How Will Trans-LoC Bus Legitimise Status Quo?
23 March 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Since the process was officially launched on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) to meet the April 7 deadline for flagging off the first passenger bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad, none in the power corridors objected to the unbridled freedom every person in the civilian population enjoyed while offering comments on the would- be event. The talk of the trans-LoC bus echoed even in Parliament and also in both Houses of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature on more than one occasion in recent days. Understandable it was. And understandable will be more and more words from politicians and presspersons even after the commencement of the bus service. What, however, is amazing is the effort by a section of Kashmiri separatists to raise objections, if not a hue and cry, over the 'unnecessary' project, namely, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. This bus service, if all goes well, should also help the separatist leaders fulfill their dream of putting their feet on the soil of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan. Expectations, in this regard, became too evident to be missed after the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was reported to have appreciated the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's idea in support of permission to the Hurriyat Conference leaders to travel to the other side via the Kaman bridge in Uri sector. After his meeting with the Prime Minister in Delhi recently, Mufti Sayeed made a significant point: Ensuing bus service can also be utilised by the Hurriyat leaders. The Hurriyat Conference is a house divided, with the known hard-liner, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, determined to insert needles into every Indian balloon. By the time Indian External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, finalised the trans-LoC bus formula in Islamabad with his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, many in J&K had expected a cooperative response from the Hurriyat leaders, particularly Geelani. This kind of expectation was over soon after Geelani aired his anti-bus feelings. More importantly, on the eve of Pakistan's National Day, the grand old separatist (Geelani) even went to the extent of lashing out at Islamabad for its approval to the bus service. This approval, he conveyed to his followers as well as others on the Kashmir scene, tantamounted to giving permanency to the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir. The genius is not necessarily creating new ideas, but rather practically adapting new ideas. That Geelani lacks genius has been illustrated by his hasty 'judgment'- Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service is an Indian plan to give permanency to the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir. Geelani's 'judgment' can simply be dismissed as part of his rhetoric or dramatics against India. The 'judgment', if studied in the context of Manmohan Singh's recent official statement in support of a 'negotiated' settlement of the Kashmir issue, does not call for any debate or discussions at any level on either side of the LoC. Whatever the attitude adopted by Geelani and likeminded people towards the trans-LoC bus service, there is no doubt that both Islamabad and New Delhi are keen on the successful run of the service. If Mufti Sayeed avoided discussing in public the differences of opinion among the opposition groups, including the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference, over the proposed launch of the bus to and from Muzaffarabad, he obviously wanted to ensure that unnecessary noises did not divert public attention. The Mufti, on the other hand, chose to reiterate that Hurriyat leaders, too, can be allowed to go across the border by making use of the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service. Which route these leaders will eventually take is not that important as the mixed reaction the much-hyped bus service has triggered among the State people, particularly in the Valley. Kashmir-watchers have come across evidence to suggest that a section of the Valley's population is unenthusiastic. Some staunch 'nationalist' elements, particularly those from the BJP, seem to entertain some fears vis-a-vis the 'hidden' agenda of major terrorist outfits. These fears also seem to have been the outcome of reports put out by a section of Indian media about the 'possibility' of some action by militants before or after the launch of the cross- border bus. And one of the reports quoted Mehbooba Mufti, president of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and sitting member of the Lok Sabha, as saying that some trouble-makers may be on the prowl to create problems. Significantly, at a time when reports talked of intelligence agencies keeping their fingers crossed as the D-Day for the launch of the bus approaches, Lt. Gen. Hari Prasad, GOC-in-C of the Northern Command, was quoted as saying: 'We will not lower our guard. We will keep a strict vigil on the border'. His advice to the militants: Shun the path of violence and join the national mainstream. Will the militants oblige him? Time alone will unfold reality.