Separatists to the fore

 After meeting Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF supremo Yasin Malik on Wednesday called on Hurriyat G chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani to forge an alliance against what they perceive a multi-pronged assault by the centre on the state’s special constitutional status.  Malik also met the members of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries and later held a meeting with Asiya Andrabi.  The purpose is to work for a united separatist front against the centre’s “conspiratorial programmes”.

 “It is a do or die situation for Kashmir,” Malik said in a statement issued after the meeting with Geelani.  He said the policy makers of India wanted to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir as soon as possible and for this purpose the new state government was using “its entire force and machinery”.

 This scramble for unity has been prompted by some recent proposals which involve the possession of the land by the government. The proposals are the separate settlements for Kashmiri Pandits, land for Sainik colony for ex-servicemen and their kin, New Industrial Policy and the state government’s decision to initiate work on building the structures for ‘floating population’ in Jammu and Kupwara districts.  The New Industrial Policy allows non-state subjects to get on lease the land for setting up industries outside the industrial estates in the state with the policy remaining silent on the upper ceiling of the land to be leased. The policy is now being reviewed by the state government.

 A statement issued by Geelani’s Hurriyat said that Kashmiris will do “everything to safeguard their struggle, and their Muslim identity”.

 This is first time in years that the separatist groups are once again joining forces to fight what they see as the centre’s attempts to change the demography of the state. Certainly, past two months have seen a slew of new policies being announced which have made people deeply conscious of their identity.  There is a deep seated paranoia among people about the overarching and invisible role of New Delhi behind these plans.  And they are now looking towards separatist groups as the mainstream parties including the ruling PDP have hardly inspired confidence. Despite the PDP’s protestations and assurances that it will safeguard the special  status of the state, people are not convinced. 

 The reason for this is the poor record of the mainstream parties in upholding the interests of Valley. Over the years there have been many issues on which people in Valley have craved for a political articulation but have found it absent from the discourse of the establishment parties, especially when they are in power.  People want this representation when youth are killed, many a time for no reason. They want it when programmes are announced to dilute the state’s unique constitutional position. But they hardly ever get it. Instead, both the government and the opposition enter into a conspiracy of silence.  The successive state governments are thus inherently hobbled by their incapacity to represent a wide swathe of the Kashmiri political sentiment and the aspirations,

This brings separatist groups on the scene, as it has now. If the mainstream politics lacks the courage to address the anxiety of people in Valley as to their political and cultural identity, then separatists will step forward to fulfil their role.

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