How far is the Hurriyat viable?

K.N. Pandita, 23 July, 2005 – Nobody in and outside Kashmir thinks APHC is viable. The impression is that its political legitimacy has remained undesignated. Furthermore, being a conglomerate of a number of groups, its real identity has been obliterated by all that some of the confederating groups have expressly stood for.

The APHC came into existence sometime in 1992, at least two years after militancy was unleashed in the valley. It is difficult to say whether there existed any liaison between the militant leadership and individual members of the Hurriyat prior to latter’s structuring. And if there were any, the nature of the same needs to be clarified. From the viewpoint of timing, one may say that apparently the Hurriyat had pretty little to do with the floating or conducting of armed insurgency in Kashmir. The sponsors were too secretive and confided only in a handful of people.

But when with the passage of time, militancy gained upswing, an impression that it could achieve the objective for which it h ad been launched began to be nursed by more and more observers in Kashmir. At this point of time the Hurriyat, having been cobbled together rather hastily, tried to grab political leadership of the movement. Thus its coming into existence belatedly and seeking a patronising role over the militants may have helped in stabilising its position somewhat but in reality the Hurriyat had to pay a price that still remains invisible to some of them.

As days rolled by and the destination of the militants, of whom there were several groups, became more and more elusive, they felt the need of a link with the common people. This brought Hurriyat into prominence: interdependence between the Hurriyat and the militants group became inevitable. Thus came a time when the Hurriyat not only began to assert but became the spokesperson of the armed movement.

As Kashmir issue found more and more exposure at world fora, thanks to massive propaganda by Pakistan, and the international community began questioning its “freedom movement” credentials, the militancy euphoria began to abate. Militant leadership realised that it had to face the public accountability. As such, it clung to the Hurriyat as its soft political face. The Hurriyat began assuming airs of its importance and relevance. But this optimism was only ephemeral. In order to make itself more acceptable to the masses of people, it had not option but to be too prolific in azaadi slogan.

But Pakistani policy planners would not go with the Hurriyat beyond a certain point. The first shock came when Pakistani armed forces opened fire on the volunteers of JKLF trying to force crossing of the LoC near Chakothi. The more Hurriyat talked about azaadi, the more reticent Pakistani official circles became. Though the London-based Diaspora of the Mirpuris ardently supported the azaadi slogan yet discordant notes rose from Pakistan’s Northern Areas. Political activists in Gilgit and Baltistan staked their claim for azaadi in the footsteps of Hurriyat. Thus the Hurriyat stood face to face with its own Frankenstein.

Hurriyat’s refusal to participate in two previous elections despite timely advice by the US was detrimental to its viability and credibility. In particular, after the repetition of its refusal in the second election in 2003, which was by and large considered by world media as fair and free, Hurriyat was faced with serious denial of credibility in the US political circles.

Among other factors that lead to doubting the viability of the Hurriyat is its failure to produce workable formula for the solution of Kashmir tangle. It made intermittent claims that it had cobbled a formula and the same would be made public at proper time. The proper time never came. But after meeting with the Pakistan President in Islamabad recently, the Hurriyat came out with a statement that the formula of General Musharraf was by and large acceptable to it. This exposed the Hurriyat and Kashmiris who had been hitherto given an impression that a viable formula was up the sleeves of Hurriyat, which rejected vivisection of the State. They were left with mouths agape. The Hurriyat forgot that its viability depended on the acceptability of a formula to all concerned. The task was never as simple s they tried to project it.

Press reporters usually said that they failed to elicit any satisfactory answer to their questions put to the Hurriyat. The question was what precise form of government would they adopt once azaadi was obtained. In other words, the reporters wanted to know the stand of the Hurriyat on vital questions like democracy, pluralism, secularism, an Islamic theocratic state and civil code and shariat law etc. A freedom movement without a vision and response to this vital question lacks much including its viability.

The Hurriyat is aware that it does not enjoy complete trust of Pakistani rulers. The question is why soon after its return from Islamabad it called for a meeting with the internally displaced Pandits. The simple reason is that General Musharraf was not satisfied with their claim of representing all sections of people in Kashmir because there was no Pandit member in its ranks. The General subtly conveyed this point when he said that Kashmir question could not be decided on the basis of religion. And yet the Hurriyat committed a Himalayan blunder of hurting the feelings of the Pandits by a crude and cynical statement just when the ground was being prepared for a maiden interface with them. It was not suave enough to choose a better time for a loose talk. General Musharraf is no naïve not to understand the typical cynicism of the Kashmiri mind. Not surprisingly, the Pandits retaliated by questioning not only the representative character but also the credibility of the Hurriyat.

And lastly, Hurriyat’s coming closer to NC further erodes its space for viability. It ends up as a group aspiring for political power with no qualms of conscience. The blood of thousands of Kashmiris becomes a nightmare for them. A deal with any political g rouping closes the chapter of contemporary history of Kashmir on All Party Hurriyat Conference.

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