A Tall Order


Those who had thought that by announcing that the sarpanchs and panchs in Kashmir would “continue to be targeted no matter how much the government tries to secure them,” the UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallhaudin had probably bitten more than he could chew are in for a rude shock. In an incomprehensible move, Union Panchayati Raj Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo, rather than asserting New Delhi’s commitment as regards the safety of the elected representatives of the people, has instead made it clear that it was not possible to provide security to all Panchayat representatives. So, instead of eating the humble pie, Syed Sallahudin has ended up having the cake and eating it too, as has succeeded in proving that it his and not New Delhi’s writ that runs in Kashmir!

While the centre and state government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibility of ensuring the safety and well being of those whom it considers Indian citizens, is bewildering, the reasons given in support of its inexplicable stance are not only tragically humorous and equally absurd but also reek of political opportunism. Thus we find that while the Union Panchayati Raj Minister takes all the credit by stating that “we have trained the Sarpanchs and got them elected,” he conveniently places the blame for the present crisis on the NC led coalition government in the state with the weird rationale that “you (state government) have not devolved any funds and functions. So, what else do you expect? This could also be one of the reasons for Sarpanchs feeling insecure in the state.” The State Congress chief, Prof Saifuddin Soz goes a step further by stating that since “elected Panchayat members enjoy full support and confidence of people, so they need not pay any heed to the threats from whatever quarter. They should devote all their time and energy for the welfare of the society.” Brave words indeed from a person who himself is surrounded by a posse of security guards!

Not to be outdone, the NC has come up with its own set of charges which match New Delhi’s logic in terms of absurdity. Contradicting Omar Abdullah’s recent claim that “militant groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e- Toiba were behind these killings,” senior NC leader Dr. Mustafa Kamaal has not only given the Hizbul Mujahideen a clean chit by proclaiming that “the militants would not use firepower on rural representatives” but also claimed that “The Jama’at-e-Islami has got two sarpanchs liquidated, and the PDP too is involved in similar incidents.” The PDP too has joined in the cacophony with its senior leader Murtaza Khan claiming that these killings were a sinister ploy to precipitate boycott of assembly elections in 2014 and has made a veiled accusation against the NC government by stating that, “everyone knows who benefits from boycott of elections in the state.” And so, if the sarpanchs and panchs who have been abandoned by all and left in the lurch tender resignations en masse, can they be faulted?

However, the larger question which arises is that concerning the future of the movement for the ‘right to self determination.” Except for a short duration in the 90’s when this movement was dominated by the gun, the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ has maintained a peaceful character. Over the years, the separatist leadership has rightly sought to disassociate itself with militancy and this outlook has reaped rich dividends in garnering world opinion for the Kashmir cause. In fact even a hardliner like the Hurriyat (G) leader SAS Geelani who once lauded militants by proclaiming that “Those who pick up arms are better than others. They don’t need our certificate as Allah has given them certificate,” has now admitted in his autobiography that “when gun lost control, militant groups lost the moral standing.” But what now? Will the gun re-emerge as the steering force behind the ‘azadi’ movement?

Today, violence as a means for pursuing any agenda, irrespective of its legitimacy, is not appreciated by the international community. Readers will recall how the world silently watched the LTTE (which was championing the legitimate cause of the Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity) through the force of arms, being wiped out into oblivion through brute military force. Readers will also agree that despite large scale killings of innocent people by the Americans through drone strikes, the world largely views such incidents merely as unfortunate but ‘unavoidable co-lateral’ damage in the ‘war against terror’. Thus, for the Hizbul Mujahideen to expect that the international community will condone its violence against those whom the outfit regards as ‘pro-India’ would be a tall order. So in case the gun assumes the dominant role in the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’, then this movement is bound to lose the support and sympathy of many and in the long run, this may prove to be suicidal!

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