First read the abstract from a true story- The Rubaiya episode.
It is a short walk to the bus stop from the Lal Ded Memorial hospital in Srinagar. At 1525 hours on a cold Friday, Rubaiya Sayeed, a 23-year-old intern, stepped out on to the Iqbal Park road, turned right, and walked to the intersection ahead. Rubaiya was on her way home to Nowgam. Boarding a local mini-bus, she settled down to what she thought was another routine ride.
At Ram Bagh two men got in. Except for a passenger, it was doubtful whether anyone read anything sinister in that. Certainly Rubaiya did not.
The nightmare began at Bagat Kanipora. Three strangers suddenly materialised beside Rubaiya with guns. They forced her out of the bus into a waiting blue Maruti.
The hour was 1545. It signalled the beginning of a 122-hour drama.
Rubaiya’s abduction was spurred by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s appointment as independent India’s first Muslim Union home minister. He had taken the oath in Delhi on December 2, 1989, just six days before.
Sayeed, who was in Delhi then, came to know of the abduction two hours later. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, a pro-independence militant outfit, claimed credit for it through telephone calls. Their ransom: the release of five jailed colleagues.
The Vishwanath Pratap Singh government — then in power only for six days — hurriedly constituted a Cabinet subcommittee comprising ministers Arun Nehru, Arif Mohammad Khan and Inder Kumar Gujral. In Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary Moosa Raza formed a special cell to tackle the crisis.
The next day saw frantic attempts to establish contact with the militants. On December 10, they reiterated their demand: release the militants by 1900 hours on Monday or “Rubaiya’s body will be thrown within Srinagar city.”
Negotiations began in earnest with Justice M L Bhat of the Allahabad high court as intermediary. The first deadline came and went; talks continued. Meanwhile, four of the five militants whose release was demanded were brought to Srinagar.
Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, fresh-returned from an abandoned foreign tour, was dead against giving in. But the Centre had more or less decided to free the militants.
December 13 saw Gujral and Arif Mohammad Khan landing in Srinagar with the prime minister’s orders to release Abdul Hamid Sheikh, Sher Khan, Noor Mohammad Kalwal, Altaf Ahemed and Javed Ahemed Jargar. On Wednesday afternoon at 1505 hours, they were released in Rajouri Kadal in downtown Srinagar.
Zafar Meeraj, a prominent journalist in the valley, received a telephone call an hour later. “We have got our boys,” the JKLF spokesman told him in Urdu, “The girl will be with her parents soon.”
Another hour and Rubaiya was back with her family. “I had left her fate in the hands of the Almighty,” said an overjoyed Sayeed, “She got a fresh lease of life.”
The release of the militants saw great euphoria in Kashmir. “There was no sympathy for Rubaiya. The people were all with the militants,” recollects journalist Aasha Khosa who has spent the last 10 years in the valley.
“The kidnapping was a shock. The security personnel did not have a clue. Till then everyone was treating militancy as a joke. People used to say, ‘hey, my cousin has become a militant, he has a gun now…’ The Rubaiya episode changed all that. It made people realise that there was major trouble in Kashmir.
“When the militants were released there was celebration all around,” she continues, “I have never seen so many people on the streets! They sang, danced and raised anti-India slogans.”
One of the slogans, Jo kare khuda ke khauf, Utale Kalashnikov (All god-fearing men, pick up the gun), was a pointer to how much the situation had deteriorated.
Many say the abduction was the watershed in the Kashmir insurgency. Releasing the militants, this group holds, was nothing short of a blunder.
“Had the V P Singh government not buckled down, things would have been different,” they say, “The JKLF would not have harmed Rubaiya. People felt if they could get this done at gunpoint, then they could get independence too.”
Adds a senior police officer who served in Srinagar then. “The people saw India brought to her knees for the first time. It made them feel that azaadi (independence) was only a short distance away.”
Critics of this theory are plenty, Sayeed among them. They feel the incident was just another link in a long chain of events.
“We have killed all the released militants and a few thousand more. Has that in anyway reduced militancy?” they ask, “If it wasn’t Rubaiya, something else would have happened. Tension had been building up for years.”
What are the faults ??
The rulers, their doings
THE PRIME MINISTERS
In a symbolic sense, Nehru committed the original sin in Kashmir.
Beneath his suave, scholarly exterior, he was a divided soul, trying to act the international statesman when domestic politics demanded otherwise.
Nowhere was this more manifest than in his bungling on Kashmir’s status in international fora.
It was he who irrevocably compromised India’s position by agreeing to — and repeatedly reinforcing — the principle of a plebiscite. Again, it was he who gave Pakistan a locus standi on the issue. Instead of exposing Pakistan’s de facto aggressor status following its 1948 ‘tribal’ invasion, Nehru inexplicably started casting doubts on the legality of the Instrument of Accession.
Nehru’s duality was evident again in his dealings with Sheikh Abdullah. He alternately blew hot and cold. India’s first prime minister, for all his democratic convictions, was not above having the Lion of Kashmir interred. Subsequently, as though to undo the damage, Nehru would indulge in largesse that was politically unjustifiable and had long-term repercussions.
Though far more hard-nosed than her father, she was also guilty of misplaced magnanimity — and that too at a critical juncture.
India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh war was an ideal opportunity to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio once and for all. But instead of grovelling before her at the Simla talks, Pakistani premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto subtly turned the tables. In the agreement that finally got initialled, the Pakistanis — thanks to Gandhi’s smugness, and to India’s lasting discomfiture — managed to push in a clause that left the Jammu and Kashmir question “open to [future confabulations] of representatives from both sides”.
As a forceful politician, Gandhi ended the political war of attrition with Sheikh Abdullah. In 1975, she signed the Kashmir Accord. Abdullah’s response was to forget his secessionist politics and disband the Plebiscite Front.
But instead of capitalising on it, Gandhi’s paranoia led her to try and force Dr Farooq Abdullah into a seat-sharing arrangement in the 1984 Lok Sabha election. Her next move was to topple the Farooq government.
By alienating the Kashmiris, Gandhi sowed the seeds of hardboiled militancy that were to erupt a few years after her death — a result, tragically, of yet another Frankenstein she had unleashed in Punjab.
As India’s youngest prime minister and darling of the masses, he rushed in where the United Nations and seasoned politicians refused to tread — a fragile status quo.
Without taking ground realities into account, he buried the hatchet with Dr Farooq Abdullah, fatuously believing that this alone would stop the state’s slide into a morass. In the 1987 assembly election, the National Conference, low on popular support, celebrated the Rajiv-Farooq détente by brazenly rigging the polls. If militancy ever had self-doubts, this put an end to those.
Then on, it was ‘Indian dogs go back. ‘
Vishwanath Pratap Singh
He is sure to find special mention in the history of Kashmir. Not just for the fact that the gun culture got a new lease of life during his dispensation, but also because his was one administration that was expected to fare better than Rajiv Gandhi’s in tackling the discord.
Singh did seem set to make a fresh start. He entrusted railway minister George Fernandes with the charge of Kashmir. It was seen as a move to address longstanding issues. And things did look promising till militants kidnapped Rubaiya Sayeed.
That sent the message that this was a weak-kneed government. By then Singh was immersed in saving his government from Devi Lal & Co on one hand and the BJP on the other.
Result: Kashmir slid first into the deep freeze, then the backburner, from where it has almost slipped out of the country’s hands.
P V Narasimha Rao
There were two personas to him when he was prime minister. One, the old man in a hurry, as buttressed by his unshackling of the Indian economy.
The other and more popular persona is PVN the ditherer.
The man with the eternal pout who always felt it expedient to brush problems under the carpet.
With regard to Kashmir, alas, he chose the second persona. If the economy was the biggest achievement of his government, at least in its initial years, then Kashmir could be considered a failure. It was during his tenure that militancy peaked.
The Charar-e-Sharief incident in 1995 showed that his government had no clue to the problem.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Ironically, it is the Hindu BJP that Muslim Kashmir has pinned its hopes on. Specifically, on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
“If he can go to Lahore, he definitely can do something about Kashmir,” is the sentiment of many, including certain Hurriyat leaders.
However, there are others who feel that Vajpayee would be of no help to Kashmiris. Till recently, Vajpayee hadn’t exhibited much interest in the border state. But,the prime minister seemed to have pulled up his sleeves in the Kargil war.
POWERS IN PAKISTAN
Zulfikar Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharief
So intertwined is his destiny with the troubled state that all a Pakistani premier has to do to lose his job is show, however slightly, a lack of interest in Kashmir.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the man who lent this aspect an added sharpness. Though he lost the 1971 war to India and saw a major portion of his country break away, he managed the Simla Agreement to Pakistan’s advantage. He believed in severing Kashmir from India, even if it took a ‘thousand-year war’.
Successive prime ministers have shared that sentiment fully, extending their whole-hearted backing to the Kashmiri ‘freedom-fighters’. Benazir Bhutto veered slightly from this, thanks to her Western education. She tried to warm up to India, but was quickly brought to ground by a stint out of power.
Despite the Kargil misadventure, everyone believed that Nawaz Sharief was genuinely trying to improve relations with India. The strongest prime minister since the military started playing an excessive role in Pakistan’s administration, he started believing in his own invincibility, and is now unlearning some lessons.
and what are the solutions??