Two decades have elapsed since terrorism first reared its ugly head in the placid valley of Kashmir. In the interim, the people of the state have witnessed a suffocation of their cultural expression, a strangulation of their economic lifeline and a breakdown of their ethnic fabric. The most unfortunate fall out is the large scale exodus of the Kashmiri Pundit population from the valley which made refugees out of innocent people within their own Nation. Today, when things are finally looking up for the region and its inhabitants with the tourist returning to the valley and the terrorist guns being considerably muted, there are people who still refuse to see the light of day. These people continue to harp on redundant issues like human rights violations by the security forces and try desperately to draw the attention of the international media and human rights agencies to such perceived violations. The most recent instance of this nature is the statement issued by the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as part of his weekly sermon on the occasion of World Human Rights Day. He accused the West as well as the Indians of being hypocritical in talking about human rights violations in countries like Iran but maintaining silence on the issue of Kashmir.
The silence of the West is understandable. Ever since terrorism made its advent on American and European shores the Western countries have come to realise the folly of blindly espousing the cause of human rights in regions and areas where the security situation is very complex and volatile. That apart, the world has also come to realise the falsehood that countries such as Pakistan spout while rendering utmost support to terrorist activity not only in the neighbourhood but in the international arena as well. Under these circumstances, there is no sympathy for causes espoused by the likes of separatists in Kashmir.
There are other questions that arise in this context as well. First, what all does the concept of human rights involve? Is the ability to fearlessly practice one’s religion not part of human rights? Is the freedom to earn one’s livelihood not part of human rights? Is the right to education not a part of human rights? If all these are indeed a part of essential human rights, as any right thinking individual would be able to testify, then who is the human rights violator here? The security forces that work day and night to guarantee all of the above to the denizens of the valley (at great personal cost) or the separatists who first hounded the Kashmiri Pundits out of the valley, then created a situation wherein the economic lifeline of the valley was all but cut-off and finally initiated a series of Hartals and Bandhs that denied the common man the right to earn his daily bread and the youth of the valley the right to education. Is it any wonder that the so-called freedom movement in Kashmir is devoid of all popular support?
The question then arises, what after all is the purpose behind this agitation? Who benefits from such propaganda? It is obvious that the common man whose cause the separatists pretend to be espousing is a loser all the way. It is also obvious that an unstable Kashmir would benefit Pakistan in its nefarious designs of spreading terrorism and aid the Pakistani army in maintaining its stewardship within the politics of that country.
Another pertinent question pertains to the financial aspects. Understandably, such subversive movements cannot function without considerable financial backing. Had this been a movement that enjoyed the support of the masses, the money could have been obtained from the common man. Since this is not happening, it becomes further evident that the money is flowing from Pakistan and other countries or agencies that have a stake in keeping the region unstable. That being the case, it emerges that the said leadership functions simply as the mouthpiece of the larger stakeholders. A segment of the leadership in Kashmir does not appear to be gainfully employed in any economic activity other than creating unrest. It is only natural to assume that the finances that support this segments luxurious lifestyles flow from the business of keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir.
What moral and ethical right does Mirwaiz and his ilk have to sacrifice the life, comfort, happiness, security and future of millions of Kashmiris purely to maintain their luxuries? Does it not pinch their collective conscience when thousands of daily wagers in the region are denied a single square meal in the bitter cold just because they have called for a strike? A most disgusting face of this gross human rights violation by the separatists has come to light due to the death of a shopkeeper, Tariq Salam Bhat, in Kashmir. The 26 year old Bhat was surrounded by about 60 youths near Srinagar on December, 03, 2011 and struck with a cricket bat, a day after he defied the protesters. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries. If this is not a clear cut case of HR violations then what is. One wonders as to why the State government has not booked the separatists organisations for culpable homicide amounting to murder.
Another interesting fact is that separatist leaders like the Mirwaiz today themselves fear for their lives. The very cadres that they have raised to create unrest in the valley have now become a threat to their own life and property. There is, in fact, a profound lesson here to be drawn for all existing and aspiring politicians. Even though playing to the gallery and spouting populisms may bring limited gains in the short run, it is sure to rebound in the longer run. Ultimately, it is sound ethical principles that bring repute; otherwise political careers are bound to suffer ignominy as will be the fate of most of these leaders.