Reality And ‘Real’ Hurriyat

Reality And ‘Real’ Hurriyat

21 January 2014
Greater Kashmir
Riyaz Ahmad

Srinagar: Hurriyat Conference has split for the third time and this time again over alleged ideological and policy reasons. But the division has gone conspicuously unmourned in Kashmir. While people have been barely conscious of the development, the media has paid a passing attention Now we have three senior separatist leaders Shabir Shah, Nayeem Khan and Azam Inquilabi forming “Real Hurriyat” to regenerate the Azadi struggle and purge it of the leaders who, according to them, have strayed from the basic Hurriyat mission. This sounds so familiar, and should we say stale and therefore strikes no chord anywhere. The righteous protestations form now a part of the limited set of ideas, notions and options that makes up the separatist discourse of Kashmir. And this is why far from generating hope of any real change, the fresh split has only deepened the cynicism in Valley. There are now four formal separatist groups in the state: Three Hurriyat factions led separately by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and now Shabir Ahmad Shah and the JKLF headed by Mohammad Yasin Malik. Beyond some ideological and policy differences which are at their maximum when the faction led by Geelani is compared with the other three, the groups share the same political goal: the liberation of Kashmir from India. But the past decade has witnessed a gradual shrinking of their political influence. And this owes itself to not one but several factors, the splintering of the separatist leadership being one of them. The Hurriyat diminution in Kashmir politics is also attributed to post 9-11 geo-political factors, leading to Pakistan’s pre-occupation with the war in Afghanistan and the progressive decline in militancy in Valley. This has relegated the problem in Kashmir to the background reducing the urgency to address the conflict for India and Pakistan. India’s rise on global stage too has altered the complexion of Kashmir issue, enabling the country to promote forcefully its own stand on the dispute to a largely sympathetic global community. The separatist failure arose from the fact that they couldn’t relocate themselves and their politics to the changed geo-political context. They failed to recalibrate their approaches and methods, continuing unchanged since the outbreak of the armed resistance in 1989. As world and Pakistan turned its attention away and the militancy diminished, they were left to fend for themselves. And they didn’t know what to do, finding themselves unable to create a robust local politics to survive on their own. On occasions, though, there has been enhancement of the credibility of Geelani relative to other leaders and through 2003-07 Mirwaiz led grouping achieved a degree of relevance in the then promising parleys on Kashmir between India and Pakistan. But the leaders have failed to generate a long-term local political momentum of their own. There are two main reasons for this: one, of course, the failure to build a day-to-day politics. They seem to depend on sensational chance events to make them relevant rather than work through the routine and be a part of the process. Second, separatists have displayed a singular inability to enrich and expand the boundaries of Kashmir discourse. Just as the events like the three successive summer unrests to 2010 make for a full-fledged movement, an occasional statement suffices for a narrative. For example, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat would say the UN resolutions on Kashmir are irrelevant but such fundamental shifts in the stand call for a greater public debate rather than random mention. Hurriyat needs to build a compulsive case for the jettisoning of these resolutions, if that is really the case. Same for the boycott or not boycotting the polls. The point is that the separatist narrative - constituted as it is of the hard historical facts rooted in the Partition and a few settlement ideas including the option of plebiscite based on UN resolutions - does indeed need enrichment and evolution of its terms but not through careless, stray statements. For that, separatists will need to do the groundwork and work through a process. And of course, convince people and take them along.