Hurriyat Scores Self-goal!
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has declared that he will invite hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and JKLF leader Yasin Malik for talks over dinner during Eid this week in an effort to unite the divided separatist leaders before talking to the central government. However even before his unity efforts get under way Geelani has scored a self goal for the Hurriyat by virtually killing the option of seeking independence for the Valley. Geelani gave an interview to the mainstream media which would have sounded like music to New Delhi and to Farooq Abdullah.
The interviewer asked Geelani: “What is the solution to the Kashmir problem? Some demand independence and some a merger with Pakistan.”
Geelani replied: “I think the only democratic solution to the Kashmir dispute is asking people their opinion though the right to self-determination, as per the signed recommendations of the United Nations to which India was also a party. If the majority of people will vote for India, I may not like it and it might be painful but I will accept it. Similarly, if the people of Kashmir reject India, it should also accept the people's verdict.”
Surely Geelani would know that according to the UN Resolution on Kashmir all Pakistani citizens and troops must quit the state before any vote for self-determination; that only Indian troops might remain in undivided Kashmir till peace is established; that after peace is established only a token Indian force considered sufficient to maintain peace might remain in undivided Kashmir; that the territorial status of undivided Kashmir must be restored to what obtained under Maharaja Hari Singh; and that only then might a free and fair plebiscite be held giving the people of undivided Kashmir the choice to join India or Pakistan.
The above UN Resolution advocated by Geelani precludes the choice of independence for any part of Kashmir. It precludes any division of Kashmir. It makes implicit the removal of Chinese presence in Kashmir either by way of men or material. In other words it cannot be implemented. It is therefore a dead letter. So what does Geelani want?
Obviously he does not want an independent Kashmir, not even an independent Valley. He has consistently sought Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. Unlike his former Hurriyat colleagues he considers independence impractical. That was the clear impression this scribe got when he met Geelani with other Kashmir separatist leaders more than a decade ago. That he has held to that position becomes clear from his latest remark: “If the majority of people will vote for India, I may not like it and it might be painful but I will accept it.”
If Geelani holds to this view it seems most unlikely that a consensus favouring independence for the Valley could emerge among the separatist leaders. With prevalent conditions in Pakistan, and with recent developments in POK, it would be prudent for the Mirwaiz and others to become realistic and bargain for a kind of autonomy within the Indian Constitution that delivers them genuine self rule.
Indian opposition parties should not oppose more autonomy for Kashmir. Instead they should insist on ending Kashmir’s special status. Farooq Abdullah in his recent Lok Sabha speech was spot on when he advocated this and urged India to become a genuine federal democracy. Farooq said that all states of the Union should get the same kind of autonomy as Kashmir. Strong states, he rightly said, would help create a strong India.
Critics who fear that more autonomy for the states would weaken the centre might reflect on how weak the central government is in the prevalent system. There is no escaping the fact that to strengthen the centre and to create an executive that can provide effective governance a large nation like India deserves an executive leader, whether prime minister or president, who is elected directly by the people for a fixed term. Our leaders should dare to think out of the box. Time is running out.
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Dr. Rajinder Puri
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