmiri people are unsure of what its contours may be.
“I don’t have to be a genius to realise that the Americans will not allow any violent movement or Islamic militancy to succeed. That applies to Kashmir as well,” said Sajjad Lone, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference. He was perhaps voicing the apprehension of many Kashmiri leaders that a chapter in the history of the Kashmir movement was coming to a close.
The writing on the wall seemed to be clear to most Kashmiri leaders that the US and other western powers would not allow Islamic jihad to succeed in carving out political sovereignty in any part of the world. They fear its consequences elsewhere, especially in Israel.
The intellectual churning about what might happen to the fate of Kashmiris in the changed geo-political environment is palpable. Pervez Imroz of the Coalition of Civil Society in Srinagar felt that there was “a lot of suspicion about the US” in the minds of Kashmiris.
Imroz said: “After 9/11, the American perception of Kashmir has changed. They are the ones who are defining what terrorism is and saying that the use of violence is not justified even for a just cause.”
He said: “The US is interested in preventive diplomacy. It wants peace and stability but that may be at the cost of the rights of Kashmiris. People are wondering if they have not defended the rights of the Kurdish people in Iraq, why would they defend our rights'”
Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who heads one of the factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), felt that the Americans lack understanding of the basic and peaceful tenets of Islam.
“The Americans have their own interest (to protect). They are prejudiced and do not want to see just demands being met. If they did, then the situation in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan would not exist,” he said.
However, he declared that “as far as our stand is concerned, it is just and noble. We will, Inshaallah, continue to fight for it.”
While emphasising that in the changed international environment too, there was a need for a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue, Yasin Malik, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, felt that there was need to recognise that the Kashmiri people were fighting for a “just cause”.
He said: “It is a legal movement. The international community has a legal and a moral obligation to resolve this dispute. You can thrust a solution (on us). But if the international community wants peace and stability, it cannot suppress the issue and the people. The issue should be resolved through a dialogue.”
There were others, however, who were more introspective and admitted to political mistakes in the past. “We have made several mistakes in the past,” Mussadiq Adil, the vice-chairman of the People’s Political Front, said upfront. His party, led by Fazal Haq Qureshi, is part of the Hurriyat dialogue with home minister L. K. Advani but has threatened to walk out because of continuing human rights violations on the ground.
Recounting the political errors of the Kashmiri leaders in the past, Adil said: “We celebrated the collapse of the Soviet Union as something desirable — yet had it continued to exist today, the US would not be able to impose its will on the world. We celebrated the Pakistani nuclear bomb as the ‘Islamic’ bomb. But because of that Kashmir became a nuclear flash point in the eyes of the world. And now a solution may be imposed on us. We linked up militancy with Islam even though that turned out in retrospect to be the US need rather than ours. Islamic militancy has helped the US more than it has helped us.”
Extremely lucid in his analysis of the changed situation in which Kashmiris find themselves, Adil asked: “Can we go running to Pakistan again for help' Had Pervez Musharraf acted emotionally, perhaps the very existence of Pakistan would have been threatened. Today, if Pakistan is more bothered about protecting itself rather than protecting Kashmiris, can we blame them' This is natural, if my own existence is threatened, how can I be expected to help anyone else'”
Asked about the future of Kashmir under the present circumstances, Abdul Gani Bhat, the leader of the Muslim Conference, admitted that the environment has changed. “Three main factors will determine the solution to the Kashmir issue — the globalisation of the economy, the nuclearisation of the subcontinent and to cap it all, the desire of the people of India and Pakistan to live in peace. And to this you can add the US interest in South Asia,” he said.
However, he refrained from giving clear answers to what such a solution might be. “I cannot put on blinkers. I am in politics and it is an art of exploring possibilities. There are no hard and fast rules in politics about framing an opinion. Opinions can change when the situation changes. You can’t always be coherent in politics. (Philosopher John) Locke said that incoherence is the virtue of a brilliant mind, but the incoherence of a politician must not be taken as a malady. Wait and see how things shape up,” he said.