New Delhi, Aug. 23:People of Jammu and Srinagar have displayed an enormous capacity to be active, demonstrating and venting their anger against each other during the last two months.
The basic issue that sparked off the demonstrations was the transfer of 100 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, mainly in Baltal, to set up pre-fabricated structures for the use of pilgrims. But the controversy has now grown beyond the issue of the transfer of land.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Chief of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, has been candid enough to say that he and his associates are no longer bothered about the land issue. What they want is that the State should become a part of Pakistan.
Another set of demonstrators like Yasin Malik is clear that what they want is Azadi and the right to self-determination.
In Jammu, the agitation started for the revocation of the order permitting the use of 100 acres of land by the Amarnath Shrine Board. The Amarnath Shrine Sangarsh Samiti spearheaded the agitation in Jammu. The Samiti was perhaps surprised that their agitation received spontaneous support from a majority of the people in the region.
In fact the pent-up feelings of the people of Jammu, who have accepted a 'secondary role' in the State ever since Independence, erupted. They have fewer seats in the State Assembly, even though they are greater in number. They feel that politicians from the Valley dominate the State government and the funds earmarked for development are mostly spent on projects in the Kashmir Valley
The people of Jammu decided that they should no longer keep quiet but tell the people of the Kashmir Valley that they want their rightful place in the affairs of the State.
The leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party sensed an 'issue' which may have an all- India appeal and decoded to mobilize people which will turn them to support the party in the national elections due early next year. The BJP decided to lend patronage to the agitation in Jammu.
For campaigners who are always looking for causes like Arundhati Roy, the issue presented an attractive platform. Some journalists, who have been analyzing the Kashmir 'issue' for years, have got so tired that a few of them have started saying that let Kashmir go wherever it wants.
The latest is that there are marches being held in Srinagar to the office of the UN Observer Group. In response the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti has been organizing rallies and volunteers have offered themselves to be arrested.
One has seen events in Srinagar in 1989 and 1990 when every other day the 'militants' marched to the UN Observer Group office in Srinagar. Many of them feel that such marches will elicit international support for their cause.
Many of the marchers in Srinagar forget that in those days, the United States Embassy in Delhi had officials like Robin Raphael, who used to voice support for the separatists. Journalists like Barbara Crossette, who used to represent the New York Times, would give display to conjured up events like the 'rape' of women in Kunan-Poshpora by a unit of the Army. Such support for the movement does not exist today.
Two decades ago it looked for a while that the Government in Srinagar had melted away. The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Central Government, headed by none other than Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, agreed to exchange militants for securing the release of his daughter Rubiya Sayeed.
The militants then felt that they could confront the Centre.
It took a little over fifteen years for normalcy to return to the State. Assembly elections were held in 1996. Elections were held again in 2002, which were universally accepted as being free and fair.
Those elements in Western countries, which had initially supported militancy, saw their mistake, particularly after the kidnapping and murder of western tourists by Al Faran in 1995.
Today the Western countries are keener to see an end to 'militancy', which is seen as a form of 'terrorism'. After Kargil, Pakistan lost its credibility. General Musharraf. who was an 'ally' in the war against terror, has himself been left to face his fate.
True, the issue of the allotment of 100 acres of land for the limited purpose of building pre-fabricated structures for Amarnath tourists has helped the separatists to revive themselves. And the 'movement' will get lip-sympathy in many countries, which had supported the agitation in the early nineties.
The agitators in Jammu, who have 'risen' for the first time in six decades have made their grievances heard all over India. But the agitation has not been able to rouse 'feelings' in the rest of the country.
The people of Jammu have made their point. But it is unlikely that the rest of the country would support the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti in keeping the issue alive for long. People are unlikely to support the BJP in its efforts to spread the agitation to other parts of the country.
Elements in Pakistan would certainly support militants in the Kashmir Valley to keep the issue alive. They may also try their best to fan the 'movement' in Jammu. A united Jammu and Kashmir would not be in their interest.
For a while, there would be more attempts at infiltration along the Line of Control. There would be more violence. But the Indian Army today is much stronger than what it was two decades ago, and India has emerged as a strong economic power in the World.
If anyone wants to believe that the Indian Army and the Central Security Forces are tired of fighting the terrorists and militants in Kashmir, they are mistaken.
India cannot allow any part of it to secede. There have been periods of turbulence, but those periods have only resulted in uniting the people of India.
There has been a continuous 'dialogue' between India and Pakistan to find a solution to the Kashmir issue. What is perhaps more important is that there should be a 'dialogue' between the different regions of the State itself. I.Ramamohan Rao, Chief Editor, Asian News International E:mail:raoramamohan @ hotmail.com y I. Ramamohan Rao.