The beauty of the “pro-freedom camp” is that while everyone likes to sermonise, none wants to listen. Every separatist leader highlights the need for unity amongst the various factions, yet not one has ever offered to set aside his petty prejudices to facilitate reconciliation and so the Hurriyat remains a highly fractured conglomerate. Separatists wax eloquent about the people’s unfettered ‘right to self determination’ and their profound respect for ‘vox populi’, but each leader still tries to impose his own views regarding the future of Kashmir on the public.
We live in an environment over- brimming with leaders who are busy churning out strategies for resolving the Kashmir imbroglio and the latest to join this group is imprisoned separatist leader Dr Mohammad Qasim Faktoo. In his recently released booklet titled “Baang” (Call) Faktoo has come up with suggestions on how to take the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ forward. Some of his proposals are:
• Avoid a plebiscite in Kashmir by eschewing the demand for ‘right to self-determination’.
• Seek resolution of the ‘K’ issue by applying the ‘two nation’ theory formula.
• Officially accepting “armed struggle” as part of the ongoing movement in Kashmir and inclusion of United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizb supremo Syed Sallauhdin as member of the Hurriyat.
• Launching a diplomatic ‘offensive’ to draw attention of the international community towards the ‘K’ problem and highlight Indian ‘occupation’ of Kashmir.
• Reaching out to the Muslims from other parts of the State (Jammu and Ladakh).
Unfortunately, while these suggestions appear impressive, they are by no means novel! The ‘Dr Faktoo plan’ seeks resolution of the Kashmir issue by rejecting ‘right to self determination’ and insisting that the principles of the ‘two nation’ theory be applied instead. However, this option has already been voiced by Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani, who by stating that “according to the guide lines of two nations theory, which were never followed by India, Kashmir was a natural part of Pakistan,” has already expressed exactly what Faktoo is now trying to say!
Next is Faktoo’s recommendation that the Hurriyat should officially accept ‘armed struggle’ as part of the Kashmir movement and that the “Hurriyat should nominate the chief of UJC its member as he is the head of the armed freedom struggle.” On this issue too, the Hurriyat (G) chairman has made the stand of the separatist conglomerate absolutely clear. By specifically declaring that “We (the Hurriyat) never denied or ignored the role of gun in our struggle,” Geelani sahib has already recognised the UJC chief as an equal and key stakeholder in the Kashmir movement!
Faktoo’s plea that the separatist leaders should ‘reach out’ to Muslims of Jammu and Ladakh is laudable. However, if the objective of this initiative is to garner support for creating an overwhelming ‘pro- Pakistan lobby’ in J&K, then Faktoo may be biting much more than he can chew. Letting religion overshadow ideology has already damaged the ongoing movement in Kashmir and communal suggestions that in any case are practically unachievable do no good to the ‘right to self determination’ struggle.
The actions recommended to be taken by Dr Fakttoo and the rationale he has offered to support his recommendations is not very convincing either. Wanting the UN resolution seeking plebiscite to be scrapped simply on the hunch that India will be able to change the demography in Kashmir in the next fifty years is a preposterous suggestion. Then, he wants the Hurriyat to send emissaries to various nations to apprise them of the Kashmir problem and “Indian aggression” while simultaneously demanding that the separatists should officially declare that “armed struggle” would continue till the Indian army is present in Kashmir. Such a proposal that wants the international community to accept “armed struggle” but at the same time condemn “Indian occupation” is akin to a child’s desire of having the cake and eating it too!
It is evident that the ‘Dr Faktoo Plan’ will never see the light of day since it lacks practicality and doesn’t have anything unique to offer. However, it has once again raised some very pertinent questions regarding the Kashmir struggle and some of these are:
• Should the core orientation of the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’ be based on religious considerations or on ideological reasoning?
• Should UN resolutions be the basis for resolution of the Kashmir issue or the same needs to be replaced by the ‘two nation’ theory?
• What has actually been achieved through “armed struggle” and the pros and cons of the same?
Since three entities (India, Pakistan and Jammu-Kashmir) are involved, the ‘right to self determination’ has three possible interpretations. First being complete independence for Kashmir, second the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan and third, its merger with India. Unfortunately, the UN resolution does not give the people of Kashmir the option of ‘independence’ and hence the only choice they have is choose between India and Pakistan. Thus, with the faction espousing “azadi” (Independence) being ‘invalid’ and the separatists declaring that the “pro-Indian” segment represented by mainstream political parties in Kashmir lack popular support, it leaves only the “Kashmir banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become Pakistan) camp in the fray.
Islamabad has interpreted the recent Pakistan flag waving incidents in Srinagar as “the manifestation of the deep and lasting emotional bonds between the people of Kashmir and the people of Pakistan.” So, when it is so confident of its own popularity in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK), why is Islamabad not clearing the way for plebiscite by announcing that it is willing withdraw its troops from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK)? And this is where things have been coming to a grinding halt for more than six and a half decades!
While our leaders keep coming up with new ideas on how to get the people of Kashmir their ‘right to self determination’, none have ever tried to contest the major flaw of limited options contained in the UN resolutions on Kashmir. If the kingdom of Sikkim could be given the option to remain independent in 1947, then why has this option been denied to Kashmiris? Though many may not have any affection for India, there are also many who are not too enthused by Pakistan either as both the countries have failed to fulfill their promises. So, could this be one of the reasons behind Islamabad’s reluctance in moving beyond rhetoric and demanding that the long overdue plebiscite in J&K be held under the auspices of the UN in an early and time-bound manner?