Kashmir: Will Separatists Fight 2014 Assembly Polls?

Kashmir: Will Separatists Fight 2014 Assembly Polls?

17 May 2012
DNA
Firdous Syed

New Delhi: The former chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, has described the UN resolutions as ‘not practically applicable in the present.’ Prof Bhat, accused of frequently stoking controversies in order to remain relevant, was severely criticised by few of his colleagues in APHC(M) for his open defiance of separatists stand, ‘These resolutions guarantee our right to self determination.’ The scathing censure of Prof Bhat’s latest stand as ‘violation of the Hurriyat constitution’ seems to be hogwash. Only a small section of the hardcore separatists, including Syed Ali Geelani’s faction publically maintains - more as rhetoric and less with any conviction - that the UN resolutions on Kashmir are still valid. It is not for the first time that any separatist leader has debunked the UN resolutions. The so-called moderate faction of APHC had officially endorsed the ‘four-point Musharraf proposal.’ If implemented, this proposal vouching for greater autonomy for all the areas of erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir would practically render the Line of Control as a permanent border. On the contrary, the UN resolutions on Kashmir seek to rework the present borders. Actually, the controversy is not about Prof Bhat questioning the validity of the resolutions. His statement, ‘National Conference talks about autonomy, PDP talks about self rule. Why should not we move together with a common minimum political agenda and push it ahead,’ is real reason behind the furore. Prof Bhat’s statement implies that the solution of the problem has to be found within the (enlarged) framework of Indian constitution. And by proposing to work with mainstream parties like NC and PDP he seems to recognise the democratic process, which APHC has repeatedly categorised as illegitimate in the ‘absence of a popular mandate.’ Some observers believe that a section of APHC, by showing its willingness to work along with the NC and PDP, is readying to participate in the 2014 assembly elections. Incidentally, AS Dulat, the seasoned Kashmir expert - he has a unique access to the entire spectrum of Kashmiri politics - after his recent visit to Kashmir has endorsed the participation of APHC in electoral politics: ‘The political and democratic process in Kashmir remains incomplete without the participation of the separatists. They must have their innings.’ Undeniably, any political process will fail to take-off without the meaningful participation of separatists. Participation of separatists is not a debateable point, what should be the contours of a political process is the moot point. Engagement with separatists followed by their participation in the 2014 assembly elections, while leaving wide open the outline of any future constitutional arrangement, may suit well New Delhi’s interests. New Delhi by seeking to involve the separatists in the electoral process envisages tackling the problem of alienation. However, involvement of separatists without defining the contours of new constitutional scheme of things - a prerequisite for the resolution of Kashmir problem - will be a nonstarter. It connotes to dealing with separatists without effectively addressing the problem of separatism. The repeat of 1975 Indira-Sheikh accord that allowed Sheikh Abdullah to play his innings albeit without any significant political concession that could have assuaged the hurt feelings didn’t worked then when thousands still had not perished in a bloody conflict. Moreover, Sheikh Abdullah was also considered as a credible interlocutor of Kashmiri aspirations. The present breed of separatists is a throng of pigmies. In the absence of a tall figure like the Sheikh and the turmoil of past two decades having left almost no one untouched in Kashmir, peace process without involving all the facets - political, constitutional and democratic, along with whatever generous economic package - in all probability will fail to convince the Kashmiri masses about the sincerity of purpose behind such an effort. The political alienation is so intense and the need for a constitutional package so deep and hard felt that PDP seeks self rule and NC greater autonomy to remain relevant. In such circumstances without a substantial package, the APHC, partly responsible for the present turmoil, is incapable of even winning few assembly constituencies. The moderate faction of APHC in anyway does not represent the hardcore separatist sentiment. For that matter without garnering meaningful political concessions, the hardliner Syed Ali Geelani will also lose his relevance. Managing the separatists without attending to the problem of separatism in the end only discredits the few individuals, leaving the problem of separatism where it has been since 1953. Eventually the management of the problems only widens the gulf between Srinagar and New Delhi.