Separatist leaders join Mirwaiz to revive lost political standing
11 January 2008
The Indian Express
SRINAGAR: With their political survival under strain and Assembly elections round the corner, the separatists in Kashmir are moving towards unity, without Geelani. In the past week, two senior separatist leaders Azam Inquilabi and Shiekh Aziz — who earlier belonged to Geelani’s hardline Hurriyat faction — have joined moderates, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Shabir Shah too, is on his way to be part of the separatist group. The unity moves have been in works over the past several weeks with Mirwaiz personally visiting Shah, Inquilabi and Aziz. Aziz, who was an executive member in the undivided Hurriyat, announced his decision to join doves at a press conference here on Friday. He claimed that he took the decision to forge unity among the separatists. Though the doves said that the move is a “local initiative”, the unity effort is seen as “aided” and triggered by the serious loss of bargaining clout in the wake of waning militancy in the state. However, the effort leaves out JKLF supremo Yasin Malik from the erstwhile Hurriyat, apart from Geelani whose entry is generally not encouraged, due to his intransigent views. This is despite the fact that the unity offer hasn’t excluded Geelani. However, even without being directly approached, Geelani has come out with his traditional conditions calling doves to shun dialogue with the Centre, give up support to Musharraf’s four-point proposal and go back to the UN resolutions as the basis of Kashmir dispute. With Malik, also a moderate, the equation is different. Malik, who has extensively toured the Valley during his “freedom march”, has carved out an individual separatist identity which he would not give up by joining Hurriyat. He has refused to bite the unity bait and prefers to wait and watch. Besides, in case he joins, there is a risk of his independence agenda being overrun by a pro-Pakistan group — which is what the Hurriyat is. On the other hand, the immediate spur for the doves is the growing separatist marginalisation in the Valley and a realisation that a splintered leadership is aiding their political decline. The halted dialogue with the Centre is also being viewed as the abandonment of the conglomerate as a credible political entity. And with forthcoming elections threatening to overrun Kashmir’s political landscape with a predominant mainstream agenda, the need for closing ranks and acquiring more political clout is being felt even greater. “We think that all pro-movement parties have an obligation to get together for Kashmir’s cause,” Mirwaiz said in his appeal to all the separatists. For separatists like Shah, Inquilabi and Aziz, the opportunity has come handy, providing them with an opportunity to pull behind them the Hurriyat’s clout to revive their lost political standing.