By K.N. Pandita
Pragmatists in the Hurriyat (M) faction feel it is time to stop misleading the people on ground situation in Kashmir. They are for re-appraisal of separatist movement in the background of changed regional and global strategies. The traditionalists cannot but stick to cliché like UN Resolutions on Kashmir despite the fact that not to speak of others, even Pakistani leaders from former President Pervez Musharraf down the line, have conceded that the clock cannot be turned back. During his official visit to Pakistan in 1998 the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan said that the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949, the two-sum to which Kashmir separatists and secessionists remain glued were not implementable for technical reasons. His comments were faithfully carried by the leading Pakistani newspaper Dawn in its columns next day.
The world body has forgotten the resolutions under discussion just because Pakistan failed to fulfill the condition of withdrawing her army and fighting men from those parts of the former princely state that had fallen in their hands after tribal incursion of October 1947. Not only that, Pakistan did the reverse of the Resolutions and sent in her regular troops to replace the tribal warriors. Moving a step further and breaking the status quo recommendation of the UN body, Pakistan arbitrarily detached Northern Areas from the occupied land, integrated it into her territory and established direct sway over the Northern Areas now called Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region. This was not only violation of status quo but also reflected Pakistan’s arbitrary policy of suppressing the rights of the people of G-B where, with the passage of time, Pakistani policy planers brought about change in the demographic complexion to the advantage of Punjabi Sunni ruling class in Islamabad. Undoubtedly the ongoing patriotic struggle of freedom fighters through various nationalistic organizations in G-B must have prompted Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, the senior and highly respected leader of Hurriyat (M), make a cryptic comment during his public speech at his hometown Boteung in Sopor. He meant to say that while the Hurriyatis make a hue and cry over the so-called freedom struggle in Kashmir not a word comes out of their mouth on what is happening in a sensitive part of the original State. And the worst is that feeling it may not be able to control escalation of anti-Pak struggle in G-B, Islamabad rulers adopted the cowardly escapist path and invited the Chinese to take charge as masters of the area. They revived their old policy under which five thousand square kilometers of Aksaichin was illegally ceded to China earlier.
The real blow came to the Hurriyat (M) when the Faigate scandal was unearthed last year, and the underlying facts of huge cash transactions were made public through the court proceedings of Fai’s prosecution in the US. Faigate came like bolt from blue to those unsuspecting western and American personalities of social and academic status whom Fai had assiduously dragged into big misbelieve. Thus the so-called “freedom fighters” of Kashmir and their leadership in the shape of APHC lost their credibility on national, regional and international fora, and conversely came to be identified as instruments of international terrorism. In the eyes of pragmatic sections among the Hurriyat (M) its credibility was torn into shreds. It came to be known as the handmaid of ISI.
Slogans raised by factional followers outside the meeting hall of APHC in Rajbagh, give insight into a number of things converging on mistrust, allegations and counter allegations among the activists. It is a rudderless ship on the stormy waters of Kashmir separatist politics. Reacting to the impending split in the conglomerate Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made a sensational revelation. He said that in 1996 the then Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah had offered to ask for the dissolution of the Assembly if the Hurriyatis were prepared to participate in the election. But the offer was declined. What does it suggest? Obviously, it suggests that the Hurriyatis have no faith in democratic dispensation and would want to be catapulted into the seats of power by no rationale whatsoever, except that of urge of seizing power through force. It also suggests that the Hurriyatis want the gun culture to go on endlessly and thus contribute vigorously to the disruptive activities in Kashmir. Well, the Chief Minister has made it clear that the government is prepared to meet that challenge.
It is nothing new to say that there has been a big controversy within the Hurriyat on the question of participation in assembly elections. They have otherwise been participating by proxy. Why not direct. After all, there are many sensible and moderate elements within Kashmir society that understand and see for themselves how Indian democratic dispensation has been working in the State notwithstanding some of the difficulties in the way. The union and state governments are focused on economic development of the state, reducing unemployment among the youth, providing better life and improved life conditions and good governance. The people in Kashmir today are living a far more comfortable life and are enjoying full fruits of freedom of expression, ideas and movement. Freedom preaching ones faith as is observed in our country has very few parallels. The new generation of Kashmiri youth brought up in the era of digitalization is less worried about political complexities than about their career and competitive capabilities. The undertone of Prof. Ghani’s statement of changed situation is that this new generation of Kashmiris is getting disillusioned and alienated with the Hurriyat Conference which had been prompting them to take to guns. Hurriyat traditional leadership should hear the voice of the new generation and not adopt ostrich like attitude.
Finally, historical events like Arab Spring, Osama episode, Pak-US logjam, Theo-fascist trends of PTT, increasing discontent against Saudi monarchy and elusive democratic dispensation among Muslim countries of West Asia etc. should make Kashmir separatist leadership sit down and make a cool re-thinking of what Indian democracy is offering and to what extent it vindicates the aspirations, individuality and identity of the Muslims of the State. They have also to understand that the destiny of a people is not a commodity to be bargained now and then at anybody’s sweet will.