The quake tested everyone. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has failed.
The true character of individuals and organisations stands out most in times of adversity. In the case of Umar Farooq, the Mirwaiz of Srinagar, it stands exposed.
Local and state governments are usually ill-equipped in the area of disaster management. The local and state governments of India’s Jammu & Kashmir state even more so — not because of some unusual incompetence on their part but because, since 1989, the machinery of governance has been systematically undermined on the ground by terrorists. The Hurriyat not only covered for these terrorists but applied itself to translate the resulting situation into its political agenda of driving a wedge of distrust between ordinary Kashmiri people and the Indian state.
After last week’s quake, the Moderate Mirwaiz first criticised corporate India for not opening purse-strings wide enough. The speedy and untiring response of the Indian security forces — originally sent there to fight terrorists — found no mention or thanks in his public sermons. Neither did the actions of the Hurriyat’s political constituency — the jihadi groups — who have continued to launch terrorist strikes, not just in spite of the earthquake, but because of it. They smelt an opportunity when they saw that the army psychologically and operationally committed to humanitarian operation.
The Moderate Mirwaiz smelt an opportunity too. An opportunity to drive the wedge down deeper between the Kashmiri people and the Indian nation. Hitherto the Hurriyat was telling the Kashmiris that the Indian government cared not for them. Now, the Umar Farooq is telling them that the Indian people have no heart for Kashmiris (linkthanks: Laks). If the likes of the Mirwaiz are allowed to pass off as the voice of the Kashmiris, then one cannot blame the Indian people if they are left a bit tired by the non-stop negativity.
Consider this. Umar Farooq portayed every act of commission on the part of India as insignificant or cynical. So the Indian response is “tepid” and “cold”, its offer to help Pakistan cope as “propaganda”, and its refusal to accept foreign aid “putting pride before the Kashmiri people”. And similarly every act of omission diabolical or niggardly. He would like to have the frontlines thrown open so that Indian Kashmiris could receive or deliver relief to their Pakistani counterparts. With so much damage having occurred in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, it is unclear what relief the Mirwaiz expects to receive from there (hopefully not from these people), but India could well have sent sent its helicopters over to help — if only Musharraf had allowed that. He does make a point about allowing direct telephone connectivity between the two sides, but he lacks the bona fides to demand this, not until he says something to the effect of ‘engaging in terrorism is wrong, especially so during such times’.
Umar Farooq may be think himself a moderate. But his words and actions during Kashmir’s time of crisis weigh against him being considered as a person of integrity, honour and a sense of responsibility that is called for in someone who intends to discuss the weighty matter of the future of Kashmir with the Indian prime minister. At his level of political sophistication, he is better off as a spokesman for Pakistani interests in Kashmir and an apologist for the manner in which it exercises them. Nothing more.