In Defense of Dissent!

“It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think yours is the only path.”  ? Paulo Coelho

A MAJOR problem which bedevils the separatist leadership is that no one really seems to have the sagacity, graciousness, or patience to listen to a different point of view. Due to this, instead of providing the ‘right to self determination’ movement with a united leadership and the advantage of collective wisdom, the separatists continue to criticise each other and obstinately stick to their own constricted philosophies.  Consequently, we have ended up in a situation reminiscent of the medieval ages- where only ‘might’ was considered ‘right’ as the virtues of civilised and cordial means to constructively resolve ideological differences like discussions, deliberations and healthy debates were yet unknown. The only difference is that while in the days of yore, chieftains sought supremacy by physical subjugation of their opponents; our leaders today indulge in verbal duels to seek and achieve primacy. 

The peculiarity of Kashmir is that it has a surfeit of leaders and the common problem with these leaders is their inflated egos due to which, they are unwilling to relent.  Thus, when the idea of getting twenty-six political parties, social and religious organisations together to form the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was mooted in the early nineties, those familiar with Kashmir polity, dismissed it as a case of ‘great expectations’- something which would never see the light of day. However, the APHC came into being in 1993 and despite predictions of its early demise, miraculously survived in its original form for nearly a decade before undergoing an inevitable ‘split’. When this ‘split’ occurred in 2002, Kashmir watchers predicted the quick extinction of the APHC, but once again, the two factions, despite the frequent exchange of barbs, miraculously not only managed to co-exist, but were also able to put up the semblance of a united front! 

Unfortunately, no serious attempts have being made by either side to bridge the wide ideological chasm between them that caused the split and so, the pretention of unity by the two Hurriyat factions is nothing more than a mere façade that fools no one anymore. Ideological differences in any amalgam could still be defended if its constituent factions had atleast some commonality in their approach; but here we find leaders questioning the very wisdom of each other’s outlook! By losing no opportunity of making veiled attacks on each other and creating their own band of ‘followers’ who have just no qualms in deriding the leaders of the other faction by heckling, pelting stones and at times, even blackening their faces, the APHC is only losing its credibility as the vox-populi of Kashmiris. And with the reported rift within the Hurriyat (M) and likely emergence of yet another faction within the Hurriyat amalgam, the credibility of this conglomerate is likely to take a further hit! 

Differing ideologies have made the Hurriyat conglomerate a bundle of contradictions. Just recently, when one separatist leader lamented the non participation of intellectuals in the Kashmir struggle and implored their participation, another leader felt that intellectual discourse should not be encouraged as it creates “chaos” and the world gets “confused” about what the people of Kashmir actually want. When one leader suggested that Musharraf’s ‘four point formula’ could provide a possible first- step towards resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio, others without as much as even giving it a thought, leave alone engaging in a discussion, outrightly reject the same. And when yet another leader expressed his disenchantment with the UN resolutions and questioned its practical potency in resolving the Kashmir problem, others immediately pounced upon and denounced him, without so much as pondering for a moment to consider whether these resolutions, which have been in existence for over six and a half decades, have made any worthwhile contribution in resolving the Kashmir dispute! 

It is not intended to either support or condemn any faction of the Hurriyat or find fault with the different perspectives held by the separatist leaders. However, since everyone is entitled to a personal point of view and has the right to express the same, there is a need for the Hurriyat conglomerate to reconsider their dogmatic approach as this attitude is leading us nowhere. Despite differing views, there is complete unanimity amongst the separatist leaders that the Kashmir issue is a ‘vexed’ problem and if this be so, then how can one expect the solution to be simple. Yes, the solution would have been simple if the UN resolutions were implemented – but had implementation of these resolutions been all that easy, then why is the Kashmir issue still defying resolution? So, instead of outrightly rejecting a viewpoint that questions the undue importance being accorded to the UN resolutions on Kashmir, wouldn’t it be more fruitful if is the issue is meticulously  examined by our leaders.

 While the UN resolution on Kashmir does give the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ requisite legitimacy, the tragedy is that it lacks the ‘teeth’ which can facilitate its implementation. Readers would recall that the UN resolution on Kashmir was passed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which is ‘non-binding’ and has no ‘mandatory enforceability’, as opposed to resolutions passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Thus, while these resolutions, give us a legitimate ‘reason’ for demanding the ‘right to self determination’, they unfortunately don’t give the UN any power for its enforcement. This is precisely the reason why the Kashmir problem still remains unresolved even after more than six and a half decades and thus there is a case for the separatist leadership to seriously deliberate on this issue and thereafter decide upon the wisdom of placing all their eggs (hopes) in the ‘UN resolution basket’!

In 2001, the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan had clarified that, “The UN resolutions that come under Chapter 7 of the (UN) Charter were self-enforcing like those related to East Timor and Iraq. The second type of resolutions which do not fall in the purview of Chapter 7, needed cooperation of the concerned parties for their implementation…The UN resolutions on Kashmir do not fall in the category of Chapter 7 and hence required cooperation of the concerned parties for their implementation…” This statement created a flurry prompting UN Spokeswoman Ms Huanjiang to issue a clarification, but the same only echoed the UN Secretary General’s views. What she said was this- “According to the UN Charter, (for) any resolutions approved under Chapter VI, it is the duty of UN Member States to persuade both the parties for a dialogue.  On record, the UN and its member States are no doubt fully complying with the UN Charter and persuading both Pakistan and India for bilateral dialogue.”

So, in the ultimate analysis, all that we can expect from the UN regarding implementation of its resolutions on Kashmir is, “persuading both Pakistan and India for bilateral dialogue” and as per Ms Huanjiang’s assertion that the UN is already doing this, “On record, the UN and its member States are no doubt fully complying with the UN Charter.” Thus, while our leaders consider the occasional mention of Kashmir in the UN as an indication that this august body is serious about resolving the Kashmir issue, Ms Huanjiang’s statement exposes the grim reality – this is being done only to keep the ‘efforts’ to persuade India and Pakistan for bilateral dialogue “On record!” Therefore, instead of lamenting the failure of the UN to ensure implementation of its resolutions on Kashmir, castigating the international community for its abject apathy towards the plight of Kashmiris and blaming the public for exhibiting “disunity” which “creates confusion about Kashmir issue at global level,” is just emotional rhetoric which will take us nowhere, the separatist leadership needs to come out with a new strategy. 

Postscript: Addressing a recently held seminar on ‘Kashmir Dispute in Historical Perspective’, the Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani had exclaimed, “It is high time for Kashmiris to forge unity and take ongoing movement forward. You forge unity and I promise that the day is not far away when we will attain our goal.” However, it is both unfortunate and paradoxical that while the separatist leadership repeatedly calls upon the people to shed their parochial attitudes and forgetting personal differences, unite for the sake of carrying the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ forward, they themselves seem to be in no mood for any reconciliation. And if unity amongst ordinary people can get us our goal, then just imagine what we can achieve if the separatist leadership unites!

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