4 May 2009
Che Kamyu Kareneay taveez pan
Yaaro van bale yaaro van
Who hath cast thy spell on thou?
Speak up my friend, speak up
Wahab Khar, the 18th century poet, probably had the power to see future. How else does one explain the above verse, unless he knew that Sajjad Lone, the most vociferous of the Kashmir separatists, would one day take a U-turn (strategic, not ideological, let us be clear) and join the election fray.
Intrigue has always been a part of Kashmir’s history, and Kashmir’s leaders have more often that not been treacherous and perfidious. Sajjad Lone can be no exception.
After all he is following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, who was first a minister in the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. But when the tide of separatism engulfed the valley, he, too, changed colours and became a separatist. As they say in Kashmir, once a turncoat, always a turncoat.
Abdul Ghani Lone was about to don his old colours when rival separatist gangs got a whiff of his intent, and killed him. Sajjad and Bilal had a chance to speak up then, but the fear of death at the hands of terrorists got the better of them. If you can’t beat them, join them.
Bilal joined the Hurriyat Conference. Sajjad kept to his People’s Conference because the Hurriyat did not want him. They were wary of him for various reasons, the primary being his proximity to some sections of the Indian Establishment.
Sajjad, who spends more time outside the valley, found support from the liberal media and some sections of the chatteratti, and thus was propelled to the national television screens as a “a separatist leader” (sic). It was of little consequence that he enjoyed little or no support at the ground. His English speaking abilities and suave ways became his passport for leadership – not least because of his connections with the Editors of English news channels.
Then came his big moment! The Amarnath agitation divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir as never before. The Congress-PDP coalition government cancelled the temporary allocation of land for Amarnath pilgrims, which led to protests in Jammu. Sajjad Lone scoffed to Arnab Goswami (Times Now), “Are you comparing the agitation in a few Mohallas in Jammu to that of a Pan-Kashmir Agitation?”
Then, as the agitation intensified and gained ground, he told Rajdeep Sardesai (CNN-IBN) “We should give one and half district to Jammu and live peacefully.” Matters reached a crescendo when he shouted at Dr. Jitendra Singh in Barkha Dutt’s programme that “the land row is settled, all that is to be settled is Azadi.” He even wanted Jitendra Singh’s mike to be muted. Sajjad was arrogant and rude, to say the least. He was so vocal about being a Kashmiri separatist that he forgot ordinary human decencies; he howled instead of debating.
Soon elections were round the corner. The separatists, including Sajjad, gave a boycott call, but a determined Election Commission went ahead with the election schedule. Sajjad was once again the most vocal face of the boycotters. Even on the day when the first phase figures came out and 64% electorate had cast its votes, he told Arnab Goswami “One swallow does not make a spring. Wait, there still is six more phases”.
Meanwhile, his sister Shabnam Lone, also stood for elections. He swore by the Holy Quran that he had nothing to do with her candidature. He said he did not support the farce called elections. He renewed his calls for boycott and his sister lost.
Election results were announced. Sajjad was forlorn and dejected. He seemed to have lost the guftaar (art of conversation), though he still maintained that he did not regret his decision to boycott polls. He was suddenly seen biting dust. He called for introspection, but then who would have thought that this would be introspection.
His introspection will be to swear in the name of the Indian Constitution. Whether he represents Kashmir in India or India in Kashmir is mere semantics. Doesn’t Sharad Pawar represent Maharashtra in India and India in Maharashtra?
A word is due to our columnists who see this as a “paradigm shift” in Kashmir politics, who believe that Lone is a “moderate voice” among separatists, and who believe that his “Achievable Nationhood Document” was Godsend to Kashmir.
Such columnists should spend some more time in Kashmir and go beyond what they see from their exotic shikaras. They should talk to normal Kashmiris and know what the Lone U-turn means. It is time to stop stirring spittle, time to stop telling us that in the last Assembly elections Kashmiris voted for Bijli, Sadak, Paani and not for India. Do alienated journos think we are so dumb as to believe that all these years Kashmiris did not need Bijli, sadak and Paani? Go drink some water at Chasme Shahi; it is believed to have medicinal values that cure brain disorders.
One sincerely hopes that the establishment allows the elections to be free and fair and does not in any way or form aid the candidature of Sajjad Lone. It is only then that we will all know how much of a leader Sajjad is outside the television studios.
Only time will tell if he is elected or not, or if the Sonia-led Congress Government covertly gets him to the Parliament or not. What we know for sure is that his U-turn only reflects the direction of the wind in Kashmir. The signals are loud and clear. In the days and months to come, separatists have more dust to bite. Wait for some more U-turns!!!
The writer is co-founder of the Kashmiri Pandit Group - Roots in Kashmir