Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a deeply frustrated person. For the father figure of Kashmiri secessionism, a high voter turnout in the just concluded state assembly elections has come as a rude shock. The seven-phase process witnessed an impressive 61.5% turnout, a quantum jump from the 43% turnout in the 2002 election.
In spite of his protestations of difference from India and Indians in civilizational terms, is Geelani any different from other extremists in India? We think not, for his behaviour is similar to that of his counterparts on the subcontinent. In defeat, they begin blaming those whose “cause” they once championed.
Quizzed by The Indian Express newspaper in his Srinagar house, he blamed the “weak resolve” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for participating in a basic democratic exercise. His solution to the problem: more violence in a state tired of mindless killings.
“The gun is also an important factor of the (freedom) movement and if this factor falls silent, the movement suffers and it has suffered,” he said. It is cynical calculations of the kind made by Geelani that have turned this “Paradise on Earth” into a living hell for its people.
The secessionists are clearly out of sync with the reality. Statistics cannot capture the long distance that separates J&K from India in terms of development. While investments have freely flowed into erstwhile backward states such as Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, terrorism ensured that J&K was deprived of its share. That in turn ensured precious few jobs for the army of unemployed youth there.
It is time the Indian establishment realized that Kashmiri people desire the same things as other citizens of India: education, good jobs and a comfortable life. There is no reason why special, nay extraordinary, efforts should not be made for them. They have voted in the face of terrorist threats. The least that can be done for them is provide them a clean and responsive administration. Once that is done, the Union government should spare a substantial amount of money for developmental purposes such as infrastructure, rural development and education. That would be money well spent.
Do successful elections mark the end of militancy in J&K? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org