First Person | Reign of Triviality

Opportunistic politics compromises India’s national interests

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

Such is the vibrancy of the Indian democracy that absolutely nothing, not even national interest, comes in the way of political parties exercising their democratic right of politicking and running the other parties down, with the primary intent of not letting them take credit for something that they could have taken instead. If in the bargain issues get de-focussed, vital decisions delayed and atmosphere vitiated, it is neither here nor there.

The most recent example of this political circus has been the reaction of various political parties and commentators to the seminar, Freedom the Only Way organised by a little known non-governmental organisation, Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in New Delhi a couple of weeks ago. Among those invited to speak at this seminar were Kashmiri politician, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G), Maoist ideologue Vara Vara Rao, writer-activist Arundhati Roy and sundry activists from pro-Khalistan, pro-Nagalim and pro-Tamil groups (it was a revelation that something like that also exists). Sure enough, both Geelani and Roy said what was expected of them and have been saying so for the last several years. Yet, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought to make an issue out of this dragging the home minister in the fracas, forcing him to make a comment on the event which didn’t deserve any. For the next few days, various news channels were abuzz with the discussion whether charges of sedition can be brought on Roy and Geelani.

Anger against Roy is understandable. She is a polemic and has consistently been raising the heckles of even the most mild mannered. But reaction to Geelani was most bizarre. Here is a man, now 82 years old, who for the last over 50 years has been calling India names. Today, when he spoke of self-determination, BJP frowned and demanded action against him. Till about five years ago when he was chanting the mantra of Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, no suggestion of charging him with sedition were made, though he has frequently been arrested, released, debarred from travelling and so on. Not only that, with the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s government in state and Atal Behari Vajpayee’s at the Centre, Geelani was first brought to Delhi for medical treatment and subsequently flown to Mumbai for a surgery. If gossip in Srinagar is to be believed, the bill was footed by Mufti Sayeed.

In this melee, the main issue that should have been a cause of concern was completely lost sight off. CRPP may be a nondescript civil liberties organisation, but it managed to bring together dissidents of various hues on one platform to criticise India. For several years, security analysts have raised and dismissed the issue of possible collaboration between the Maoists and the J&K militants. The reason for this dismissal was: the insurgency in Kashmir is no longer considered secular with a very definitive Islamic element and the Maoist/Naxal ideology completely shuns religion. Hence, security experts so far have believed that even if there is a possibility of some collaboration between the Maoists and the North-eastern insurgents, Kashmir is out of bounds.

Well, not any longer. Vara Vara Rao, who himself was behind bars on charges of sedition for several years, has now thrown his weight behind Kashmiris’ right to self determination, in addition to total revolution. Being a free man now, who can stop Rao and his fellow ideologues from travelling to Kashmir? If analysis is about joining the dots, then political opportunism in Delhi leaves several dots un-joined. A few months ago, there was a media report that CPI (Maoist) has been trying to create a base in Jammu and Kashmir. Even if it has not succeeded so far, how can one be sure it will not happen now? Remember, most of the early insurgents in the Valley had Left-orientation; their inspiration was similar to that of other revolutionaries in other parts of the world. Islamisation happened subsequently as dependence on Pakistan increased and non-religious Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front was sidelined by Jamaat-e-Islami-inspired Hizbul Mujahideen. The difference in the name says it all.
Moreover, with Pakistan and China converging in the Northern Areas of Kashmir, how unthinkable can it be that Maoists and Kashmiri insurgents start sharing skills, resources, man-power and even equipment? After all, they share the same goal: bringing the mighty Indian state to its knees. There must be a reason why China has suddenly woken up to Kashmir, why it is investing in northern Afghanistan and Northern Areas of J&K. In a recent meeting with FORCE, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq made an interesting comment. He said, one Chinese lady whom he met in the US during his fellowship told him that when she was growing up, Chinese textbooks used to show J&K as part of China. “The longer the Kashmir issue lingers, more claimants it will have,” he said jokingly. But is it really a joke?

However, instead of dwelling on these issues, the main opposition party is happy to put the government on the defensive on such non-issues as Geelani and Roy’s speeches or Dileep Padgaonkar’s statement that Pakistan has a role in Kashmir resolution. How trivial can we possibly get?


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