Current Year’s extraordinary winter chill seems to have frozen the spirit of revolt of a number of Kashmiri separatists. Maybe the mirage of Azadi from India also started dissolving due to internal anarchy in Pakistan and under the current international pressure from the war on terrorism. The recent statements by some separatists from Kashmir must be that sweet music to Indian ears for which they have been waiting for decades. In case these statements are sincere attempts to knock at the doors of Delhi to open negotiations again (which stand stalled presently)and have not been issued as a ruse to subvert peace and normalcy at a later stage or to defame and blackmail India quoting its intransigence (as per previously tried practice of the separatists), they need a serious response. At present one has but to assume that the separatists are sincere to negotiate peace for the people of Kashmir who have suffered a great deal during the last two decades of proxy war waged by Pakistan in Kashmir. Professor Abdul Gani Bhat was an ex-chairman of, and a vociferous spokesman of the hard line Hurriyat till some years back. He separated from the hard core group sometime back after sensing futility of the Azadi dream and weighing the phenomenal pain and sorrow that had visited the people of Kashmir after they had fallen prey to the preaching of hate and violence by the separatists. He had gone into hibernation for some time. A seminar was organized by terrorist turned peacenik Yasin Malik of JK Liberation Front at Srinagar on 2nd January 2011 to commemorate the death anniversary of Mirwaiz Mohd Farooq, who had been slain at his residence at Srinagar on 21st of May 1990 during the infancy of militancy. Though it was a dastardly killing by the terrorists, the separatists through their goebbelsian rumor mill spread the canard that Mirwaiz had been killed by the bullets of security forces. People of Kashmir were made to believe the rumor and they even tend to in such cases. Even his son, the present Mirwaiz Umer Farooq claimed that his father had been killed by the security forces. This propaganda tarnished and defamed the name of security forces that had otherwise been fighting a valiant war with the terrorists for peace and order and for restoration of dignity and prosperity of the people of Kashmir.

Likewise another separatist leader Dr Abdul Ahad Gooroo too was gunned down by the terrorists at his residence but was rumored to have been killed by the security forces through the same rumor mill. The objective of the rumor mill was to influence Kashmiri Sunni Muslims to rise in revolt against India. Another separatist leader, Advocate Abdul Ahad Wani was slain by the terrorists in Srinagar and again people of the Valley were made to believe that these so called freedom fighters were being killed by the Indian security forces in order to suppress and dissuade them from revolt and secession from India. Another maverick politician turned separatist, Abdul Gani Lone also was killed by terrorists on the 21st of May 2002 in the presence of the present head of moderate faction of Hurriyat at a prayer congregation in Idgah, Srinagar. All these unfortunate and gruesome slayings, though perpetrated by the terrorists under instructions of ISI, in connivance with the separatists of Valley, were attributed by the separatists and their cohorts to the security forces and the army with a view to incite and provoke people for total insurrection and revolt. Despite hard efforts by the Govt to dispel the doubts created by the vicious campaign of the separatists, suspicions lurked in the minds of the people regarding identity of the killers of these men, as per the strategy of Pakistan.

After realizing the futility of all these violent and volatile efforts of separatists to catch the fleeting dream of Azadi which instead only caused pain and pathos to the people, professor Abdul Gani Bhat came out in open with the truth. In the same seminar at Srinagar, he caused skeletons to tumble out which had been deliberately concealed from the public mind. He openly declared in the seminar that all these leaders were neither killed by the security forces nor by the army. He admitted that they were killed by “our own men “due to internal rivalry of the separatists and divergence of views in them. This suggests that the separatists maintained or at least patronized their own armed groups to settle their political and logistic scores and then blamed and blackmailed the security forces as a camouflage for their own heartless and brutal killings and abductions of such people who dissented with them. This voice from the horses’ mouth must convince the gullible people of the Valley of the nefarious designs and machinations of separatists who polluted the political and moral atmosphere of the valley for aims which are at the most illusory and at the worse suicidal. Professor Bhat also criticized hardliner SAS Geelani ( who was called his mentor some time back ) for orchestrating a futile agitation in the Valley for full seven months of 2010 which achieved nothing but gave desolation and pain, with the loss of innocent lives of Valley people. He revealed that these very people who were averse to dialogue some time back are now meeting Indian Parliamentarians and Civil Society members to plead for talks. He feels there are conflicts and contradictions in the words and deeds of the separatists, which have already ruined the Valley. Some days later he also advocated positive participation in talks with the Centre on Kashmir resolution. This is therefore high time for the people of the Valley to take note and identify the real enemies of people and peace and progress of Kashmir and expose and reject them for the phenomenal damage and loss they have inflicted on the civil society through their anti-people designs and canards. State Govt also has to take suitable measures to protect the professor and other actors who have come out in the open to reveal facts from vengeful reprisal of the separatists. Else these voices will be numbed as has happened in the past, and the people of Kashmir will be intimidated into surrender.

Present Mirwaiz Moulvi Umer Farooq chairman of the so called moderate faction of the Hurriyat in a candid admission stated some days back in Srinagar that the UN has failed to resolve the Kashmir tangle. It will be only rational to assume that he has understood the helplessness of the UN in this respect, within the present day geo-political context of South Asia and present complexion of the UN. It was simply not possible for the UN to seek vacation of Pakistan and China of such parts of Jammu & Kashmir state which have been forcefully occupied by them. UN is aware that the J&K state acceded to India in 1947 after Pakistan infiltrated tribesman and its regular army to conquer and annex the state to Pakistan by use of pressure and force. An Instrument of Accession was executed between the J&K state and the Union of India which was complete politically, legally and constitutionally. After the accession Indian Army had repulsed Pakistani aggression back to Uri sector in Kashmir, when it was asked to ceasefire under the directions of the UN. After that the Kashmir dispute drowned into cold war politics. Meanwhile Pakistan gifted a large chunk of area in Ladakh to China to placate and provoke it against India. After that it was history as usual as they say. If Umer Farooq is convinced that the UN will not be able to get forcibly occupied areas of the state vacated by Pakistan and China as a condition to settle the Kashmir dispute in its totality, he must also convince himself against the mirage of Azadi that still haunts some senile separatists who have been propagating the same illusion for the last two decades. It is time for him to shun his inhibitions and come forth for free and frank dialogue with GOI for bringing peace and prosperity for the people of the state. There are so many burning issues which plague the state. The deficit in governance is the first malady that needs to be addressed. Rampant corruption in politics and administration in the state has become metastatic which needs to be addressed firmly. Zonal equity and balancing needs to be established so that there are no such intra-zonal grudges and prejudices as are festering at present. All three divisions: - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh need to be treated equitably and with fairness; economically, administratively and politically. Problems call for immediate attention and potent intervention. And it would be a positive and right step for the Mirwaiz to involve himself in providing much delayed succor and relief by his positive leadership to people of the valley, who have suffered a great deal since the emergence of terrorism in the state. He needs to open without inhibition his mind to Delhi, which seems to be too eager to reciprocate.

The firebrand patriarch hardliner of Hurriyyat SAS Geelani also stuck a mild but unusual tone in his speech in a seminar at Srinagar recently. He said that the so called struggle for Azadi has to be peaceful as a matter of policy. This was for the first time that he spoke so softly, without his emotive outbursts of hate and revulsion against "infidel" Hindu India. It could be a change of heart and not actually a ploy to wait, regroup, consolidate and recharge with the full fury of violence on Kashmiri people. In the same seminar on UN Resolutions and Sacrifices of Kashmir,Geelani declared that Kashmir does not wish for India to break down or to be destroyed. He wished India to grow by leaps and bounds. But he charged that India wanted an armed struggle to restart in the valley and cautioned people against it. He advised the youth not to get emotional and adopt only peaceful demonstrations as their tools, most unlike what he has preached in the past. He advised that even provocations should be avoided as a well thought out strategy. He also said that he was not averse to dialogue. But before that he demanded that India end human rights violations in Kashmir. He fell short of talking about the human rights violations perpetrated by the terrorists which stand etched in the memory of the people and which in fact provoke such rights violations in return at times. The long awaited statement by SAS Geelani is full of meaning and purport. Yet it is to be considered with all caution. It can have both overt and covert suggestions and meanings. Overt meanings suggest a change of heart of the fire brand patriarch which is possible at this stage of his life when he has already witnessed all-round death and destruction in the valley during the last two decades, for which he has been one of the major contributors. He must have felt the futility of his illusory slogans of Azadi which sound hollow in the present day international environment where there is no scope for mono-caste societies and religious states. Independence can not be granted to tiny non-viable zones only on emotive and sentimental ethnic grounds. Therefore tired of people’s pains and miseries which his agitations caused in the valley, he may be trying to make amends and set his record straight. That way all sane elements should welcome his new overtures which are denuded of violence and hate as they used to be, and hail his gestures of peace, understanding and conciliation. Delhi should be too willing to welcome his metamorphosis and come out of its way to greet him and hear him. In that context he has a positive role to play in state politics, in removing the chronic deficit in governance which has reached the edge-point. He has a crucial role to play against corruption, that is plaguing the politics and administration of the state. He also has to nurse the festering wounds and hurts of the people which have been inflicted on them by fundamentalist terrorists who hijacked the civil society through duress and blackmail for two decades. People of the State deserve at least this much.

Bilal Lone and Sajad Lone, two sons of slain People’s League president and separatist Abdul Gani Lone stopped short of revealing the names of the slayers of their father at Srinagar, while talking to The Hindustan Times representative some days back. They claimed that white collared men from the separatists killed their father under dictation of some rival faction. They too had originally blamed that it was the state Govt. led by Farooq Abdullah which was responsible for the death of their father as he had not been provided sufficient security.

All these positive interpretations of the intent of the fire brand patriarch and other actors in Kashmir’s drama of insurrection need to be kept captive to the simple test of sincerity. In case they are true in their intent, a new chapter in Kashmir history will be written. And in case their intentions are to provide a timely breather to the separatists to regroup, retrain and recharge with added fury and frenzy, powers at Srinagar and Delhi need to play cautious so that they are not taken by surprise as has been the case in the past. Girds are not to be lowered so that gains already achieved in anti-terrorist measures are frittered away by our stupidity in believing that good times are dawning just because of the sweet statements of separatists. Caution and sagacity are what are also needed.

*P.N.Ganjoo was born in a modest Kashmiri family about 7 decades ago, lost his father early and was raised by his honest, hardworking mother. With her efforts he received his education in Srinagar and went on to serve in various Government Departments before retiring as a senior grade KAS officer.

Presently he is working on his varied interests besides being a consulting Director of a software services company.

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