A turning point in the Kashmiri Struggle

By Shabir Choudhry
1st August 1997

The appointment of Syed Ali Gillani as the Chairman of the All Party Hurriyat Conference could have far reaching consequences. There are clear signs of decline in the present armed struggle, but that is not a worry as the militancy can have its own pace to suit the ground conditions. But it is worrying that the public support for the struggle is also declining, and many reasons could be forwarded for this.

It is true that the APHC was not in tune with the public aspirations and was fast losing its credibility; and something had to be done to change the downward trend. Many people, including this writer, have more than once suggested that APHC should be made more representative of the Kashmiri people if it is to lead the Kashmiri nation to the desired goal of independence. At present the APHC is not even representative of the Kashmiri Muslims; and this is one of the main reasons why the freedom struggle is losing its public support. It was imperative to make changes in the APHC, but it is highly questionable if they have made the right changes.

As pointed earlier the independence movement and the APHC were facing serious problems, and to galvanize the freedom struggle again it was important to appoint someone with mass support. Someone who could also win the confidence of Kashmiri minorities, and present a programme which can make this movement a genuine Kashmiri struggle. With all the due respect to Syed Ali Gillani, his age, sincerity, dedication, sacrifices etc, he is hardly the man to accomplish this gigantic task. But may be he was the favorite of those who were calling the shorts, and here we are faced with another dilemma.

I can respect the views which Syed Ali Gillani holds, but unfortunately, like millions of other Kashmiris, I cannot accept them. Jamat-E- Islami and its brand of Islamic ideology had never been popular at the best of times in Kashmir. Let alone the non-Muslims, even the Muslims don’t have kind heart for them; and their role and tactics (especially of their armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen) during the present independence struggle have not helped the matters.

Throughout the struggle India had been projecting on the international level that it was a ‘fundamentalist’ movement sponsored from outside, and to some extent, India had been successful in its objective. And in many ways some actions carried out by Kashmiri organizations strengthened the Indian standpoint. The recent changes in the APHC can be interpreted in the following terms:

It looks that steps are being taken to antagonize the Kashmiri communities, and the outcome of that would be a clear signal that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot live together, hence the division of the State on communal lines.

I am sure the Kashmiri people do not want this, they want to live together in peace and harmony. The division or the present state of affairs may suit the interest of some individuals and those with vested interests on the both sides of the border. If APHC really wants to lead the Kashmiri nation to independence then it wants to put its house in order otherwise it may be a beginning of an end.

I understand to some people APHC is a ‘sacred cow’ which cannot be criticised, and to criticise it means inviting trouble; and to criticise Jamat-E –Islami and its leaders is very dangerous thing. It can cost people life or serious damage or both. But our (Institute of Kashmir Affairs) mission is to provide facts to the people, and warn them of dangers. We consider this to be our sacred duty, and in doing so if there is trouble then so be it.

Shabir Choudhry
Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs

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