There one skill that we, the Kashmiris, as a nation, can always claim to have: protesting.
We protested the Gujarat riots, the hanging of Saddam Hussein (who, as India’s ally and friend, always stood against Kashmir & Pakistan. 98% of the Iraqis won’t even know what or where Kashmir is). Global events or not, news or rumors, true or wrong, by our own free will or under the cloud of threats and warnings, with or without consequences for Kashmir, we have stood up for every invitation to protest by anybody and everybody who either is somebody or a nobody. We have emerged as one of the finest protesting nation in the history of the world. Kashmir, let alone the issue of Kashmir, might not be well known globally, but we have given the world the Islamic Rage Boy. In the early 90’s we went indoors for three months protesting against the suspension of government officers and demanded. We demanded revocation of their suspension by the same government we were up in arms against. We want freedom but we don’t want to pay for it. We spent 6 months (out of which 85 days were curfews) protesting one death after another and ready to shed more blood (as long as it was not of our own). We filled the streets with smoke when Pakistan lost a game of cricket; we shed our winter hibernation for better electric supply and were back on streets protesting the installation of meters. We do though lineup to pay the telephone bills. We want electricity (like so many other things) but we do not want to pay (like so many other things).
As confusing as reading this might be, even all the more complex is how corrupt and soulless leaders control every aspect of our lies, whether we agree or not.
We pelted stones after watching a movie. The screening of Lion of the Desert in the Palladium Cinema inspired us to protest. However, when the world protested, when people wanted to break the shackles of oppression and dictatorship, we slept. We turned a blind eye to the death of the Tunisian fruit seller who brought down two governments and maybe the cause of many more falling. Till Mubarak stepped down, the English media in Kashmir knowingly blocked out the news from Egypt. It appeared that the media wasn’t just gagged in Egypt but in Kashmir also. Stranger even was the fact that the champion of Islam in Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was as quiet as was his black bearded counterpart Mirwaiz, who was touring Europe anyway. Geelani, always eager to issue statements condoning the US, the UK and Israel – had no words for Egypt.
All that changed within minutes of Mubarak’s fall. As if puppets controlled by a single thread, all vomited out nauseating comments on Egypt, its people and its army. Within minutes they appeared to have gained knowledge of the crisis in Egypt and had intellectual comments to dole out to the people of Kashmir. They had advice for the people & the government. They asked the people of Kashmir to be disciplined. Some of them failed to understand the joy of Egyptian people and wondered why the Egyptians were celebrating the handing over of the power to the army. The crocodile tear shedding politician said her usual words. However, they just failed to do one thing: they failed to look at their failures. They failed to understand that they are as useless as Mubarak was. They failed to understand that a fruit seller could bring a revolution nobody would have ever dreamed of.
Perhaps it is time for some introspection. That might be the only lesson to be learned from Egypt.
Egypt – this northern African country bordering Israel has the utmost strategic importance globally and remains the buffer for Israel against the rest of the Arab world. A peace treaty under the stewardship of a thirty year long dictator and a state of emergency were the highlights of this country for its people, for the rest it was all about pyramids and beaches. A secret army that controlled the people, opposition was unheard of. Egyptians were afraid, scared and thought the possibility of a revolution an impossibility. Egypt held interests from Tel Aviv to Tehran. People desired a revolution against their leaders, who only doled out corruption, control, poverty, and illiteracy. It was just a desire. This dream became a reality through the nightmare for Mubarak. Not in his wildest dreams would Hosni Mubarak, a man backed by the US and Israel, have dreamt being pushed out of power by the death of a fruit seller in Tunisia.
It happened. People’s power surpassed every ones imagination.
So, what has that to do with Kashmir? There are lessons for each one of us. Egyptians took the brave step of questioning all that was wrong, and stood by what was right. They gave no ear to assurances from the most powerful man in their country. They saw beyond the lies and understood it would be today or never. They understood that, in act and not in mere thought, more than we have ever understood. They understood a puppet is a puppet, no matter who backs him. Mubarak had US and Israel on his back and he had to bend down. India and Pakistan don’t even count among the league of these countries. We, in Kashmir protest for months, we get bullets for breakfast, as our leaders give breakfast lectures in the EU and the US. We fail to question our leaders, out of fear, out of pure reluctance, and out of the fear of being branded. A lot like the US president George Bush talked about the axis of evil – and being with us or against us, the people in Kashmir have become just like him. One can either be an Indian Agent or a Pakistani Agent – there’s no in-between, there are no gray areas. You question Geelani / Mirwaiz you are branded an Indian agent or a NC supporter. Criticize Omar, and then you are a revolutionary, a true Kashmiri. . There is enough of venom out there speaking against the mainstream politicians. I don’t like them, but at least they have the basic human decency of being honest about what they are. They are Indians and they believe in it and work for that state. Period. Today let’s question our leaders, the starting with the General Motors of Kashmir (Geelani and Mirwaiz).
Geelani and Mirwaiz are no different than Mubarak. Both have been at the helm of affairs collectively for about half a decade now. That’s 50 years! And we continue to be scared of them and hold them sacred. Just because Geelani never budged from his position conveys nothing. Joining Pakistan, a country which its own people don’t want to stay in, is not the finest option today. Pakistan kills as many of its people through attacks in the Northern Areas as India kills in Kashmir. Both are recipients of the British Colonial Mentality. Religion has not changed Pakistan. It is no more a Muslim country than Egypt or Tunisia was. Dictatorships, corruption and poverty are its hallmarks. Geelani doesn’t even make the condition of joining Pakistan conditional on Pakistan being democratic. He criticizes Musharraf and in the same breath talks about the UN resolutions. What if India gave him the option of joining Pakistan if it is run by a dictator? Would he join it?
Geelani is a complex person. People who have met him say he has no charisma. Some very basic issues have seemed ground breaking for Geelani. Geelani wants to fight India, but at the same time he has been crying hoarse about the government targeting APHC (G) activists? Why shouldn’t the government do that? If you oppose the government, you should expect to be prosecuted for that. Let’s face it, it’s an occupational hazard, not unlike a person who joins the military knowing he may be shot dead one day. He should stop condemning the arrests of his comrades and be ready to sacrifice his people too, or are the sacrifices restricted to unarmed, non political people only? Is the only acceptable damage, the collateral? His age is getting in his way, as are his methods. He recently issued a calendar, highlighting the history of Kashmir. He stressed the need to know our history. If a leader thinks of this after a hundred thousand people are buried under five feet of earth, there must be something wrong with his leadership quality. I know of people who have tried to document Kashmir’s history for decades. They have no calendars to issue, no noise to make, but they understood a decade back, what it took Geelani a hundred thousand deaths to understand. Is there a single multimedia cell for his or any other organisation in Kashmir? No! The reason being they are too scared to let anyone else do the talking. He might snatch away their limelight. These leaders of ours are not fighting for the people but for their narcissist selves. Why does Geelani selectively protest a killing or a rape? Are all rapes and deaths not equal? The recent unidentified killing of two girls brought to the fore the shameful selves of our leaders. They were quite about it and suddenly a cascade of protests and condemnations comes out from their quarters. Not because they were aghast at the killings, not because the color of their blood was similar to the color of the Shopain double rape and murder, but because Omar Abdullah asked them to. Otherwise, these deaths, as so many others, would have vanished in thin air. They might have had a response if it was the summers – the economically most active season for Kashmir’s poor. The youth shot dead in Handwara died a silent death as well. The summer obsession with protests makes one wonder whether the separatists want the poor of Kashmir to stay poor, as poor people are easy fodder.
Having said that, sadly each death in Kashmir is cashed, be it the separatists or the mainstream. The separatists condemn and protest selective killings as do the mainstream politicians.
The UN is dead and old. I believe that even if one person dies demanding freedom that should be reason enough. A hundred thousand people dead for that, is a hundred thousand reasons for that. The UN tried all it could during the days when Joseph Korbel was the head of the UN commission on Kashmir. They failed. India’s and Pakistan’s treatment of the commission is well recorded and it is not rosy. Pakistan’s Sir Zafarullah Khan, worked hard to remove the ‘independence’ clause from the options. That was Pakistan’s role. Sir Zafarullah’s eloquence became a bane for us. Decades later, the UN will not invest the time and energy it did earlier, and let us accept it and move on. The UN resolutions are not a solution; they stopped being a solution decade’s back. The power of the people is enough. Why does Geelani, a champion of Islam, all of a sudden hook his hopes to a global body? He has to give a tele-conference a day after Mirwaiz says the UN resolutions are not a solution to discredit Mirwaiz & appease Pakistan. Do we have to wait another 50 years for the UN to act? What happens if the UN is dissolved? Do we lose the right to ask for freedom?
Mirwaiz is our globetrotting leader. He should have been the foreign minister for India or Pakistan. That would suit him very well. Photo exhibitions in Geneva, breakfast speeches in the US & UK, shopping in Dubai is what our smart, yet unemployed, leader does. Opening offices all over the world for Kashmir cause is his dream, though we already have well funded Kashmir Center in London, Kashmir American Council in the US, Kashmir Center EU in Brussels, Kashmir Scandinavian Council in Norway, and Kashmir Canadian Council in Canada. The need for more or even what the existing ones have achieved baffles one. But, yes why not. The APHC website created by APHC (M) group once carried a critical article on APHC from my blog in their press release section. The lesser said about their media management, the better. He used to be late for meetings in London, as he would be busy buying video games, today he might show up on time in an Armani, but he has nothing to show for Kashmir. His wardrobe is one of the costliest in Kashmir. He could have helped built a robust human resource base in Kashmir and why not, he controls admission to professional colleges in in Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, and some other OIC countries, meant for the children of martyrs. And yes none of the recipients are children of martyr’s and strangely all the recipients are usually blood relatives of each other.
There is yet another face of Kashmir, the latrams, bitta karates and nalkas of Kashmir (noms de guerre of Kashmir’s fighters). Mushtaq Zargar (aka Latram) a local downtown goon, was made to head Al Umar Mujahideen, the armed wing of Mirwaiz headed Awami Action Committee. A criminal, to put it simply, was released by India in the Kandahar hijack deal. There are people people who would think of him and other similar people as visionaries but those people are (hopefully) an insignificant minority – whose only reason to worship these people is family, political or monetary ties. Other than that, the silent majority hates them. People sighed relief when he was arrested. It is said he was involved in the murder of Abdul Ghani Lone and also planned assassination of Mirwaiz Omar, for talking to India. Once when Al Umar Mujahideen called a strike in Kashmir, they threatened to burn any vehicle that is seen on the roads. Indeed, the strike was successful.
Another militant turned separatist Javid Nalka (Nalka literally pipe in Kashmiri) was either an employee with the Water Works Department or a former petty thief who would steal water pipes. Doesn’t matter, his drunk goons once ransacked the office of a leading Kashmiri newspaper for failing to publish their press release. Yes, India loves them too. Bitta Karate, set free by Indian courts, has accepted on camera killing tens of Kashmiris Pandits. He roams free as Afzal Guru remains behind bars for a crime he never committed.
The mention of these people and their background is not to undermine active goons or water-pipe thieves, but a reflection of their understanding and their capacity to actually give a direction to the struggle and since we are stuck with them it is no wonder we are still struggling.
And to end, let’s talk about Yasin Malik. This person aspiring to be a model, is busy roaming India with his trophy wife and gets thrown out from most of the places he is visiting. And that, that alone, nothing else, makes him say that BJP is pushing the Muslims of India and the youth of Kashmir back to arms. That sickens me.
We have stayed quite too long, just like the Egyptians had, it is time for us to wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late. If Tunisia and Egypt could do it as one people without any leaders to lead, we too can. Let us stop worshiping our leaders and for once believe in ourselves.
Viva la revolution.