Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, Dec 26: Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone today described the recent polling held “under Indian gun” as “setback to pro-freedom leaders” but warned that it should not be construed as defeat of freedom struggle and people of Kashmir shouldn’t be targeted for participating in the poll process.
Sajjad launched scathing attack on the leaders and the intellectuals who argue that people in Kashmir are unpredictable and said people of Kashmir have rendered exemplary sacrifices and have followed the programs of the resistance leadership for last 20 years. “They (people) have gone above and beyond in every respect. If a significant number of people have dissented in this case-it highlights the need for introspection. Rather than accusing people we need to sit together and examine what are the causes of dissent,” he said.
Citing massive militarization, crackdowns, and arrests Sajjad said election turnout figures need to be evaluated in the context of an uneven playfield. Democracy, he said, was a holistic concept and not a partial concept. He said the government has shown a selective acceptance of democracy.
“The political leaders pursuing the boycott call were jailed or put under house arrest, undeclared curfew, thwarting peaceful marches and the armed siege of Kashmir has eroded the credibility of the voting percentage,” he said.
He said the poll process achieved through these means should not be construed as defeat of freedom struggle in Kashmir. “The separatists and separatism are two different concepts. And the separatism from India as an ideology runs deep in every Kashmir and no poll process could defeat it,” he said. He said in this poll process the militant gun stayed way but the “Indian gun” remained predominant in the process that is being portrayed as “political battle.”
He said leaders and intellectuals who try to divide the indivisible identity of the Kashmiri nation were playing Indian game-plan. “Some people through their writings and speeches are trying to strike at the cohesive and indivisible identity of the Kashmiri nation by insinuating that villagers or people of a particular community voted.” He said those who voted or boycotted were Kashmiri. He said no one should fall into trap as nothing would please the Indian state more than identifying a Kashmiri as a “rural” Kashmiri or an “urban’ Kashmiri or a “pahari” Kashmiri or a ‘Gujjar” Kashmiri or Shia or Sunni. He called for an immediate end to such “divisive designs” and said no leader or writer or an intellectual is above people.
He cautioned New Delhi for marketing the poll process here as “vote for India.” “The fair turnout of people can by no means be twisted into such a claim. If people have voted, they have voted for their day today problems. In our opinion, a large section of people have expressed a desire to de-link resolution from the day to day problems that they face,” he said.
However, he called for new strategy and said the conflict has dragged for a longer time than was initially thought. “We will have to admit that in running a marathon we scripted a strategy for repeated sprints and the unique requirements of a longer struggle were not factored in. This was a major lapse,” he added.
For 20 years, he said, the separatist leadership has been coasting, drifting or just reacting. “A time comes in our personal, professional lives when we look into the mirror and introspect and analyze,” he added.
He asked separatists leaders to introspect and said they should lead, follow or get out. The PC, he said, would come up with concept paper for fellow leaders and try to build consensus around it. He said time has come when the leadership has to decide to accept the realities as they exist. Sajjad said if separatists re-strategize they could turn tables around even after six months.
The PC chairman reiterated that he stands by the principle of dissent embodied in the boycott call. “We do not see the turn out as defeat. It can be best described as a setback,” he said adding that all great victories are born in learning the lessons from the set-backs. He however said it would be fatal if “we pretend as if nothing has happened.” He said the people have voted and they voted at the time when the world was looking at Kashmir.
“To put it plainly people have voted at a wrong time,” he said. He urged for getting rid of strategic contradictions and illogical paths and said they only create fatigue rather than build strength within the nation. “People power is all we have and all we need.” It advocated rethinking over frequent strike calls and said they hit more at Kashmiris than anyone else. He said the boycott calls help Indian state more and cripple Kashmir economy. He called for end to stigmatizing people and individuals in Kashmir. He said the resistance shouldn’t be confined to stone pelting. He called for building resistance institutions for continuing non-violent and peaceful struggle.