Sheeraz zaman, social activist in Kashmir Valley is the co-author of this article
In 2023, no one in Kashmir is talking about Azadi, nor is anyone interested in theatrics being staged by the politicians, who ruled the Jammu and Kashmir for seven decades.
The separatists, who were on payroll of Pakistan, were loyal to their masters sitting across the Line of Control (LoC) as they did everything to appease their bosses. They orchestrated street protests, stone-pelting, called for shutdowns, indoctrinated youth, and held anti India rallies as part of their job description as they were paid for it. However, the politicians who were at the helm and used to get all the privileges provided by New Delhi wittingly or unwittingly facilitated the separatists by allowing them to carry on with their anti-India activities by allowing them to organize seminars and rallies.
It was a symbiotic relationship between these stake holders who were keen that so called anti India insurgency sustains in Kashmir valley. Insurgency means lot of money from across the border in terms of fake currency and simultaneously central govt also pumped lot of development funds which were cornered by these political parties and their cronies in the valley. Poor law and order situation due to insurgency in the valley ensured that there was no accountability of state govt or central govt officials and corruption and misuse of funds was rampant.
This echo system worked perfectly in synchronisation till abrogation of article 370 which was providing a psychological cover to this corrupt echo system. This echo system in any case was not interested in welfare of common men hence all efforts were made for continuance of this system. Major political parties were so much involved in this corrupt system that Mufti Syed thanked Pakistan after his election as Chief Minister.
Within the echo system there were so many players who did not see eye to eye on various issues but on the issue of insurgency they were aligned because each was sustaining on insurgency and assured funds associated with it. Common man and their kids suffered because tourism got affected but these insurgency stake holders did not have any problem. They kept on purchasing property all over India and abroad, got their kids’ education at subsidised rate and employed them in assured govt jobs where they continued to be paid by govt while simultaneously working for their masters. Govt of India was paying for sustenance of insurgency and terrorism. More terrorism means more funds. Unfortunately, intelligence officials and bureaucrats became part of this echo system even if they did not have a direct role to play in anti-national activity, but they certainly were guilty of looking other way when things went wrong. It is open secret in valley that so many of state govt and central govt officials were involved in negotiations with terrorists who abducted Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989.? IB and RAW were certainly caught unaware when Kashmiri Hindus were forced to move out of valley and were subjected to inhuman violence. Why the intelligence apparatus was caught unaware may be a million dollars question for some, but fact remains that they are guilty of non-performance bordering cowardice.
What has gone wrong for all these anti national elements now? Why are they so uncomfortable now? Why the common man in valley is better off now? Reason is very simple. Average Kashmiri knows how much central govt is funding the projects in Kashmir. He can assume how all these political families must have been benefitted in last 75 years, years after years with funds from central govt while they were made to work to earn their livelihood on daily basis. They all became aware of process of funding of stone pelting from across the border which stopped after demonetisation.
Last four years have changed the complexion of Jammu and Kashmir. Valley had a chance to interact with BJP govt in Centre and BJP leader as Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Elections to District Development Councils and Gram Panchayat have shown to the people what development can do for them. Central govt schemes are being delivered at grass root level and making a difference to the life of people. This has prompted people to say that elections may be an unnecessary exercise in the valley. Though all decision makers are aware that political process must start.
Where do the discredited political leaders stand now. Mehbooba Mufti said.
Where is she now? and where is Dr Farooq Abdullah who said that accession to India will not stand if article 370 is abrogated. These are the same leaders who now are crying hoarse over success of abrogation of Article 370 and fast pace of integration of Kashmiri society into mainstream India. There is no doubt that process of integration of Kashmiri society with Indian mainstream has created lot of problems for stake holders of insurgency in Kashmiri so each one of them is trying hard to project that abrogation of article 370 has not worked successfully or probably it was not required at all.
Where do they stand now? With limited options with them and discredited in public opinion, they are looking to reinvent their relevance in public opinion. Hence the participation in Bharat Jodo Yatra where they are trying to get aligned with each other. Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed holding hands with Rahul Gandhi is the extent of desperation for her. Rahul Gandhi unfurling national flag on Lal Chowk is indicator of successful implementation of abrogation of Article 370 and the secure environment in the valley which has been created by present dispensation. Could Rahul Gandhi do it any time before during the years of insurgency.
Last four years have proven beyond doubt that there was no such sentiment called “Azadi”; it was a myth created by Pak sponsored separatists, who were put behind bars and shown their right place, and the mainstream leaders, who wanted to cling on to power by blackmailing New Delhi. Kashmir based politicians, who ruled J&K from decades had created a notion that they were the only ones who could keep Kashmir with India and if any attempt was made to challenge their authority J&K would fall in the lap of Pakistan.
People are now feeling free from the clutches of these separatists, political parties who catered for their own interest and Pakistan sponsored terrorists and terrorism. This is the real Azadi for them. Process has started but momentum has to be maintained. Pictures of Lal Chowk and entire Kashmir on 26 Jan shows how people value themselves as Indians. A growth story which is their own growth story. It is Naya Kashmir which is emerging now in which Kashmiris will be as Indians as anybody else. In fact, people are already visualising the day when people of POK will opt for India voluntarily to be part of superpower India where everyone has a choice to grow and develop.
It is time to move forward for Kashmir. Let the detractors of this Naya Kashmir be left behind along with their masters across the borders. India is moving on. We are waiting for the day when Indian bowling attack in international cricket is opened by two Kashmiri fast bowlers, Umran Mallik being the one . Let Indian Kashmiris realise their unexplored potential. God willing