SAJJAD Lone, leader of the People’s Conference, which is an ally of Hurriyat Conference, has come to realise that bullet cannot defeat ballot. He has thrown his hat in the ring from the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency, north Kashmir, the stronghold of his father. Abdul Gani Lone, who was killed by the militants nearly a decade ago.
To argue that Sajjad has returned to the ‘right path’ is to misinterpret him, because many from the youth chose the gun when they found that both New Delhi and Srinagar had once again rigged the 1987 state elections. His faith in the Election Commission has been revived since it has held a free and fair poll for the 2009 state assembly only four months ago. He found how some 68 per cent of the electorate queued up before the polling booths in severe winter to cast their vote despite the Hurriyat call for a boycott. Sajjad too had lent his voice. He has felt from then onwards that there was a message in what the voters did. They wanted to convey that they were sick of violence and looked to a normal life.
Whether Sajjad wins or loses is not the point at issue. The point is the futility of violence. He has come out openly to on the side of peace. By not giving the call for a boycott for the Lok Sabha election, the Hurriyat has also backed him in his initiative to voice the protest in the Indian parliament. It was reportedly an arduous task for Sajjad’s brother, Ballal, a member of the Hurriyat executive, to convince the Hurriyat to keep quiet. But he won because it has come to the end of the road and does not know how to move forward. Yet, in a positive way it has prepared the ground for a serious talk on Kashmir with Delhi after the new government takes over.
It will be, however, a mistake to believe that Sajjad, if elected, would be India’s voice in Kashmir. It may be the other way round. He has himself clarified that he would be Kashmir’s voice in India. He may wake up the slumbering Delhi which does not know how to retrieve the valley from the alienation in which the people live.
I wish Yasin Malik, leader of independent Kashmir movement, and other Hurriyat members had accepted my suggestion many years ago. I had told them to capture the state assembly through elections and raise their demand from the floor of the house. Their reply was that they did not want to sign the nomination papers which wanted a candidate to avow loyalty to India. Surprisingly, it has never stuck them that the passport form they sign requires them to say that they are Indian nationals.
What Sajjad has tried to convey is that the violence either by the state or the militants is not a solution to the problem of Kashmiris. Thousands of people have died in vain. There are still many separatists who favour the resumption of insurgency. Already the Dukhtare Kashmir, a militant women organization, has given a call to denounce persons like Sajjad. They do not realise that violence has in no way brought them nearer to their demands. In fact, the gun has become such a dangerous tool to achieve ends that it can set fire to all that the region wants to protect. Violence is destructive by nature and suppresses free expression.
In the elections held so far in India, the Naxalites have killed some 15 people because they do not believe in democracy. Their ideology, however egalitarian, is tainted with blood. They may have set up a “free corridor” in 17 districts, but they know that the armed struggle leads to nowhere except a short-lived triumph achieved somewhere in the interior by gunning down members of the police.
Violence has taken another shape in Pakistan. Taliban is not today’s creation; nor is their violence. Martial Law Administrators at Islamabad have been their father. They used Taliban first to try to get a “strategic depth” by dominating Afghanistan and then to needle India in Kashmir. Now, Taliban is not under their control. General Pervez Musharraf who has drawn attention to the serious situation in Pakistan connived at the activities of Taliban when he was in power. Even the Americans doubted his bona fides. What credibility does he have when he ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds? Some portion of ISI still supports Taliban and it is known to Islamabad.
The democratic government of Asif Ali Zardari should have dealt with Taliban more firmly. But it lacks strength and stamina. His political rival, Nawaz Sharif, should have volunteered help. But what surprises me is the nonchalant manner in which the Pakistan leaders are trying to face Taliban. It looks as if they are in sympathy with their philosophy. Otherwise, the Pakistan National Assembly’s resolution to support different religious affiliations only stokes fire of bigotry. One member has warned them that they were playing with the future of Pakistan, but his lone voice was drowned in the ‘yes’ of the majority.
I am not surprised over the least line of resistance which members of the National Assembly and others are adopting. After the Swat Valley agreement when I met Afsyander Wali Khan, leader of Awami National Party at Islamabad, he said this was the best course available but assured me there would be “no more.” Already Taliban militants from Swat Valley have moved to the Buner district, only 100 kilometres from Islamabad. They have refused to vacate the area under their occupation.
Religion is a private affair and it has nothing to do with politics, so said Qaide Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan. Jihnah did not want to mix religion with politics. I heard him in early August 1947 while I was still in Pakistan, saying, you can go to temples or mosques. The state would never interfere in what faith you pursue. National Assembly’s resolution goes counter to what he advocated. It has provided a shot in the arm of Taliban, encouraging them to demand the imposition of Shariat, the Islamic laws, not merely in the Swat Valley but all over Pakistan. None in Pakistan objects to Shariat. But Taliban have a different view and it is contrary to the spirit of Islam and its values.
Muslims can adjust their faith to the changes of time and history. The spiritual problems are the crucial ones. As Prophet Mohammad once told his followers on returning from battle, “You have to come back from the lesser to the greater struggle.” They asked, “What is the greater struggle, O Messenger of God?” And he replied, “The struggle within.”