(Article written in 2010)
A historic agitation came to an end with eloquent symbolism. Terror struck in the heart of Jammu city around the time the Jammu Accord is being penned between the leaders of Sri Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti (SASS) and the representatives of the Governor. Terrorists held several people, including children, captive in a major hostage drama that kept the security forces on tenterhooks for almost a day – children remained hostage in the hands of the terrorists till the end – before coming to a happy end with all the three terrorists dead and hostages rescued.
Situation turned so tense that the SASS was forced to cancel a rally scheduled for 25 Aug. While the agreement reached between the SASS and the State administration was a moment for jubilation, the terrorist attack in the wake of that agreement is a reminder that the challenges still remain.
So much was written and talked about the Jammu agitation. While the entire nation supported the very just and simple demand of the SASS for allocation of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board, skeptics felt that the agitation has once again infused life in to the Separatist groups in the Valley. The Jammu agitation has helped various separatist factions to re-unite and boldly take on the Indian Government and our security forces, they repent.
One of the Congress’ Ministers from J&K repeatedly accused us – the Sangh Parivaar – in one TV show that we destroyed all that ‘they’ have achieved in last 20 years. Who are ‘they’? And what 20 years was he talking about? The mess in J&K was the creation of the very same forces which were responsible for the present mess also. It was these forces – represented by parties like Congress, NC and Communists etc – which were responsible for what they are now claiming to have cleared.
In fact the history of the Separatist movement in Kashmir has been written so many times that for me to repeat it here will be a sheer waste of space and valuable time of our readers. Suffice to say that Congress has no right to take moral high-ground on Kashmir.
In a way the Jammu agitation has done several good things to the country in general and the Government in particular. It highlighted the fact that contrary to the rosy picture painted by the ruling Congress and its allies that everything is fine in the Valley, the Separatist elements there are very much alive and kicking.
Secondly, it has provided an excellent opportunity for our Government to once again reiterate to the entire world that Kashmir is an integral part of India and it has every right to do whatever it deems proper. The victory of the SASS – in real sense – is the victory to our country and our Government.
Several unpleasant things happened during the course of the two-month long historic agitation in Jammu. Role of the new Governor left a very bad impression about his ability and capacity to run a State like the J&K. In stead of attending to and addressing the demands of the agitators, efforts were made to exhaust them by non-response, trying to split the movement, spreading canards, using police repression etc. Governor conducted himself in a poor manner when he went to town cribbing about the agitators calling him ‘Gilani ke Aulad’ etc.
Valley based parties too behaved in a manner that exposed their real colours. Even the so-called best bet in the Valley, the National Conference, too proved that when it comes to saving their skin they do not mind second-fiddling Separatists.
But all this needs to be put on back-burner for the time being. There are challenges ahead and they demand that we rise above other petty quarrels.
The violent reactions in the Valley for last couple of months would remind one of the late 80s and early 90s. The country witnessed separatist frenzy reaching its zenith at that time. An able and stern Governor Jagmohan saved the day for us. Television visuals of the recent turmoil made many think that those bad days are back again.
But there is one difference. There was rhetoric. There was frenzy. There were Pakistan flags. But there were no Kalashnikovs. There were violent demonstrations on the streets. But no comparison to the 90s when small towns like Anantnag used to witness half million strong demonstrations.
On top of it, differences between various factions remain as strong as they were before. Despite this agitation warring Hurriyat factions failed to unite. And if the NSA was to be believed Hurriyat leader Aziz was killed not by the security forces but by the Separatist guns. All this points to the fact that our case for Valley is far from lost as Arundhati Roys and Veer Sanghvis would want us believe.
In 90s when Jag Mohan was handling J&K situation he told me once that what we need for that State is a ‘stern State’. What he meant was that the Government should act tough. During one of my visits to Srinagar I had a very interesting conversation with a small time local leader. The point he made was a real eye-opener. “Most people in the Valley who side with the Separatists do so because they are not sure that the Indian guns would protect them in case they went against the Separatists. The day they are assured of that they are with India”.
Sadly, our governments always believed that they can manipulate and even ‘purchase’ the loyalty of the Separatist leaders by opening bank accounts for them in Delhi and flooding them with ‘gifts’. Governments are not just ready, but eager to ‘talk’ to Separatists. Because, as C. Raja Mohan very eloquently put it in one of his papers, Indian leaders had contempt for ‘power politics’. They always believed – since they are a great and ancient civilization – in the ‘Power of their Arguments’. It is time, he says, India started giving ‘Arguments of Power’.
Let the Government say boldly that it would talk to only those elements which recognize India’s suzerainty over J&K. That is the argument of power.
Let it tell those who want to sell their apples in Muzaffarabad in PoK rather than in Delhi and Chandigarh to happily go and dump their products in the sinking Pakistan economy. Apple business across the border is welcome; terrorism business is not; this is the argument of power.
Gilani and Moulvi Farooq may be set free from the prison. But no Government security for them anymore. Indian Government protects only the loyal citizens; not the anti-India forces. They can have their own security, or sit at home. This is the argument of power.
Elections will be held on schedule come what may. And it will be ensured that people vote without fear. That will be the argument of power.
But what is new in these arguments? The one new argument of power that our nation can give – if it has the will and courage and its political leaders can rise above petty party considerations – is to declare that not a single anti-India element will be allowed to enter J&K Assembly.
Next J&K Assembly should have only those as members who have the courage and conviction to hail India in the House. That means no place for Mufti and his daughter who threaten dismemberment of India. That means no place for supporters of militancy.
If all major parties including Congress, BJP, Communists and NC can make up their mind to ensure this, then that will be the real Argument of Power.