Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kashmir is not leaderless

And there is no point in criticizing pro-freedom leaders, comments Naseer A Ganai.

The campaign has begun. And there seems to be no end to it. That there are no leaders in Kashmir, and they should be replaced by some unknown faces. The discourse is dominant about the separatist leaders, and it has gained momentum after the seven phase elections held in November-December 2008. People participated in the elections despite the poll boycott call from the separatist leaders. And now those who were then predicting that people would not participate in the elections, have started hounding the separatist leadership. The separatist leaders, like columnists, erred in gauging the mood of people. And now the process has begun to condemn them. But if people have voted and voted for the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, does it mean it is the end of everything.
One should remember the NC stands for autonomy and the Peoples Democratic for the Self-rule. That means both consider Kashmir a disputed region.
Still some elements here have gone to the extent of asking senior pro-freedom leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to act as spiritual leader. Their excuse is that Geelani is ailing and aged.  And for Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, they have a bizarre and dangerous comment: “That the Hurriyat led by him has always been indulging in anti-freedom movement activities.” There is no end to allegations. But the question is, if Mirwaiz Umar is not the leader, and if Geelani is not capable, then who are the leaders in Kashmir? Accepted Geelani has shortcomings, so has young Mirwaiz. Accepted their decision failed to yield desired results at times. But does that mean that they have no capability and they are deadwood, and they should be hounded out. During the uprising these leaders were sought by people. Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik were literally dragged out of their houses, and were asked to lead. They were the rallying points, and now they are being targeted for being the rallying points. 

They talk sense whenever they speak, and know the realities on ground. The condemnation of Geelani over closure of schools by Taliban in Swat and North Western Frontier Province is the most important statement given by him. He conveyed to the world that Kashmiri leaders are different, and not averse to change.
The question is if someone believes that pro-freedom leadership that comprises of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Sajjad Gani Lone and others have failed to deliver and they should be replaced, should they be replaced by those whom no one knows? The pro-freedom leaders from Mirwaiz to Shabir Ahmad Shah, Geelani to Malik, Sajjad to Shah cannot be sidelined because someone wishes so, or desires so. The wishes and whims of individuals don’t make the leaders. That whenever any individual presumes time has come to replace a leader, the leader should be replaced. 
No one says that there should not be retrospection. There is no harm in asking questions and seeking answers. In fact questions should be asked and answers sought. Over the
years the separatist leaders have failed to strengthen the democracy within their own parties. Had they strengthened the democracy within their parties, the scene would have been different today.
That would have strengthened the institutions. In democracy the stature of the leader never diminishes. In fact in true democracy status of leaders gets elevated. 
No doubt the leadership has failed to establish welfare institutions as well. And in recent times, instead of talking to each other, they were in habit of talking at each other. Had they established welfare institutions, had there been welfare institutions in place, the situation would have been far different. And there would have been far greater trust of people on the leadership. But then Kashmiris are not so lucky.  
Despite the failures, the separatist leadership couldn’t be described as bunch of nincompoops. When the separatist leaders claim that they represent sentiments of the people, are they conscious of their responsibilities. 
They should be repeatedly made conscious about their responsibilities instead of calling them ‘agents’.
Be it the mainstream pro-India parties or the pro-freedom separatist parties, Kashmir has been fortunate enough to produce leaders that could give run for money to any political leader in the South Asia.
In mainstream you have Omer Abdullah, Mufti Muhammad Syeed, Mehbooba Mufti, even for that matter Abdul Rahim Rather, Mehboob Beg, Muzaffer Hussain Baig and number of other persons, who could be equated with any leader in India or in Pakistan.
In separatist camp, there is Geelani, there is Mirwaiz Umar, Yasin, Shah, Sajjad, and all believe in non-violence and resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people. So there is no need to be despondent.

Children of stone:
On Sunday the noted columnist Ajaz-ul-Haq in his column “Stone Age” described throwing of stones by children and youth in Kashmir as “savagery.” He wrote: “The clutches of stone throwers comprise mostly children in their teens. Besides, it is being warmly participated by those bitten by the bug of joblessness. It is good day for someone in search of smoking off the frustration of domestic, emotional, economic or professional deprivation.” There is no harm in commenting on utility of routine stone pelting after every Friday. But describing it as savagery is going too far. If the word savagery is used for the stone throwing, then we have to invent words for the custodial killings, tortures, disappearances and other human rights abuses. 
In December 2008 whole Greece was up in arms. The rioting began shortly after a 15-year-old was fatally shot in what the police said was a confrontation with a mob. The government charged one police officer with premeditated manslaughter in the case and another as an accomplice. A writer termed the six-day uprising in Greece as “Greek intifada".  He wrote: “The "weapons" used by the teenagers in this "intifada" were their burning anger, their maturity, and predominately, Seville oranges, the traditional Greek student weapon against the police.” 70 people were killed in Kashmir uprising, and afterwards, scores booked under the PSA. Above all there is constant state of siege. So writers must understand the pain which people of Kashmir have gone through over the years. In 2000, writing its report on Israel's policing of the riots, "Israel and the Occupied Territories: Excessive Use of Lethal Force", Amnesty International asked a former senior police officer, Dr Stephen Males, who has made extensive studies in policing riots to participate in the first of three missions to Israel and the Occupied territories. Dr Stephen Males had said that for a force trained in policing riots and equipped and prepared for stone throwers, neither stones nor petrol bombs should be lethal. Therefore, there should be no need for the use of firearms, let alone lethal force against stone throwers.
In Palestine, the writers and poets have nothing but kind words for children who in desperation run after Israeli tanks with stones. Newspaper reports indicate that there are many poets in the Arab world. Throughout the Arab world poetry belongs to everyone—to the taxi driver and farmer, every bit as much as to the professor of literature. While even the school children study poetry, the Arabic-speaking world is still a place where oral tradition flourishes. To this day, there are elderly Palestinian poets in the refugee camps of Lebanon, who never learned to read or write, but are poets nonetheless, memorizing their own works, reciting them to friends and family, some of whom in turn memorize and recite them to new audiences. They understand pain and agony of children of Palestine. Syrian poet Nizar Qabani describes them as “Children of stone.” In his poem “I AM WITH TERRORISM”, he beautifully sums up agonies of writers in the countries without post offices as well:A homeland forbidding us from buying a newspaper
or listening to the news.
A dominion wherein birds are forbidden
from chirping.
A homeland where, out of terror,
Its writers became accustomed to writing about nothing.
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