Published On: Mon, Sep 21st, 2015

A Conversation on Jammu and Kashmir in London

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

On Friday 18 September 2015, RayMedia Limited London organized “A Conversation on Jammu and Kashmir” with A S Dulat and Dr. Farooq Abdullah. It was an impressive evening anchored by Ashis Ray and the event continued as a discussion around A S Dulat’s book “Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years”. I left the event educated by a telling observation of Dulat that “Modi is no Vajpayee and there can be no second Vajpayee”. I have contributed a few columns on the book and have critically appreciated the merits and failings of the book. The greatest failing is that it is not inclusive and on the side of the common people. It does not tell their tragedy and fails to touch the jurisprudence of the case.

Be it so, it is a book by a person who is well informed on Kashmir (Valley in Particular) and has remained connected with the visibles and invisibles in all disciplines of life in the Valley. A S Dulat admitted in the conversation that the book is his love story with Kashmir. One has to admit that Vajpayee era produced a different set of Indian officials who looked beyond death and intrigue and wanted to halt the bloodshed by structuring an inclusive political habitat.

It involved wise counsel to encourage Vajpayee’s bus travel to Pakistan and the various cease fires, starting with Hizb. I recommend that we read the book. It helps to walk you through many darker lanes and find people we have known differently. Unlike many other invisibles of RAW and IB in Srinagar, Dulat remains different and distinguished. I am sorry to admit that I had to call him a “racist” at the event and he took it with a smile. His defence was dignified. My observation was based on the fact that I have read the book and have not relied on press statements.

I was looking forward to listen to Dr. Farooq Abdullah and was reminded by the observation made by A S Dulat on page 237 of his book where a reference is made to his son Omar. Dulat observes, “I told Brajesh that Doctor Saheb was not agreeable. He became angry and said: ‘Omar ko bulao’. Omar was a minister so I called him up and said that principal secretary wanted to see him. He dropped in and I said, ‘I think the boss wanted to have a word with you.’ Unfortunately I had to accompany the young man. Brajesh was curt with him, unnecessarily so. ‘Why is your father resisting governor’s rule?’ Brajesh said. ‘I think you should talk to him, ‘Omar said. ‘Please convey to him that if he’s not willing to cooperate then we have our own ways of doing it,’ Brajesh said, nastily. It was all over in under two minutes. He came out quite shaken and though we took the lift down together, we did so in silence. The whole atmosphere had changed, and it contributed to the recriminations following election. Our relationship was never the same again.”

The second and the third generation of Sheikh sahib continue to be a disappointment to say the least. Although Dulat tried to stand by him as the main hero of his book, Farooq disappointed us with his replies to the questions asked by Murtaza Ali Shah of ‘GEO and The News, M Sarwar of The Nation, Ayub Aulia of The Light and others from the audience. As a start he seemed unsure whether he still continued to be Kashmiri Brahmin or his elders had converted to Islam back in time. His attempt to seek closeness to some in the audience had no merit. One does not need to be a secular in defining or defending ones faith. Respect for other faiths is the best defence.

The principal disappointment was Farooq’s defence of Indian security forces in Kashmir. Unlike his father’s explanation made at the UN Security Council in February 1948, Farooq had a different rider in 2015. He said that Kashmir needed a heavy deployment of Indian army as a precaution against an attack by the Pakistani and Chinese army. He said that in the presence of Indian soldier he and the people of Kashmir sleep well. He was told about the restraints on the admission of Indian soldier, about the question of their failure to honour the terms of admission and accrued culpability in the death of a generation.

Unfortunately age has not glossed his impetuous arrogance and he does not wish to misplace the guaranteed ticket to power. His imperfections are too strong and too dangerous for the people and for the Sheikh family. Omar on the other hand has expressed his deep remorse on the mistakes made by his grandfather and father, but this sheikh in the ‘middle’ has no regrets.

As against Farooq, Dulat was graceful in admitting the atrocities committed by the Indian security forces and this fact has been recorded by him in his book as well. Although tied to many restraints and faced with limits, Dulat has made an honest effort as an author and has highlighted the questionable role of army and IB in the affairs of Kashmir. Farooq had some grievances against the intelligence agencies. These were not in reference to the discomfort of the people of Kashmir but in reference to Delhi not trusting him. Farooq could have used the book under discussion to bring up AFSPA and IB’s role in the affairs of Kashmir since 1947. He could have left Pakistan out of the equation and used the occasion to reassure us that he is honest,  sincere and capable in advocating the  grievances of Valley Muslims in Delhi and at all forums.

I am a strong supporter of Sheikh sahib as a symbol and have always highlighted his wisdom of the times, in particular some parts of his speech made at the UN Security Council. I have shared some valuable time with him while I was a student at the University of Jammu and Kashmir (as it was then). Jammu has its own University today. Sheikh sahib would visit Dargah Hazrat Bal to supervise the work and say Friday prayers as well. I have also shared platform with Farooq in Vienna, London, Geneva, Brussels and with Omar in Islamabad.

Farooq said that accession was irrevocable, while as the people in the State, the three administrations of the State, the continued feud between India and Pakistan, the Vajpayee doctrine, Sky is the Limit offer, Article 48 of the Constitution of J & K, UN Resolutions on Kashmir and in particular Resolution of 30 March 1951 and the uprising in the Valley all point differently and Farooq stands marked as ‘a man out of touch’.

As a Kashmiri sitting in the audience, it was painful to see another Kashmiri determined to sin against the dignity of Kashmiri narrative and cause an offence. He was visiting and a guest at the event. Therefore it was difficult to check him and cause him embarrassment on merit. I have no right to disentitle him as a Kashmiri but would not respect and trust him with my grievance any more. I have revised my opinion about him and his narrative on Kashmir.

Farooq as rightly pointed out by Sarwar of The Nation, repeated what he has been repeating all his life except early 1970s. His knowledge of Kashmir starts with to and fro from helicopter or air travels from Srinagar to Delhi and his knowledge of history is equally tainted. The claim that borders could not be changed is an outdated claim. Borders have changed in Yugoslavia, in Indonesia (East Timor), Sudan and were going to change in Britain in 2014 Scottish referendum. The failed Canadian referendum on Quebec was also an exercise in the change of borders.

Farooq may be a staunch defender of borders, meaning accepting the division of the State, (status quo) has to bear in mind that his desire to see porous borders of Kashmir has another caveat as well. In fact his father’s regime has remained responsible for intolerance and for unlawfully exiling the dissent into the Pakistani side of Kashmir. Sheikh sahib is responsible for committing the first sin of dividing the families by exiling them. This may be the answer to a question asked from the audience at the event that where have the millions gone who would supported Sheikh sahib during his life and those who bid him a grand fare well at his death.

There was one consolation and a surprise when he denied to have any knowledge of India-Pakistan inking a deal on Kashmir as stated by Dulat. It brings out the fact that no matter how hard Farooq may try to be arrogant and overwhelming in the Valley, Delhi continues to treat him on ‘know as required’ basis and he did not need to be consulted in the so called deal on Kashmir.

I have no hesitation to say that Farooq was very poor, very mediocre in his narrative and disinterested in his duty to fairness to the tragedy of Kashmir at the event. He was very unfair. I had to say at the event Farooq sahib you have disappointed your people.

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