March 1999 News

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Secessionism is Now J&K's most Profitable Commercial Venture

27th March 1999
State Time News Service
By: Vikram Jit Singh

From where does a separatist leader get Rs 50 lakhs to distribute?

JAMMU: In a magnanimous act of charity reminiscent of the deeds of Robin Hood, the Democratic Freedom Party leader and prominent secessionist, Shabir Shah distributed half a crore of rupees amongst over a thousand 'needy' families a couple of days back. The charitable act in Srinagar, timed to coincide with the approaching Idd, has surely earned Shabir a great deal of appreciation in the Valley. While philanthropy is a quality which must be appreciated in this day and age, there is one small question which intrigued political observers - if Shah can afford to just give away 50 lakh rupees in single day, what is the size, and source, of his financial muscle? And if Shabir has such funds in his possession after opting out of the Hurriyat umbrella, what must be the quantity of wealth available to the great 'servants of the people', the clique which runs the APHC?

The considerable financial resources of the separatist leaders have never been in doubt. While causing a loss of thousands of crores to the Kashmir economy through their bandh culture, they have managed to collect a few crores for themselves. There is no shortage of funds from our neighbour in the name of destabilising India. And there is no shortage of funds from the Gulf when the cause is put to be defence of the faith. Local extortions, which have driven away the few entrepreneurs from outside who operated in the Valley,has been another source of accumulating funds. The militant bodies collect money from affluent locals in the name of jehad but most people now realise where the money actually flows to. No Chartered Accountant is there to audit the Hurriyat's accounts. If all the money received from abroad has been 'spent', more is needed, and that more can be acquired quite easily by those who have become professionals at fund-gathering.

While the separatist leaders are now financially very well placed, the absence of any controlling mechanism within the movement has led to sharp differences. Some political observers believe that Shabir Shah's divorce from the Hurriyat occurred due to the disinclination of the entrenched leadership to display transparency in the handling of money. However, that has hardly effected his own standing, as his recent extravaganza well illustrates.

Yaseen Malik's refusal to go along with Hurriyat leaders such as Geelani to the Pakistan Day celebrations at the Pak embassy in Delhi recently has also set tongues wagging. It is believed that Yaseen supports the demands of some expatriate Kashmiris to disassociate from Pakistan and follow an 'independence only' strategy. To move towards this, the World Kashmiri Freedom Movement has asked the Hurriyat to democratise itself and acquire a more democratic character. This demand does not appeal to the Hurriyat leadership at all. Democratisation would mean the need to handle money transparently, and why would the established 'leaders' having access to crores of rupees want to give up that unquestioned access? Separatism is not only a movement or an ideology, it is now a full fledged business enterprise, the most profitable one in the Valley today, in fact. And the Hurriyat leader are the best traders who sell bullets, blood and bodies in return for dollars!

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