Personal Slurs Has Kashmir's Daughter-in-Law Asma Lone Hitting Out Hard
Asma Lone (Left) being interviewed for Straight Talk, a television program (File picture)
NEW DELHI: It is the wives of the Kashmiri separatists leaders who probably have the most difficult time in adjusting to near ‘prison like’ living conditions in the Valley, more so as the younger lot have all married girls from outside the state and India.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is married to a young Kashmiri woman from the United States, smart, articulate, progressive and yet in purdah. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik is married to a beautiful woman from Pakistan, has a baby girl, and although she visits it is not as often as both would have liked. She has a freer life in Pakistan as while in Kashmir she is housebound and cannot move out without escort.
But perhaps most difficult is the story of Asma Khan Lone, a mother of delightful twins, who married Peoples Conference Sajad Lone and is still trying to adjust to life here. She married Lone when he was part of the All Parties Hurriyat amalgam, and she herself is the daughter of JKLF’s Amanullah Khan in Pakistan. This writer has met Amanullah Khan a few times in Islamabad, ageing but not totally disillusioned, distributing pamphlets and remaining a strong critic of both the governments of India and Pakistan. He and Yasin Malik had split into two factions but made up lately, with Khan however now quite out the pale as it were.
Asma Lone who has found life difficult in Jammu and Kashmir, like the other wives, is currently campaigning for her husband in the Valley. And some of the stress she is facing has now poured out in an article she has written for a local Kashmir newspaper Greater Kashmir where she says very passionately, “By far one of the most painful events of my life was the recent character assassination unleashed against my father by certain elements due to my participation in my husband’s election campaign. In the cacophony of manipulated lies and distortions and its utilization to taint my father’s life long struggle and sacrifices I failed to fathom whether it was my father they wished to belittle or was it I that they aimed to make a scathing example of.
And in a brave and scathing indictment she has added, “In many ways it was symbolic of all that that ailed the ‘freedom’ movement – internal wrangling and leg-pulling, petty point scoring and myopic individualistic approach rather than a broader approach.”
Asma is an intelligent woman and when this writer last met her she wanted to do a great deal with her work. One of it was to study, the other was to become a writer of repute. She has completed the first, and writes regular articles for even Delhi newspapers. She is particularly proud of a brief she authored on “Afghanistan post 2014: reverberations in Kashmir” in collaboration with Conciliation Resources, London and USIP – United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC).
She has shared her anguish evocatively. As clearly Amanullah Khan in Pakistan and she here have come in for attack for Sajad Lone’s election. Matters are not helped further by the fact that he is perceived as being close to the Bharatiya Janata Party, a charge that has become an issue of sorts in the Kashmir Valley and clearly as the article indicates, amongst interested sections in Pakistan.
Asma writes, “I went ahead on my campaign trail not only as a duty bound wife but mostly as a ray of hope that I had begun to symbolize for the utterly oppressed and deprived wherein a mere handshake, a smile or a hug evoked huge passion, hope and belief (I was surprised to know that this was an unknown ‘political’ activity and physical interaction was kept at bay – probably as is obvious by the barbed wire division between the saviour leadership and their bonded subjects).”
“ My only solace being the love and warmth that I would garner during the campaign - the heartfelt prayers, the loving gestures the impassioned murmurs of “meun zoo, meun koor, Allah ta’allah deeun Kamyabi,i”(I was moved to tears many a times)”, she adds clearly a novice in the middle of hard and petty politics.
Asma came to Jammu and Kashmir as an enthusiastic bride. She was full of plans but politics hit her fairly hard. She was not, and clearly is still not, prepared to give up her space and believes strongly in gender empowerment. Unlike many other women she is prepared to walk the talk, although clearly the attack on her family makes it hard for her as an independent woman. Yet she writes,”I as an individual have a right to my own idea’s and aspirations and my own paths of thinking. These need not overlap with either that of my father or my husband. Beyond the shadow of the men in my life I’m a person in my own right with my own sense of propriety and direction and my own intellectual compass to guide me.”
A criticism being levelled against her---an indication of the levels of pettiness---is that she is a supporters of Pakistan’s Imran Khan even though he was married to a Jewish woman Jemima who wears scanty clothes and has an affair with actor Hugh Grant. Noting this Asma in full defiance mode declares, “ I am as unabashed today as I was then in my support of Imran Khan whom I admire for his transparency, honesty, courage and conviction towards his cause and his people, some of which I also see in my husband and hence my support for him.”
The only time she sounds a little defensive in her article is on campaigning for the BJP. But only a little when she refers to the Pakistani media headlines “JKLF’s founding chairman Amanullah Khan’s daughter canvasses for the BJP in Occupied Kashmir”. And goes on to say that is not canvassing for either the BJP has never mentioned the party even once in her campaign, and is campaigning only for her husband. She is kinder about Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the development issue.
However, Asma recovers sufficiently from this criticism to launch a blistering attack on the Kashmiri separatists. She asks,“in the past, did sections of the separatists not meet Mr Vajpayee who too was the Prime Minister along with being the member of the BJP? Do they not continue to clandestinely meet the various GOI functionaries many times for their own personal wish-list? While these elements continue to accrue personal favours from Government of India (of which Pakistan too is aware) what is wrong in a political entity’s public (transparent) meeting with an office vested with huge powers for the betterment of his people.” She has also referred to funds “ending up in Dubai for “immoral dens” run by a certain separatist face.”
While I was ‘charged’ of campaigning for my husband and his regional party, the fact remains that the representatives of the people can only be representative of their (people’s) will, if the people chose to come out in huge numbers and vote for the remedy and accountability of their day to day hardships who are we to deny or undermine them especially given the fact that we have failed to provide any alternative sources of social security nets as is a basic norm of freedom movements across the world be it in Gaza, Sri Lanka or N. Ireland (despite the movement being awash with such funds – with some of the funds lately ending up in Dubai for “immoral dens” by a certain separatist face).
Asma Lone’s article is a response to character assassination in the name of politics, but points towards a not very pleasant post election scene---win or lose---that will be highly polarised, and extremely demanding.