Hurriyat (G) Chairman SAS Geelani has expressed the opinion that India has no “moral right” to celebrate its Republic Day since it has been trampling the rights of Kashmiri people since the last 70 years. Accordingly, the Hurriyat declared 26 January a ‘Black Day’ and asked the people to boycott Republic Day celebrations in Kashmir. However, if Geelani sahib’s view is right then the entire international community must be wrong because except for the Hurriyat no one else has grudged India celebrating its Republic Day.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an influential member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which doesn’t share New Delhi’s stance on Kashmir. Just recently, the OIC made a blistering attack on New Delhi for the brutal use of force against protesters during the post Burhan Wani encounter agitation. Yet, Crown Prince of Au Dabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces considered it appropriate to accept New Delhi’s invitation as chief guest for the Republic Day parade at New Delhi.
Islamabad too openly condemns the Indian “occupation” of Kashmir and vociferously denounces the “atrocities” in Kashmir. Yet, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif conveyed greetings to their Indian counterparts on the occasion of Republic Day. Likewise, though Pakistani and Indian security forces consistently exchange fire along the International Border and the Line of Control, but on 26 January, Pakistani Rangers and Indian Border Security Force exchanged sweets at the Attari – Wagah border.
Beijing also considers Kashmir a ‘disputed territory’ and it has in the past refused visa to an Indian Army General on the grounds that he “controlled a disputed area (J&K).” Furthermore, by repeatedly blocking New Delhi’s efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azar declared an international terrorist at the UN, Beijing has indirectly accepted that it supports what Islamabad and the Hurriyat refers to as ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir. Nevertheless, despite its own serious border issues with India, a delegation of China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army met an Indian army delegation in Ladakh, participated in the ceremonial hoisting of flags of both countries and even attended a cultural show put up by the Indian army!
In such a situation when no one has any objections to India celebrating its Republic Day what meaning does the Hurriyat’s call for observing 26 January as a ‘black day’ have? The more important question that arises is what exactly has the Hurriyat achieved by doing so when its closest allies have conveyed their best wishes to New Delhi on the occasion of India’s Republic Day? This is where the problem lies- the separatists seem unwilling to think beyond the ordinary. It is unfortunate that instead of reinforcing the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ by adopting some convincing line of argument, the Hurriyat continues to dissipate its energies on ‘non issues’ and then complains that no one is listening to its voice.
With no offense meant to any individual or organisation, the Hurriyat’s current strategy is akin to the erratic behaviour of a child who throws up tantrums in order to attract attention. In case the separatists want their voice to be heard then they have to come up with something compelling and in our case we already have it in the form of UN resolutions on Kashmir. So why aren’t our leaders making UN resolutions the basis for carrying on the struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ forward instead of limiting themselves to observing ‘black days’?
Our leaders may comfort us by saying that freedom struggles don’t succeed overnight and support this view by citing examples of freedom struggles all over the world. However, while what they are saying is true, but let us be more realistic. The fact is that freedom struggles only succeed under two circumstances; the first is when it becomes militarily untenable or economically unviable for the ruling nation to hold on (like the end of colonization after World War II). The second reason is when the freedom movement is on such a sound political and moral footing that it automatically gets international support (like the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa).
In the case of Kashmir, whether we like it or not, but to think that the India can be militarily or economically forced to relent would be living in a fool’s paradise. Hence the struggle for ‘right to self determination’ can only succeed if it has international support and for this our leaders have to think beyond protests and agitations. The UN resolutions provide legitimacy to the ‘right to self determination’ movement but it will only attract international support when our leaders follow these resolutions in letter and spirit. The core of the Kashmir dispute is the occupation of Kashmir by India and Pakistan and therefore the first step forward would require the Hurriyat to univocally declare both New Delhi and Islamabad to be ‘illegal occupiers’ of J&K and treat them alike.
For the Hurriyat to say that Pakistan is also in ‘illegal occupation’ of Kashmir may appear to be very difficult but there is no choice as the UN resolutions say so. Therefore, if Pakistan is really our well wisher then it shouldn’t have any objections to this especially when the aim is solely to put pressure on New Delhi for agreeing to holding plebiscite. To further help out the people of Kashmir, our leaders could also request Islamabad to fulfill its plebiscite related obligations as contained in the UN resolutions so that New Delhi stands isolated in the international arena and is forced to relent. Here again there shouldn’t be any problems as Islamabad and the Hurriyat are confident that an overwhelming majority people of Kashmir would opt to be with Pakistan.
Tailpiece: If the Hurriyat overcomes its ‘black day’ observance obsession and instead evolves a strategy that focuses on clearing the way for plebiscite in Kashmir and in case Islamabad cooperates, then it’s a ‘win-win’ situation for both Pakistan and the Hurriyat!