Will Truth Set Kashmir Free? Candid Bhat Believes So7 January 2011
New Delhi: There are several truths in Kashmir that everyone knows of but no one reveals, except in moments of anger, informal chats or off the record. Out of the thousands of people killed in the past two decades of conflict, there have been several political killings by ‘unidentified gunmen’. In many cases, everyone knew the hidden hand behind the gun, but the word ‘unidentified’ continued to mask the killers like the shroud hid the dead. More than 20 years after ‘unidentified gunmen’ assassinated Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, the father of Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) ideologue Abdul Ahad Wani and separatist leader Abdul Ghani Lone, senior Hurriyat (M) leader Abdul Ghani Bhat chose to reveal an open secret. “Was Wani a martyr of brilliance or a martyr of rivalry? Let me speak the truth today,” Bhat said. “It was not the army or the police who killed Farooq or Prof Wani or Lone sahib. It was our own people.” Bhat was speaking at a seminar organised on the death anniversary of Wani, who was killed on 31 December 1993 by gunmen after he was kidnapped from the Kashmir University where he taught law. On 21 May 1990, armed men barged into the house of Farooq and shot him dead. Twelve years later, Lone was killed at a rally marking Farooq’s death anniversary. Bhat’s statement reverberated across the Valley’s political divide, even drawing a statement from state police chief Kuldeep Khoda, who said Mirwaiz and his killer are both buried in the same martyrs’ graveyard. “Everyone knew the harsh realities of political killings in Kashmir. Bhat revealed what everybody knows. I don’t know the reason for him to say this at this moment. But that is the truth,” Khoda said. Bhat told Tehelka he had always chosen to speak the truth. “When Qazi Nisar was killed, I said he was not killed by the men in uniform but by our own people. I said the same when my brother was killed. And this time too at the seminar, I chose to speak. Before me, Bilal Lone was speaking and he insisted on the need for truth,” said Bhat. “This statement doesn’t mean that I exonerate the excesses of India in Kashmir. Truth is powerful and it must prevail. Had we chosen to say the truth in the 1990s, our movement would have gone in a better direction.” Bhat, a moderate face of the Hurriyat now, was once a staunch believer in Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. In the undivided Hurriyat, it is believed that Syed Ali Shah Geelani voted for him as the chairman because of his pro-Pakistan stance. But Bhat fell out with Geelani and then with Pakistan after Gen Pervez Musharaf was ousted from power. As the hardliners again became the favourites of Pakistan, and India pushed the moderates to the fringe, the moderates felt sidelined. Geelani has emerged as the loudest spokesman of the Kashmir movement forcing the Centre to send a Parliamentary delegation to his doorstep. Bhat said when the moderates talked to India, they were called ‘infidels’, but when they (Hurriyat G) talk to the mps, they go scot-free. Bhat has not been in the thick of things for the past three years when the political realities on the ground changed. But what does one do with the truth spoken after a long time? Truth is not redemption. But Bhat says truth will save Kashmir from going from one wrong to another.