Keeping hawks at bay, Hurriyat trying for a makeover
11 December 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which has never modelled itself on the lines of a political party in J&K, is trying to build a mass base for the first time in the Valley since its inception in 1993. With the state poised for Assembly elections anytime in 2008, the moderate faction of the secessionist group is planning to establish several offices in districts and appoint ground level workers to be in touch with the masses. The Hurriyat, an amalgamation of various social, political and religious organisations in the Valley, is also trying to become a leaner grouping by reducing the number of constituent units. With the breakaway faction of Hurriyat led by Syed Geelani keeping aloof, the doves have started holding delegate sessions across the Valley in a conscious “effort to connect with the grassroots”. “I think the Hurriyat now needs to go directly to the people, know their feelings and respond to them,” its chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Indian Express. With this in mind, Mirwaiz is also planning a complete overhaul of its organisational structure. He has already asked some “two men parties” to merge into bigger ones. “This is necessary to make Hurriyat better equipped to deal with the new political challenges,” he said. The new strategy has come as a radical departure from the Hurriyat’s approach to mass politics in the state. Despite its claim of being in the vanguard of the ‘Azadi’ campaign, it has never made any effort to become a mass- based political party in the state. Hurriyat, according to its former chairman and executive member Abdul Ghani Bhat, represents “the anger, alienation and the separatist sentiment of Kashmiris”. Such a stand takes people’s support for granted and makes Hurriyat, in absolute terms, a kind of “spiritual representative” of the “ongoing struggle.” Hence the conglomerate expects a “resurgent public wave” in its favour if its mass base is put to test. But Hurriyat leaders believe that the elections should be for the resolution of Kashmir issue. However, it is also bracing for an eventuality in which polls become a part of the process for the resolution.