Friends from Srinagar say that the Hurriyat leaders delayed the Lok Sabha poll boycott campaign because some of them were in two minds. But Pakistan's ISI told them to vigorously pursue the anti-poll campaign. This they did and were successful in downtown Srinagar and other major towns. There was very little impact in rural Kashmir. Also, now the Hurriyat leaders know they must start thinking about their future. If they get irrelevant and lose the protection of Pakistan in any future date, they will be in great danger and might have to leave the valley altogether. That is why each of them are secretly preparing their own agenda.
Hurriyat Chairman: Moulvi Omar Farooq
This young man is the most honourable of all the Hurriyat members and the responsibility of being Mirwaiz of Kashmir weighs heavily on his young shoulders. He wants to go away from Kashmir and its nasty politics. He wishes to study abroad - preferably in the USA. But for the moment it is difficult for him to do so.
After being sidelined in the Jamaat e Islami leadership, Syed Gilani is wondering what he will do. But he has become so heavily dependent on Pakistan that he cannot do very much on his own. Today, his only hope is to win back the leadership of the Jamaat in Kashmir and he is taking steps to discredit the present Jamaat leadership. This could backfire badly. He is also worried about Pakistan floating new tanzeems and the killing of some Hizbul Mujahideen boys and the troubles of Syed Salahuddin in POK has made him jittery. He has bought a good house in Delhi and might flee there if things become difficult. He will never settle in Pakistan despite being the so-called champion of accession.
Abdul Ghani Lone
Lone is a shrewd politician and has been in the Congress. He has managed to retain his hold in his native Kupwara area. He was talking to some people about returning to politics but was strongly advised against it. He will wait but clearly feels that the Hurriyat is a waning force.
He has been told to ensure that the interests of the Shias are protected in Kashmir in case the sectarian problems in Pakistan spread to Kashmir. Abbas Ansari APHC leader is planning to publish an English Daily "Kashmir Observer" at Rajgarh Srinagar in the name of his son-in-law Sajad Ansari Srinagar based correspondent of Iran Radio, and Iftikhar Jallah, Vice-President of Muslim Conference. It is also leant that approval of the newspaper was reportedly granted by the concerned authorities, which is being inwardly criticised and condemned by some journalists. Abbas Ansari has reportedly purchased the old house of the family of late Bakshi Ghulam Mohd Ex-PM of J&K State at Srinagar recently for Rs.30 to Rs.35 lakhs. Abbas Ansari is getting sufficient amount from Iran as well as from Hurriyat fund for his personal use.
Increasingly, the All Party Hurriyat Conference is becoming irrelevant in Jammu and Ladakh, especially in non-Muslim areas. If its purpose is to project a Muslim identity, it is serving it well. It has already done many things - for example, the insistence on attending the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) - which has hurt the sentiment of Kashmiriyat, a pluralistic concept. And their lack of efforts to get the Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley has spread the impression as if they have been hoisted with their own petard, not denouncing the fundamentalists in their ranks.
Their decision to boycott the Lok Sabha polls in the face of participation by the people in Jammu and Kashmir will only delineate the division. The Hurriyat is justified in its suspicious about the fairness of polls in the State. Had there been free and fair elections in the past, we would not have probably faced the alienation in the Valley as we do today. But the suggestion for the supervision of polls by the UN is neither practical nor realistic. How can a sovereign country accept the proposal?
The Hurriyat could have demanded elections under the aegis such Indians in whom it has faith. This would have gone down well in the country. The Hurriyat would have made the point. The government would have been put on the spot. But when the Hurriyat lays down the condition that only the UN should be in charge of elections, it also says at the same time that it has no faith in any Indian. It is such an attitude which is diluting the Hurriyat leaders' support in the country. For example, when some of them came to Delhi to draw the nation's attention to the excesses committed by the security forces in the Valley, they staged a dharna outside the UN centre, not Parliament House.
That the Kashmiris are passing through hell and that their rights are violated all the time is no more a point of debate. Most Indians admit it in private. Others are on the defensive. Several human rights activists have produced reports, which Pakistan has used at international meetings for its purpose. But when the Hurriyat leaders pin their faith only in UN observers, they question the credibility of even those Indians who have supported them and who pinpointed the wrongs committed in the Valley. How are they inferior to Americans, Britishers or Canadians, who will after all be the UN nominees/
One thought that Shabir Ahmed Shah, a Kashmiri leader, who has dissociated himself from the Hurriyat, would take a pragmatic stance. He too has proved that when it comes to the polls, Kashmiris have no faith in any Indian. After his long internment, he had begun his journey for conciliation from Jammu. Obviously, he did not consider its opinion when he asked for UN supervision.
What Shabir Shah and the Hurriyat leaders do not seem to realise is that by making an outlandish demand, they are giving an alibi for their reluctance to face the voters. They may be taking their support in the Valley for granted. But many years have gone by since the people spotted some of them to articulate their cause. Today there are so many groups, foreign-aided, government-aided, religiously motivated or pure mercenaries, criss-crossing the Valley, that it is difficult to assess who has whose support. Only a fair and free election can find that out.
Maybe, the Hurriyat and Shabir Shah should have torn a leaf out of the Pakistan book. During the regime of General Zia ul Haq, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), then a popular outfit, put up relatively little known candidates at the polls for the controlled set-up he was trying to establish. The PPP also coined a code word, dost (friend), for its candidates to get support. The party spread the code name by word of mouth all over the country. Most of them won. In the same way, the success of dummy candidates put up by the Hurriyat would have kept its reputation intact. The growing impression about its leaders is that they do not want to put their popularity to test lest they should be found having lost a lot of territory.
Even if it is so, they should not be apologetic about it. Any movement is bound to show signs of fatigue and weakness if spread over a decade. The militancy in the Valley started in 1989. It was bound to come down in the face of a large army. And as one sympathiser of the movement told me, "Hundreds of militants have been killed." Now that anti-social elements have joined the fray, they have given the movement a bad name because they extort money, demand ransom and indulge in many undesirable practices. But once upon a time the movement bristled with idealism. In any case, the nine-year period has also made the people tired and exasperated. They want normalcy. They have also come to realise that the promises made to them by their leaders or outsiders were beyond their capacity to achieve.
Whether they admit or not, the Hurriyat and many others know in their heart of hearts that they have come to the end of their tether. They cannot go on like this. Nor can they afford to give the movement a parochial colour, towards which they are being pushed by some of their colleagues. They want to speak in the name of the entire state, not the Valley alone. The participation in elections, either under supervision of Indian observers or through dummy candidates, would have given them a way out. Their representatives in the Lok Sabha would have provided the movement with an all-India audience.
Instead, they have preferred to opt for more propaganda, more violence and more arms from across the border. This is an exercise which they have gone over again and again with no results. They have to think anew. And whatever the plan they make, they will have to carry the Indians along with them because the changes they have in mind in the state cannot be effected till Parliament agrees to it. A favourable Indian opinion is a must and they have no option except to work for it.
This is not possible so long as they talk in terms of separatism. A right to self-determination does not include the right to secede. Their silence over interference by outsiders - some mercenaries and some fundamentalists - has hurt their image. A prestigious Pakistan monthly, The Herald, has disclosed how the Lashkar-I-Taiba (army of the pure), like the Harkat-ul-Ansar, branded as a terrorist group by the US State Department, is fighting in Kashmir "with a passion for Jehad". How do the Hurriyat leaders and Shabir Shah reconcile the cries of Jehad to their demand for independence?
The future strategy of those who demand the right of self-determination will have to be different from the one they have pursued so far. To begin with, they should agree to a cease fire as the underground Nagas have done in the north-east. It is sheer madness to believe that the militants, local or foreign, can defeat the Indian army. They must understand that what they are doing is only widening the distance between the Valley and the other parts of the state. The situation is also acquiring a communal edge, which is not good for the ethos of Kashmiriyat.
World interest in Kashmir is flagging. The US team, which visited the Valley recently, is not in favour of disturbing the status quo in the State. Nor does it believe that a referendum is the answer. It has suggested: "Over the longer term, the complexities of the Kashmir conflict may require - and almost certainly would benefit from - innovative, even what may now seem radical experiments in the region's management of its ethic and religious minorities. Among such experiments, autonomist schemes for devolving maximum political authority to a state or sub-state regimes should certainly be closely examined..."
The team recommends that the "dialogue now underway between India and Pakistan be given as soon as possible a strengthened and protected institutional framework. This means for the present arrangement of frequent scheduled and publicity free meetings of their official representatives in circumstances insulated from the likely stresses and strains of the relationships." There is no reason to believe that the talks will not be resumed following Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's favourable observations at Islamabad after his meeting with Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral at Dhaka. As for India, it is committed to the Simla agreement which says that the two sides will meet to find "a final settlement on Jammu and Kashmir."
Kashmiris and other friends of Jammu & Kashmir, who would like to register their protests either against such acts, please email Mhd. Sadiq atwww.jammu-kashmir.com
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