The eight point package announced by the Central Government in the aftermath of the All Party Delegation’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir is in the process of being implemented in tandem with the State Government. Bunkers are being dismantled from within the city of Srinagar, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is under review, the curfew in the valley is being relaxed in a phased manner, detentions under the Public Safety Act are being reviewed and have even been revoked in certain instances, a number of young men arrested on count of stone pelting have been released from jail and a considerable development grant has been sanctioned for the state.
All these steps have been initiated with the intent to assuage the hurt sentiments and psyche of a people who have been living under a low intensity conflict situation for long and have also been subjected to a misinformation campaign unleashed by agencies with motivated agendas. Such packages are the norm when efforts to normalise situations are made. It is also the norm that the announcement and implementation of such packages is welcomed by all concerned as a sign of good intentions and a step forward in the right direction. Such behaviour is indicative of a positive attitude and a willingness to move out of a counter-productive situation. The case of the Kashmir valley however emerges as an anomaly in this regard mostly due to the rigid obstinacy of some of its so called leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani
To begin with, even as the process of normalisation was initiated, and the first overtures were made, segments within the political rubric of the state led by Geelani chose to play spoilsport. They refused to come forward to offer their views on the situation much less join issue. Instead Geelani chose to impose preconditions and the rest merely followed his lead. This parochial stance did not stop the all-party delegation from going forward to meet the separatist leadership in their own houses and then getting back to the capital with some very positive and forward looking recommendations. Unfortunately, the views of the Hurriyat faction, howsoever irrational, remained unrepresented formally even though they have been given due consideration while formulating the eight point package. On this count the Hurriyat leadership in general and Geelani in particular has failed the people of Kashmir.
That is not all. Geelani has even failed to find merit in the package offered by the government. He has instead hardened his stand and has decided to continue with his motions of issuing a series of protest calen
dars that achieve nothing more than disruption of normal life. All economic and social activity in the valley would grind to a halt if Mr Geelani is allowed to have his way. By so doing he is holding the valley to ransom.
As it is, this battle of egos has manifested itself in the playgrounds for innocent children yet to savour the fruits of life. While the Central Government has ordered the re-opening of schools and other educational institutes in the valley, Mr. Geelani is opposing the move tooth and nail. In order to fulfil his devious designs he has engineered the pelting of stones at school buses that dare to operate against his writ. This is happening despite protests against these unholy calendars and in favour of opening of schools in Tral, Maigam, Kangan, Pampore and Magam amongst a host of other areas. The future of the children or their safety and innocence are of no consequence to Mr. Geelani. Instead, with the equanimity of an individual who absolutely lacks the fore sight and vision to see beyond his own selfish interests he claims that his protest movement is at too critical a stage to let minor details such as children’s education and their safety interfere with it.
Geelani is spearheading this protest movement for the irrational objective of gaining “Azaadi” while himself remaining a part of the state’s political structure. This double standard is tantamount to protesting against his own self. Geelani cannot have his cake and eat it too. He cannot enjoy all the facilities being offered by India and an Indian nationality and yet demand secession from the Union of India.
Geelani must realise that boycotting the democratic process is equal to relinquishing responsibility to the people that he claims to represent. A responsible leader has a critical role to play and it has to go beyond being just a rabble-rouser in order to achieve the requisite amount of media bytes. In fact, this tendency of his to play to the gallery by every now and then turning around and blaming New Delhi for all the woes of the Kashmiri people is getting to be repetitive. How long can we allow him to carry on this charade? Ultimately the people have to see through what he is: An irresponsible leader who failed to deliver and has got into the habit of blaming others for his failures.
New Delhi has remained a flogging horse for too long. On its part the Central Government must also realise that by constantly trying to assuage the feelings of people like Geelani and by unduly pampering them, they are doing nobody a favour least of all the people of Kashmir.