By Vijay Darda | 15-05-2017
Kashmir, a paradise, has turned into a hell: Serious questions arise for the entire country
Kitni Khubsurat Ye Tasveer Hai
Mausam Bemisal Benazir Hai
Ye Kashmir Hai… Ye Kashmir Hai..!
Some 35 years ago this song of the Bollywood movie Bemisal was a super hit. That time we used to hum this song often. But now everything has changed. The weather is still Benazir (superb), but now it is not the Kashmir which could be visited for seeing snowy beauty and attractive tulips without fear. The Kashmir valley no longer houses the spiritual resonance of Sufi music. Now, bullets from rifles, bomb blasts, throwing stones at the Army to keep the terrorists alive, are common occurences.
The news of a Pakistani flag fluttering in Kashmir makes me restless and I begin to wonder how can that be? How can it be forgotten that when the war was going on in the country for freedom, the people of Kashmir were influenced by the progressive and modern ideology of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. The movement that Mohammed Ali Jinnah launched for separate Pakistan never got support in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir were treading the path of secularism. Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, India was being established as a democratic and secular republic, so it was a natural step for Muslim-majority Kashmir to remain with India.
We all have loved Kashmir, we loved this part of our country from the bottom of heart. Be it winter or summer — in every season — tourists from all over India used to visit the valley. I remember the times when the houseboats — shikaras — were not available in the Dal Lake because people did not want to stay in the hotel, they wanted to stay in the houseboat. I have seen that period and sitting in a shikara have enjoyed the beauty of Dal Lake. This year the look is exactly opposite. The houseboats are lying vacant, the shikaras are tied to the shores. One of my Kashmiri friends was telling me that the scourge of terrorism has taken away the people’s livelihood. The construction of a houseboat takes more money than the money spent in building a luxurious house in a city. Those who took the loan to make the houseboat, they are more upset. Now neither the tourists from the country are coming to Kashmir nor from the foreign countries. In most parts of Kashmir there are no other means of employment. So just imagine how the Kashmiris’ life must be going on?
During the uneasy climate of terrorism, I have gone to Kashmir several times and I have been trying to understand the situation from the friends there. I can claim with certainty that the common Kashmiri seeks peace because many of their generations have been ruined. This is the most dangerous phase for the new generation. The terrorists first started burning schools and colleges and today the circumstances have developed in such a way that children of schools and colleges are throwing stones at the Army. You will be surprised to know that after the death of the terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, there has been no learning activity in the 8,171 primary schools, 4,665 upper primary schools, 960 high schools, 300 higher secondary schools in the Valley. In the last 10 months schools were open only for 46 days. Forcible closure and curfew for months have affected children’s life the most. When the children are going to school, parents are unsure whether their child will return home. This is extremely dangerous situation because the future of a whole generation is at stake.
The need of the hour is to control the situation quickly and open the channels of communication with the group that wants to talk within the ambit of the Constitution. Not everyone in Kashmir is subversive. Please note that if lakhs of people turn up for the funeral of terrorists, the same number of people turn up on the death of a soldier or policeman. If one Burhan Wani becomes a terrorist, then an Ummer Fayaz also becomes a lieutenant in the Indian Army. Thousands of Kashmiri youths stand in the queue for recruitment in the Army. Obviously, a few mercenaries are creating trouble. The evidence is available that shows that stone throwers are paid every week to throw stones.
Now there is the urgent need to renew initiatives. Many committees had been formed. There have been many reports. There is the need to act on the suggestions. I would like to remind that in February 2003, the Central government, defense and home secretary N N Vohra had been appointed as the negotiator to interact with Kashmiri groups. Krishnachandra Pant, Arun Jaitley and Ram Jethmalani have also played the role of the negotiator on behalf of the government in one round. Ram Jethmalani had spoken to several different separatist leaders as chairman of the Kashmir Committee. The Indian government had created another committee in which the educationist M M Ansari, journalists Dilip Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar were inducted. All of them gave their suggestions, but it seems that there was no specific action on these suggestions.
In the last week of August last year, a delegation of 26 MPs from 20 parties went to the valley, but it returned empty handed because Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other prominent leaders had refused to meet this all-party delegation. I would like to remind that separatist Hurriyat came forward to negotiate after the situation normalised between 2008 and 2010 because the Army and paramilitary forces had crushed the terrorists at that time.
Even today, the need is that the terrorists and Pakistani agents are crushed on one hand and on the other the balm on the wounds of the common Kashmiri should be applied. The world knows that Kashmir is an integral part of India and Pakistan does not have the power to take away Kashmir from us. We should talk about getting back Pakistan occupied Kashmir. As long as we are not aggressive, Pakistan will harass us. Actually all this needs willpower. If Narendra Modi is able to bring Kashmir back on track, then he will not only become the darling of the country but the whole world. But at the moment people are asking: Will the situation in Kashmir remain like this?
Before I conclude…
Every meeting with thespian Amitabh Bachchan is unmatched. On Thursday, I went to congratulate him for his film ‘Sarkar-3’. In a scene of this movie, he is reading ‘Lokmat’. Personally, he is my friend; he has always showed his love for Lokmat group. Amitabh ji’s speciality is that he moves ahead with time, is very punctual and keeps an open eye on the country and the world. Actually, he is unmatched. He merges into the character he plays.