Feb 21, 2009

Holbrooke holds the reset button

On the home turf the debate over one leader, one party and one goal is catching up. This debate that is vital to the 'political struggle of the state' is not of the recent origin. It has been going on ever since the concept of collective leadership found its way into political lexicon of Kashmir in early nineties. Many a political ideologue believes that the concept of the collective leadership in the state had its origin in the death of the twenty two years long struggle for Plebiscite. The commonly held belief is that this movement met its waterloo for being led by leader under the banner of one party.It is a long winding debate as to what caused the death of the movement for plebiscite. Some attributed the death to the fatigue that had set in the rank and file of this organization. Some see the cause for failure of this movement reaching to a logical conclusion to lack of political vision of the leadership. And some see reasons for the burial of this internationally recognized organization in the 1971 happenings that changed geography of the sub-continent.The Plebiscite Front founded on 9 August 1955 dominated the political scene of the state more particularly after 1963 Holy Relic Movement. In the words Mohan Kishen Teng, "the Front gathered widespread support among the Muslims in the Kashmir province as well as the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province and the Muslim majority district of Kargil in Ladakh, the pattern of the Muslim movement in the State was almost identical to the Muslim League movement for Pakistan; the Muslims in the State demanded the dissolution of the accession of the State to India and its integration with Pakistan, because they were forming a majority of the population of the State, which was found to be reduced to a minority in a dominantly Hindu India." (White Paper on Kashmir published by Kashmir Pundits). There is a lot of scope for debate if the Front could be compared to the League but there can be no denying that it was one of the most popular organization whose registered membership was in millions and enjoyed overwhelming support. The Front did suffer two schisms during its twenty years existence but because of strong leadership and formidable command system they proved nothing beyond storm in tea cups. The Front as compared to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference was founded at a very subdued note when the politics of carrot and stick in the state was at its peak. It was born at a time when an influential section of society had joined the rat race for concessions and doles. But despite this it succeeded in establishing more firmly perhaps because of one leader, one party and one political outlook. The APHC was founded at a time when Kashmir not only attracted headlines in the international media but also dominated debates at the international level. It was not only recognized as 'dispute' between India and Pakistan but a nuclear flashpoint in South-Asia. It in fact had not to make much of an endeavor for catapulting to the centre stage of the state politics. It is now almost sixteen years old. Notwithstanding suffered vertical divide after the 2002 elections and many of its important constituents having left its fold the organization did play lead role at important junctures like the Hazratbal Siege, the Charisharif standoff and above all the election boycott call in 1996 but the question that has been dominating political circles if the conglomerate can be called a success as a political organization in the state. True, it was invited by the Government of India for talks without pre-condition, which could be called as pronounced tacit recognition of Kashmir being a third party. The reason for this perhaps was shown from former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. The fact of the matter is the organization on its own has not been in a position to achieve much that could be seen as consequential for the resolution of Kashmir dispute. The role of this conglomerate has been subsidiary to the efforts made by India and Pakistan leadership for the resolution of Kashmir problem. Notwithstanding its rhetoric that the people of entire Jammu and Kashmir as it stood on August 14, 1947 was primary party to the "dispute" it has failed to get recognition as primary party to the imbroglio. Many ideologues in our temples of learning have been attributing this failure to the concept of 'collective leadership' and 'forum politics'. The debate over one leader, one party and one goal resonated once again in a seminar organized by various organizations after the 2008 Assembly elections in the state. On 7 February 2008, at a seminar on Tehreek Azaddi Kashmir, Marhalay, Taqazey aur Hamari Zimadaryan (Freedom struggle, stages, demands and our responsibilities) organized by Tahreek Hurriyat the debate found yet another fillip when General Secretary of the party Muhammad Ashraf Sehari joined it by stating that, "We have one cause and only one leader should lead it. We can't work under different banners. Time is ripe to give the command of the movement in hands of one leader". The question arises if some other political voices join him or not and if the debate becomes a political discourse and finds a concrete shape during 2009. There is lot of scepticism about the concept of one party within the rank and file of various organizations. Some hold very strong views on the subject. They believe that making even one man political parties to dissolve and merge into one party is next to impossible unless- the word "unless" brings intriguing smile on their faces but they do not want to explain it. What is that "unless" has become a jigsaw puzzle for me and many other commentators sitting on fence? Some hold the view that the religious organization considering Kashmir problem of secondary importance to the organizational programmes need not to dabble in politics. They need to commit themselves to the propagation of religious ideologies of their parties. Quoting instance from Indian Freedom struggle an octogenarian political activist said during Indian Freedom Struggle there were some Muslim religious organizations that either supported the All India Congress or All India Muslim League on issues but none of the parties joined any of the two parties. Where will this debate over one party and one leader debate lead to may be difficult to predict. But, it is historical reality that in the post-1990 scenario it is not leadership but the events that have dictated the political agendas for the political organization. It needs to be seen that if the political developments in the South Asia necessitates reorientation of the forum politics in the near future and read loud need for one party, one leader and one voice.Moving beyond the home turf; it needs to be seen if the two countries come out of Mumbai syndrome after Pakistan acknowledged for the first time that the parts of attack on two hotels in the commercial capital of India were planned on its soil. The formal acknowledgment about use of Pakistan soil came on the final day of the visit of the Richard Holbrooke to the country. The reports appearing in the international press do suggest the role of the US special envoy to the region. These developments are seen as a prelude to his proposed visit to New Delhi. True, Kashmir was taken out from the Richard Holbrooke's brief after Indian diplomats in Washington played their cards well and the United States respected Indian sensibilities about aversion to third party mediation but seen in large perspective of the United States policies in the region it seems that the US envoy to the region will be pushing forwards its regional approach for containing terrorism in Afghanistan and on the Pak-Afghan border. It is more than obvious that he is going to push the reset button making India and Pakistan to reconsider the decision to suspend the composite dialogue. It has been considered opinion of all well meaning Indians and Pakistan that the 'composite dialogue is the only framework that had shown some promises of finding an amicable solution of all the issues pending between the two countries. Much before the visit of Holbrooke to India, New Delhi needs to reduce the scope of third party intervention by resuming composite dialogue with Pakistan and move forwards on the ground already covered for resolving the most complex of issues pending between them.
By Z.G. Muhammad The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist and author of The Cindering Chinars and Kashmir in War and Diplomacy

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