Asma Lone learns politics in Valley
30 June 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: The marriage of Asma, daughter of JKLF leader Amanullah Khan, to Abdul Gani Lone’s son Sajjad six months ago generated excitement across the South Asian region. The wedding, solemnised in Pakistan, was more a political event than a private affair, capturing headlines in India and beyond. Sajjad’s father Abdul Gani Lone, a senior Hurriyat Conference leader, has been surrounded by controversy for his hardened, many say inconstant, views on Kashmir. Sajjad, though not in active politics yet, has in many ways proved himself to be the precocious child who can well be trusted to carry forward the legacy. Asma Khan, Sajjad’s wife, too, comes from a family with a political background. Her father Amanullah Khan has all along been very critical of Islamabad’s Kashmir policy but sees New Delhi as an “usurper” of the rights of Jammu and Kashmir’s people. He heads a faction of the JKLF, an organisation that stands for the reunification and complete independence of Jammu and Kashmir. Asma Khan nee Lone is now being indoctrinated in politics at her husband’s ancestral house in Srinagar where the couple lives as part of a joint Lone family. Some enthusiasts among Lone senior’s supporters want her to join active politics to provide an answer to Kashmir’s young breed of politicians — Mirwaiz Omar, Mehbooba Mufti, Yaseen Malik and Omar Abdullah. The Shabir Shahs, Azam Inquilabis and Ajatshatrus, according them, are too old and wearied to keep pace with the new entrants. “But,” she said, “as of today I’ve no intention of joining politics nor do I see any signs of it happening in the near future.” However, she added that it is “not final.” Asma, a Pakistani citizen, wants to continue her academic pursuits. At the same time, she wants to help what she calls the ravaged people of Kashmir by using her pen. She worked as a freelance writer in Pakistan before coming here in April with her Dubai-based businessman husband, initially on a three-month visa. Having grown up in a household dominated by Kashmir affairs, she has always had a fascination for Kashmir and its people, she admits. “I’ll use my brains and pen to highlight any wrong that happens to my people but it would be too early to decide whether I should join politics,” she said. Seeing is believing. In Pakistan, she, like most other citizens, was fed a “completely different” outline of Kashmir. “When I came here I found the reality is starkly different,” she said in an interview to The Asian Age on Wednesday. Politicians, she says, are doing their bit as per their own sagacity and conscience. “But these past 12 years have brought havoc upon the Kashmiris. Still it is the common man who faces the main brunt,” she says. “The Kashmiri,” she strongly feels, “has been purged of his personality and reduced to being a worn-out, intimidated scapegoat; his already underprivileged life devoid of the negligible.” All this makes her very said. “Kashmir was destined to be heaven on earth but it has been ravaged.” Asma’s perception of Kashmir has changed a lot during the past few weeks she has spent in the Valley. “In Pakistan we see it as a numbers game, but here one feels the pain — there is hardly a family here which has not been touched one way or the other,” she says. Inside Kashmir, Asma found herself “in the midst of things, closer to hearts.” It is this growing feeling in Asma which might ultimately drive her into active politics. Sajjad refuses to commit himself on behalf of her nor is he willing to opine on the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Already, Asma has begun to make statements of a political nature. Of course, her assertions only reflect her father’s hard-nosed views about Kashmir and its future. She recently complained in a signed article: “Sadly, everything here comes with a price tag and the few voices of sanity that emerge are conveniently scuttled.” She added: “It is time the leaders transcended mere platitudes and polemics and delivered; their political work and handling of situations indicate a puerile approach; their moves and responses betray lack of comprehension.” The views are not any different from those expressed by her father Amanullah Khan from time to time. Likewise, she strongly feels the Kashmiri leaders’ bluff has been called. She refers to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s invitation to General Pervez Musharraf for talks as “a new game plan” by India. This, she insists, has hardly left any room for the Kashmiris. The Hurriyat, in particular, has been marginalised, she asserts. Asma laments that the Kashmiri leadership’s ability to sit as equals in the talks has been eroded considerably. She, however, blames these very leaders for the decline. “It is actually their obstinate stance on the issues that have undermined their credibility and made them politically irrelevant,” she argues, forgetting that her father-in-law is one of them. She does not expect much from the Vajpayee-Musharraf summit. It could be described as a stark shift in New Delhi’s otherwise unbending stand on Kashmir, “but there should be no naive expectation,” she says. Asma is critical of the role being played by jihadi groups in Kashmir. The “unbridled assault” by these outfits could weigh heavily on the process of reconciliation and dialogue, she cautions. Incidentally, Abdul Gani Lone has, after his Pakistan visit, been more vociferously airing his views on the jihadi groups. He is also strongly pleading the cause of an independent Kashmir although the Hurriyat is committed to demand the right to self- determination for the people of the state.