Shift of perception among Kashmiris

The naming of a chief minister from the Congress party for Kashmir after three decades is a historic occurrence which amply reflects the underlying shift of perception in the Valley. This is doubly so since the Congress nominee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is from the state’s Jammu region. All government leaders of J&K since 1947 have been from the Kashmir Valley.

Congress’ regional ally, the PDP, had been permitted to be in the driver’s seat for three years under an agreement though it had fewer legislators in the state assembly. Its able leader, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, is bound to be disappointed that the agreement has been invoked by the Congress though he had performed quite well.

But not many outside his party in the Valley are likely to share that feeling. Indeed, the popular sentiment is for getting on with it, not to construct theories that permanently privilege the “regional Kashmiri” factor, as some media analysts do, on grounds that J&K is a special category since Pakistan covets it. Today the pervasive sense against Pakistan-fuelled terrorism is a key factor that is shaping the new mood in the state. It is more than obvious that the keepers of terrorism made the same mistake that the Indian state had made once — they did not account for the people; their sensibilities, their temper.

The evil masterminds are paying the price. The ordinary Kashmiri does not now seem to have any sympathy for ‘the militancy.’ A striking aspect of the scene is that one doesn’t hear the litany of complaints that one did before against the behaviour of the uniformed forces. Indeed, substituting for this are incidents cited of the gross indecencies heaped by terrorists, of arm-twisting and extortions, of violating of women, of wanton killings on the excuse that the “executed” person was an informer.

Perhaps this is why the question of thinning out the troops on the ground — for which General Pervez Musharraf made such a pitch in his UN speech last month, naming even sectors in northern Kashmir where he thought this brooked no delay finds echo among the populace. The demand is patently contrived. It is well to remember that while Delhi believed in the credo of democracy, in respect of Kashmir it appointed a series of political contractors to run the show. The result was the turbulence of the 90s. There was a vital lesson which the terrorists and their Pakistani bosses couldn’t learn since they had no use for democracy, as Pakistan’s own record is testimony.

Worse, while Kashmiris craved democracy, the Pakistan-backed putschist elements and their Kashmiri collaborators gave them stiff doses of Wahabism as a part of their wider project to establish “Nizam-e-Mustafa” — Kingdom of God for the faithful — and incorporate the Valley as a part of Pakistan. Terrorists can strike because infiltration continues. Given the terrain, stopping ingress is not easy. At any given time there is present in Kashmir a reasonable-sized force of armed irregular foreign troopers. But the buzz is that the element of local support is now almost absent. The people’s effort is to re-find the lost tempo of everyday living and for normal politics.

Sahay, a journalist, writes for THT from New Delhi