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Masarat Alam – To Free Or Not To Free

While most border (and Line of Control or Line of Actual Control) issues have two parties, which are generally the countries on either side, the Kashmir issue has multiple facets to take care of. Scores of journalists, politicians, scholars, bureaucrats and dignitaries have offered solutions to this gargantuan problem. All promise to be pragmatic, somehow none has been successful. India, Pakistan, separatists, Kashmiri pandits and the Indian Army are all interested parties in the valley, one way or the other.

Cut to a cold night of January,1990. It was the 19th day of the month and most loudspeakers in Kashmir blared:

“Hum kya chaaaahte: Azaadi

Eiy zaalimon, eiy kafiron, Kashmir humara chhod do”

This is what journalist Rahul Pandita and a large number of other Kashmiri Pandits heard when the unfortunate exodus began some 25 years ago. It must be frightening to think being driven out of place you have always lived in and called home, right?

Anyway, everyone wants a free Kashmir. Yet, nobody gets a free Kashmir. At least till now, no one has. It is a dilemma. It is a question of what is most likely India’s right versus what might be right. So what is right and what is not?

This brings us to the current debate of freeing up Masarat Alam. The 44 year old Masarat Alam Bhatt was let out of jail a two days ago by the new PDP government. (Actually, not. The new government is just following the court’s orders passed before the PDP-BJP alliance came into power). A political activist cum “stone-thrower”, Alam began his ‘political’ career at the age of 16 in 1987. He initially participated  in the rallies of separatist parties. Disillusioned as he was, and remains, he became a militant in the early nineties, rising in ranks to become a a commander of Hezbollah. The separatist leader and ‘freedom’ activist was arrested in 2010 after the stone pelting incident in which as many as 112 people were killed. Well, to be frank, you can Google all this information and read it up.

The real question that beckons is whether Masarat Alam should have been freed from jail or not?

The supporters of democracy, who like to refer themselves as ‘liberals’ will argue that we are a democratic nation and hence, it is wrong to arrest and keep in detention any activist. Rightly so. But what if the so called “activist” is hazardous to national interest? Mind you, this man has been pro-Pakistan in the past. Could we allow such a person to roam freely and exercise his freedom of speech? Should the rights of an individual be kept at an altar higher than the entire country? That is debatable. Or is it?

According to him and a reputed media outlet’s report, he says and we quote “it shows how tenuous is the silence on the ground which is often portrayed as peace, and how afraid the Indian and pro-India establishment is of our ideas and beliefs.”

If we, honorable Sir, are pro India, how are we wrong? Isn’t national security of paramount importance? Or should we let the whims and fancies of a handful of so called leaders rule our judgement and thereby decide what is best for India? Should Kashmir be given away, just like that, to separatists like Alam, who as he says, “India is an oppressor and has occupied this land since 1947. India should go… People of J&K are mature enough to decide their future as a nation… They’ve seen so many things… The situation has educated them. But first, and most important, India should quit J&K”.

Having said that, it was indeed wrong (for him) to be detained for years without any incrimination. However wrong he might be, he has his rights as an Indian citizen and those must be provided to him. But with the goodies bag of rights, comes duties as a citizen, which most of us tend to forget. Alam wants Kashmir to be an independent state, a country with allegiance to neither India nor Pakistan. And how does he intend to run it? As a personal fiefdom? Does he guarantee us that there will be no terrorist attacks in future in Kashmir? That it shall be all peaceful and people will indeed live happily ever after? I doubt so.

Pakistan has far too many problems of its own to come and annex Kashmir. The economically crippled nation must first resurrect itself from the valley of woes it is falling in. Kashmir might have been an ego game, a power trip for Pakistan, the separatists and some other players. But for the nation, for India, it remains an integral part. I would still go by the childhood teaching of Kashmir is the head of our great nation.

– कपूत बालक

(The above post originally appeared on campusghanta.com )

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