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Kashmiri separatists singing new tunes

Its time for some reality check for the separatists as the failure of their one-dimensional approach mocks them in their face, writes Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2006 20:31 IST
Arun Joshi

It was a time to get real for Kashmiri separatists in 2006. They are now singing new tunes on Kashmir. Now, they are talking of a solution acceptable to all regions - as the old formulas are losing relevance, particularly plebiscite, or independence.

The speed and shape of this thinking of separatists has been influenced by Pakistan, which has shed a long time one-dimensional approach on Kashmir, seeking implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir.

Secondly, it was a realisation that there were no takers of the strategy of violence anywhere in the world, except for in organisations like Al-Qaeda, with which they did not want to have any linkages.

All Kashmiri separatist and terrorist outfits, including Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were quick to deny existence of Al-Qaeda in Kashmir, once a caller claimed its arrival in the Valley to a news agency.

"There is no Al-Qaeda in Kashmir and there is no link of this group with us," Hizb Supreme Commander Syed Salaha-ud-Din was prompt in saying.

Ironically, Pakistan that helped in growth of violence in Kashmir has also taken a U-turn. It has announced for the first time since Partition that it "never laid claim to Kashmir".

That official version voiced by Pakistan Foreign Office's spokesperson Tasneem Aslam was preceded by Pakistani President Musharraf's announcement of a four-point formula on Kashmir, which ruled out plebiscite as per the UN Security Council resolutions and unacceptability of independence for Jammu and Kashmir.

Once Pakistan threw solid hints of its changing intentions on Kashmir solution, a majority of separatists were like toddlers on sugar hailing the change.

"These are positive developments," said All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq - the moderate face that has enamored itself to both Delhi and Islamabad, with his moderate approach.

"We must look at an out of the box solution. There is a need to shed our captivity to past," he told Hindustan Times before leaving for Ireland and Norway on a study tour to pick up fine points of the April 10, 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the Oslo's role in fine-tuning the peace process in the island nation of Sri Lanka, where the ceasefire has been violated time and again.

Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party chairman Shabir Shah was equally enthusiastic about the whole thing. "Pakistan has spoken in terms of reality that Kashmir was an issue of Kashmiris."

Once a gun-wielding JKLF leader Mohammad Yasin Malik - an unyielding voice for the independence of Jammu and Kashmir and armed with signatures of two million people supporting his version of Kashmir solution, has also lent support to peace talk between Delhi and Islamabad. "We support the peace process, but want Kashmir participation in the ongoing Indo-Pak dialogue."

Of course, there were staunch fundamentalists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Conference and Dukhtaran-e-Milat chief Asiya Andrabi, who lashed out at Musharraf, for what they called his "loss of sense of direction".

"He has become an American stooge," Geelani said of Musharraf on whose forehead he had planted an affectionate kiss in July 2001 on the eve of Agra summit and hailed him as a strong leader of Pakistan.

But people like Geelani are in a minority at the moment.

The change in Pakistan's one dimensional approach on Kashmir, means Muslims in larger measure, have made the separatists to look beyond the Valley and their co-religionists.

Kashmiri separatists - focusing all the time on the exclusively Muslim Kashmir Valley realised two major flaws in their campaign.

First, their Valley centric approach was a big stumbling block. They realised that without taking the two-non-Muslim regions of the state - Buddhist dominated Ladakh and Hindu majority Jammu region, they cannot hope to accomplish anything. Second that their support to role of guns had only brought blemishes to what they had projected as "freedom struggle."

Both moderates and hardliners travelled to Jammu. Some of them faced protests too. Braving protests, they held their meetings and assured that Jammu and Ladakh would be having their share in solution. Even their lexicon changed, it was Jammu and Kashmir, not Kashmir.

Email Arun Joshi: a_joshi957@rediffmail.com