The Jammu and Kashmir situation: What after the Obama visit? (Part 1)

New Delhi, Nov.15 (ANI): A question frequently asked in Jammu and Kashmir is where do we (India) go from here. An equally valid question in the Valley now is where do the separatists go from here.

The Obama visit was being looked upon with anticipation of some major development, as the climax of the five month long agitation. It was supposed to have put the Kashmir issue firmly on the international map and drowned India in a chorus of opprobrium led by the world's most powerful man. Net result would have been to force India to start talking about conceding Azadi.

The people had been led to believe that since Obama had talked about Kashmir in the run-up to the presidential elections in 2008, he would, on Indian soil, certainly articulate his vision about it.

Instead, Obama came; he praised India to high heaven, offered a global partnership and a seat on the high table of the UNSC. In the bargain he took back badly needed jobs for the US economy and talked about human rights in Burma.

Salt was rubbed on their wounds when Obama expressed support for India's membership of the Security Council despite the separatist chat of non-implementation of the UN resolutions on plebiscite in Kashmir

The Valley was stunned, the separatist leaders even more so. They were embarrassed at having been found out, at having led the ordinary people up the garden path, at having disrupted their lives, causing huge economic losses and worse, causing the death of 111, mostly young, people. There is a palpable sense of disillusionment and betrayal with the separatists.

he people of the Valley are now asking searching questions and demanding answers from the separatists. Quite suddenly even the tech-savvy faceless Facebookers seem to have faded, leaving the masses in the lurch just like the separatists have left them.

The separatists have a tough time in trying to explain why Obama did not comment about the 111 deaths since June 11 while he waxed eloquent about Burma. Not a word of sympathy for those who had lost loved ones?

Clinging to morsels, the separatists are flogging the point, indeed celebrating it, that Obama recognized Kashmir as a long-standing dispute that needed to be resolved. Geelani credited this to the recent uprising and the sacrifices made by the people in the last five months. Mirwaiz, with his two lakh signatures seeking US intervention, saw in this as a sign of US facilitation. Yasin Malik welcomed the statement as helping in the resolution of the dispute.

But the people are aghast that this response to a question was being touted as a victory by the separatists. 111 deaths for a mere reiteration of a long-standing US position and too, in reply to a question? Did so many have to die for this? People are openly questioning if so many sacrifices and such massive economic loss was needed only for this statement.

Worse, it has not escaped notice, that Obama underlined that the starting point of the Indo-Pak dialogue should not be 'that particular flashpoint" (i.e. Kashmir), echoing the consistent Indian position. He also made it clear that the US was not interested in unsolicited intervention on the subject. Topping it ll was his praise for Indian democracy and secularism

The separatists have clearly been discredited. Not only the Obama visit, but there are other signs of change, too. Despite Geelani's resistance, schools reopened on Sept. 27 and were marked by gradual increase in attendance. More recently, scores of people protested in Lal Chowk against shutdowns. There has been dismay when in Shopian, two civilians died when the vehicle in which they were travelling turned turtle following acts of stone pelting. Many traders and transporters have defied the protest calendar and carried on their business as usual.

With the obvious declining impact of total shutdowns, Geelani has been forced to tone down drastically his protest calendar with only 2-3 days of strikes in the latest 12-day period. In the past, the equation was the reverse.

What has been noticeable is that the shutdowns started running out of steam soon after the arrest of Masarrat Alam on October 18, 2010. This further reinforces the perception that it is not Geelani that is/has been in control.

Geelani, of course, is making his way to his house in New Delhi's upmarket Malviya Nagar for the winter, leaving the hapless stone-pelters and the distraught parents of those who lost loved ones to their own devices.

In seeking continued sacrifices from the people, Geelani and company have failed to recognize that Obama's focus was the economy and job losses in the US. The world sees a 'risen' India in a very different light than what Geelani would like to see India in. Perhaps the salubrious winter in Delhi will help him rethink his strategy for 2011 and come up with an alternative to getting innocent people killed so that he can continue to retain his hold.

However, disillusionment with the separatists and with Obama's silence coupled with petering of agitations should not be seen as the problem having gone away. Clearly, prolonged hartals have lost their sale by date. As Omar Abdullah called it 'hartal fatigue'. But the political problem remains.

This has significant and potentially dangerous implications for the future of the Valley. These will be elaborated in Part II of this article. by Salim Haq (ANI)

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: Mr. Salim Haq has authored the above article and the views expressed in tem are his.

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