Kashmir Too Owes ‘India’ an Answer

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Even if Afzal Guru were not hanged, Kashmir’s integration with India would have remained patchy at best

The world of terrorism and counter-terrorism is very murky. That is why we will never know the complete truth about the Parliament attack of 13 December 2001. And that is also perhaps why we will never know the exact extent of Afzal Guru’s involvement, the Supreme Court’s tug at our ‘collective conscience’ notwithstanding. (Read ‘The Question of Reasonable Doubt’)

We must also be sure that no matter what Congress spin doctors say, Afzal Guru’s hanging was a political decision and it was executed to take the wind out of Modi’s Hindutva sails. If that were not the case, the Government would not have stayed the hanging of Babbar Khalsa militant Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was sentenced to death for the assassination in 1995 of then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. Scheduled to be hanged in March last year, Rajoana was practically brought back from the gallows after a mercy petition by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), backed by political parties in Punjab, was filed with the President.

So Kashmir is back on the simmer. Not that it matters much in any case. Even if Guru were not hanged, Kashmir’s integration with India would have remained patchy at best. Now politicians and separatist leaders are outdoing each other at asserting that a new generation of Kashmiris who never identified with Maqbool Butt will now identify with Guru. The problem is that both separatist leaders and mainstream politicians in Kashmir have double standards when it comes to taking a stand. The problem partially lies with New Delhi. It flirts with one separatist leader and then romances another, leaving the former in the lurch. Then, to stay relevant, the separatist leader left in the cold starts looking to Pakistan. Nobody tells the separatist leaders that they need to make their choice clear; that they cannot stand in two boats; that while engaging with the Indian framework, or at least pretending to engage with it, they cannot sit in the lap of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed or chairman of the United Jihad Council Syed Salahuddin—both based in Pakistan. Mainstream politicians exercise the same hypocrisy. Not long ago, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made a passionate speech in Parliament on why his party, the National Conference, had severed ties with the BJP-led NDA over 2002’s Gujarat riots. What nobody asked him was how his party entered an alliance with the BJP in the first place a few years after the Babri Masjid demolition. Somebody in New Delhi must send a very clear message: one cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hound. You cannot use one language in New Delhi and a diametrically opposite idiom in Kashmir. So, as Kashmir asks what India is doing for it, India also needs an answer to what Kashmiris are doing for their country.

In the meantime, the stupidity on the margins of Afzal Guru’s hanging has to end. You cannot send a Speed Post letter to a convict’s family a day before he is to be sentenced to death. You need to at least make sure that his name, his father’s name and his hometown are spelt correctly. You cannot hold a whole state to ransom by cutting off internet and SMS services and create conditions where no newspaper or local cable network can operate. You cannot let a few anonymous cops raid the house of a Kashmiri journalist, lock his kids in a bedroom, and tell their tutor and their neighbours to stay away from a “terrorist”.

As for those who think Afzal Guru’s hanging will trigger another cycle of insurgency (as it did after Maqbool Butt’s hanging in 1984, they argue) they forget that it was not Butt’s hanging alone but a series of developments that led to a bloody conflict in the Valley in 1989-90. In the post 9/11 world, an armed insurgency with Islamist roots is hard to achieve and sustain on that scale. So, after a few unfortunate deaths, Afzal Guru will find his place only on T-shirts and Facebook display pictures. As for Kashmiris, they must understand that they cannot expect ‘India’ to sympathise with them if in the name of protesting against Afzal Guru’s hanging, they chant Azadi slogans at Jantar Mantar. Neither is it comforting to see the body of a Pakistani terrorist killed in an encounter with security forces in some remote Kashmir village being taken out as a marriage procession.