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Masarat Alam’s case: Are the separatists in Kashmir given too much importance?

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By Harshmeet Singh

The ghosts of his decision to release the Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam have come back to haunt the Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The executive orders to set Alam free last month raised many eye-brows. The BJP itself was among the critics of the decision (although the saffron party did hardly anything apart from verbal criticism!). Now in less than 40 days of his release, Alam was today arrested, perhaps raising the question – why was he released at the first place?

Separatists Masarat Alam and Syed Ali Shah Geelani were found raising pro Pakistan (and anti India) slogans at a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday. Organized to welcome Geelani back to the state, the rally saw Pakistani flags being hoisted by the youth attending the rally. The BJP’s response, as in the previous case when Alam was released, was nothing more than verbal criticism. “We are not part of the government to give space to those shouting pro-Pakistan slogans there,” is what BJP’s General Secretary, Ram Madhav had to say. But as the facts stand today, BJP is indeed a part of the same government that gives space to people shouting pro-Pakistan slogans!

Allegedly regarded as the mastermind behind the stone throwing protests in the state in 2010, Alam is seen as the heir apparent to Geelani at the Hurriyat. Denying any wrongdoing, Alam said, “There was a welcome programme for Geelani. Some youth had (Pakistani) flags there. Why should I be held responsible for it?” Despite years of negotiations, the separatists haven’t changed their stance an inch – to ‘free’ the state of Jammu & Kashmir from the Indian ‘rule’.

Who are the separatists anyway?

Pakistan’s reasons behind calling the separatists ‘actual representatives’ of the state are solely based on the latter’s anti-India stand. Frequent meetings between the Pakistani officials and the separatists have also signalled at the growing bonhomie between the two parties over the years. Oblivion to the basic needs of the youth in the valley, the separatists have carried on with their political agenda over the decades. Decades of needless violence along with frequent natural disasters have left the youth furious and disappointed. Increasing literacy among the youth in the state has led to an eroding supporter base for the separatists over the years. Rallies, such as the one on Wednesday, are a ‘show of strength’ by the separatists more than anything else.

Are we treating them too well?

Our ever so hospitable nature towards these separatists hasn’t helped our cause one bit. A number of these separatists are, in fact, provided security on the Government’s expenditure! There have been allegations (from the BJP MLAs themselves!) that the state Government is spending funds worth crores for the security cover, special vehicles and other facilities that are being provided to the separatists.

Such favours from the state Government aren’t surprising at all, considering that the state’s newly sworn Chief Minister thanked them and Pakistan for ‘allowing’ peaceful elections in the valley!

Rajesh Gupta, BJP MLA in the state, said, “I had put a question on the details of security cover of separatist leaders and money spent by the state government on their security annually. But my question was deleted and no answer was given to me,”

Responding to the claims, the Hurriyat spokesperson, Shahid-ul-Islam said, “The government in the recent past has made a false revelation that it is spending crores of rupees for the security of the Hurriyat leaders and that there are a total number of 1476 separatists which come under this category.”

He further added that ‘only’ eight separatists are provided such protection. “It is Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Maulana Abbas Ansari,  Bilal Gani Lone, Aaga Syed Hassan, Faz Haq Qureshi, Saleem Geeelani and myself,” he said.

The mere speculations of a separate township for Kashmiri Pandits in the state saw the separatists calling for a shutdown in the valley. Such were the protests that the CM had to make a statement in the assembly, saying that there are no such plans in the pipeline.

A Two party conflict or three? 

Pakistan’s insistence towards making Kashmir a three-party conflict is an open secret. India, on the other hand, sticks to the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration signed between the two countries. One of the major outcomes of the Simla agreement was – “Both countries will ‘settle their differences’ by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations”.

Current situation

Masarat Alam and Geelani have been charged under the Ranbir Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their activities during the recent rally. But more than anyone else, they themselves would be aware that any conviction by the judiciary would take years. And with an ever friendly government at the realm, any serious conviction seems a distant reality.

Next Story

The Rafale Deal: Corporate Rivalry Impacting National Interest

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie's dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on 'India's strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal'.Pixabay

A recent European Union intelligence sharing exercise with India has revealed that Lockheed Martin, the US-headquartered company which manufactures the F-16 fighter jets, has been up to mischief mongering on the Rafale issue.

The Rafale jets, which India wants, is manufactured by the French aerospace company Dassault Aviation, a rival of Lockheed Martin.

That Lockheed Martin could be working in the shadows to sour the Rafale deal for India so that it could move in with its own deal was validated when Vivek Lall, Lockheed Martin’s high-profile head of strategy and India operations, said that the company was in the process of finalising the sale of 200 fighters to India.

During the UPA regime, the government had signed an MoU for 126 Rafale fighter jets to replenish a major shortcoming in air defence preparedness because the Indian Air Force did not have quality fighter jets. When the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, this deal was revised and an inter-government deal was struck to receive 36 fully-loaded Rafale jets. The controversy now raging in India is related to the pricing for the fighters negotiated by the NDA.

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’. Pixabay

In December when the Rafale case came before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that processes were generally followed over the procurement. He also noted that the controversy had been triggered by comments by former French President Francois Hollande over the selection of the offset partner and that mere comments could not form the basis for a probe.

However, this has not prevented the Rafale purchase controversy from becoming a high-octane political battle between the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Repeatedly over the past few months and more stridently now in the lead-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has led a no-holds barred attack on the government and the Prime Minister specifically on the issue. From the earlier public disinterest on the controversy, it is now now getting some traction — the Congress party believes this could be possible because it has relentlessly raised the matter at all public forums.

Bringing up the case of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was said to be part of the orhestrated plan to present the case of the American companies while also appearing nationalistic. In the government’s estimate, HAL’s record is abysmal and it cannot be given a big responsibility like building fighter jets — more so in the light of the safety record of MiG fighters purchased from Russia and made under licence from HAL.

The BJP-led government at the Centre believes — and it is certain it has evidence of this — that the Congress party is doing this as it has become a party to corporate rivalry between the US and French aerospace companies. For the record, Lockheed Martin is believed to have found a sympathetic ally in another US aerospace major, Boeing, which manufactures the F-18. Dassault has another rival in French manufacturer Airbus Industrie, which is associated with BAE for the manufacture of the Eurofighter. It is also angling for a fighter jet contract with India.

Rahul Gandhi’s attacks on the government over the Rafale issue started after his visit to the US in August 2017 when he met several defence lobbyists, CEOs of US defence companies and Pentagon officials.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’.

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Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Pixabay

The government’s efforts to trace the footprints of the dramatis personae at the forefront of the campaign to target the government over the Rafale deal has produced surprising results. It has found what it believes are eye-opening linkages between Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — who filed a PIL in the Supreme Court accusing the Prime Minister of corruption in the deal — and arms dealers and defence manufacturers. At least in one case, the linkages show deep connections between members of Shourie’s family with aerospace companies, arms dealers and defence lobbies.

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie’s dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

Also Read: The Craft of Distilling Is Ancient, Different Story Behind Every Bottle

The government is also aware of the links between a top BJP leader’s son-in-law and a French manufacturer. The son-in-law is said to be advising Rahul Gandhi and is believed to be making government documents available to him for the campaign against Rafale.

Lockheed Martin’s alleged actions to work the political ecosystem to pull down the Rafale procurement deal also has a larger strategic context. Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.  (IANS)