An Angry Summer Turns Into Autumn Of Despair11 September 2010
Times of India
Srinagar: It is the dog days of summer, but will it be an autumn of anger. For two months, crowds of young men shouting 'azaadi' ruled the streets almost every day. As the season changes and autumn approaches, will the Valley's mood change? Or is 'azaadi' the only thing on the collective mind? Yes, for an influential section of its political class. Hurriyat leaders have been seen backing the stone-pelting crowds chanting 'azaadi'. Sotto voce, every Kashmiri separatist leader wants Kashmir to become part of Pakistan. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is the exception, candidly declaring his preference for 'Mulsim Kashmir' merging with 'Muslim Pakistan'. Might other separatist leaders-Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik of JKLF-feel the same, considering they have deep personal and monetary ties across the border? Malik is married to a Pakistani and developed a relationship with Pakistan after he crossed the LOC in 1989 in search of a gun to fight Indian security forces. The Mirwaiz's dynastic connections with Pakistan date to 1947 when his paternal uncle Molvi Mohammad Yousuf Shah left the Valley, becoming education minister and briefly, president of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. This is the back story of the fires that raged across Kashmir this summer. Is there a way forward? Not, as Geelani sees it. His five-point charter of demands is meant to defuse the immediate crisis, but he wants Delhi to accept Kashmir as a dispute between Pakistan and India. Even if India agreed to the relocation of security pickets spread across the state and revoked or amended the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Geelani's basic demand remains the same- the Kashmiris must be allowed to choose between India and Pakistan. Even so, revoking AFSPA in some districts will help in the short term. Farooq Ahmad Dar, a college teacher, agrees, this is the right way forward. 'Yes AFSPA needs to done away with to give people of Kashmir a sense of security from troops not entering their houses without following the proper procedure'. Businessman Shabir Ahmad is doleful about the economic climate in the Valley. 'I have not placed any order for fresh consignment here as the shops and business establishments remain close because of frequent strikes and curfews,' he says. Ahmad believes revoking AFSPA the people will help immeasurably and the government needs to do a bit more to boost local morale, not least, releasing political prisoners and issuing passports to young men who dream of jobs in the Gulf. The Centre has offered a jobs package for the state and J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah claims he is trying to create more job opportunities. But Manzoor Anjum, editor of the vernacular Daily Uqab, says Delhi is inconsistent with its carrots and sticks. 'With every new prime minister the policy on Kashmir changes. The central leadership is totally confused and ignorant of the ground situation in Kashmir,' he says.