Stage is ready for the division of Kashmir

By Shabir Choudhry

At last the Hurriyat Conference has realised that the borders of Kashmir (State of Jammu and Kashmir) are not confined to the Valley. After many years of reluctance, fear and indecision a branch of Hurriyat has been opened in Jammu.

It is ironical that its branches were first opened in India and Pakistan and then its leadership thought of extending its influence to Jammu. They need to be reminded that Ladakh and areas under Pakistan are also part of Kashmir.

It would have been much better if the Hurriyat had made these moves during its heydays and endeavoured to win the confidence of Muslims and non-Muslims in the other regions and India. Also it seriously damaged the confidence of non-Muslims of Kashmir and whatever the reasons for this 'negligence', it has damaged the Freedom Movement. Because of this, the Movement was projected as a 'fundamentalist' movement, which was against non-Muslims, and this kept them aloof from the Freedom Struggle. Furthermore this impression deprived the Movement from the international support which it deserved.

One wonders why it took Hurriyat so long to establish its office in Jammu, yet it never stopped claiming to be the only representative of the Kashmiri people. Was it that it did not want to or it did not have the means to do so. Another interesting question is that now when the Hurriyat as a platform has weakened, it has found the means to set up offices in Jammu. The timing of all this is very crucial. Nawaz Sharif has won a landslide victory in Pakistan, and he has made some positive statements regarding Kashmir. Another thing to be noted is that there is air of optimism in many quarters that some kind of solution of the Kashmir problem is being worked out; and to this regard some interesting movements have taken place.

It is suspected that the Hurriyat's move to Jammu has got something to do with these happenings. It could be a part of this larger scenario in the light of which the Kashmir dispute would be resolved. It looks that we are heading for the division of the State. If the nationalist elements do not get their act together, then I am afraid the Movement is going to enter into stormy waters.

Although the Hurriyat does not fully represent the Kashmiri people across the political board, but still it is the biggest and most powerful platform of the Kashmiri people. If the Hurriyat wants to play a leading and active role in the affairs of Kashmir, I mean the State of Jammu and Kashmir not just the Valley, then it needs to analyse the Kashmir situation and reorganize its policies and strategies. My suggestion is that it should, without delay, do the following:

  1. Set up its offices in Ladakh and Gilgit and Baltistan.
  2. Reorganise the so called 'Shadow Hurriyyet' which should consist of freedom loving people from Azad Kashmir not who escaped the struggle from the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
  3. Win the confidence of non-Muslims and encourage them to take part in the struggle. They will only join if they are assured that the struggle is not a religious war against them, rather it is for unfettered right of self determination of the Kashmiri people.
  4. Even if non-Muslims do not take active part in the struggle they should still be given places on the Executive Committee of the Hurriyat Conference that they can play their part on the political side of the struggle.
  5. Make appropriate arrangements that Kashmiri Pandits and other Kashmiris uprooted because of this struggle can come back to their homes.
The Hurriyat should learn to call a spade a spade. If revolutionary and positive steps are not taken and a new strategy is not worked out which meets the aspirations of the people and requirements of the Freedom Movement, then I am afraid people will continue to call it 'Hartal (strike) Conference', a name given to it after failing to give clear directions to the nation and constant calls of hartals (strikes). The above comments made on the work of Hurriyat may look harsh, and I can expect some counter attacks by some 'Jayalas' from Hurriyat side, but the leadership of the Hurriyat need to look at the points raised very carefully, otherwise Kashmir will be divided and they will lose all the respect and credibility. Whatever our views on the future status of Kashmir, it looks that some kind of solution would be imposed on the Kashmir, and if we don't get our act together then we will have nothing else but regrets.

Shabir Choudhry
Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs

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