Hurriyat at crossroads of history

By K.N. Pandita,

At no other time in its short history was the APHC so close to anticipating its future course than at present. Right from the day of its inception the Hurriyat influenced vast segments of valley population. People responded to its pro-Pak cliché despite shades of haziness of vision never left it alone. It played its anti-India game in somewhat subdued manner to justify its claim of non-violent struggle for aazaadi.

But at the same time, it never took position against armed and indoctrinated youth, no matter internal or external, sneaking into the valley from across the border, and unleashing criminal activities. In that sense Hurriyat played its card with dexterity. It hardened or softened its stand in relation to ground situation.  

Finding that the Hurriyat was driving through political fog, New Delhi adopted compatible ambivalent stance in handling it, the classical stick and carrot policy. Interlocutors knew who pulled the wires of Hurriyat.

That was the status quo from early days of Hurriyat till 9/11. Onwards of that dividing line in international strategies, Hurriyat found itself confronted with confusion worse confounded. It had great expectations from the US keeping mind the track record of that country vis-à-vis Kashmir issue. Now the US plus Pakistan were fighting those whom the Hurriyat and Kashmiris adduced the sobriquet of liberators. Hurriyat (M) tried to localize their struggle while hardliner (g) faction spat venom against Pakistan.

Hindsight shows that after 9/11 the US subtly revealed instances but only through trickles that brought onus of fomenting fundamentalist terror to the doorsteps of Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

Hurriyat (M) for long stuck to the theory of three stakeholders to Kashmir dispute. Not finding any substantial progress along the line, to the great surprise and confusion of Hurriyat the fourth stakeholder, China, jumped into fray and staked its claim. The Mirwaiz fist tried to embrace the Chinese but soon he had better counsel and remained somewhat happy with Chinese embassy in New Delhi issuing sheet visa to visitors of Kashmiri origin to China.

Prior to that the half-hearted decision of boycotting assembly elections in post-militancy period created ripples in the otherwise placid waters of Hurriyat politics. Hurriyat dismissed advice from all saner quarters including Washington and faithfully stuck to the directive of ISI.  In 1996 the then Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah went to the length of offering to dissolve the assembly if the Hurriyat was inclined to ;participate in the elections that would follow for the new legislature. Even conditional participation, too, would have been acceptable to Farooq.

This convinced political observers, and in particular those who had soft corner for the Hurriyat, that with one point agenda of severing relations with India and joining Pakistan, it was unimaginable that all the woes of Kashmiris would come to an abrupt end.

Subservience to jihadi diktat might  have been the tactical compulsion, but it deepened divergence of views on some crucial questions within the Hurriyat. I closed rooms, some among the Hurriyat leadership asked how long and how far would they run the errand of their mentors from across the border. They could realize their identity getting diluted in the thick politics of Pakistan.

Molvi Abbas Ansari took different stand on some crucial issues. He was sidelined. Prof. Bhat said that the killers of Molvi Muhammad Farooq and others were “our own boys.” He said he had no hesitation in meeting with mainstream poetical leadership. To crown it all, he recently said the UN Resolutions were not implementable. All this was red rag to the bull. But unlike his beleaguered friend Abbas Ansari, he has not been expelled. The reason is simple. He is not factional representative in the Hurriyat, and secondly he has a strong constituency. He made the last statement not in a closed room or from a mosque but in a public rally organized in his hometown, not far from Sopore.

Split, vertical or horizontal, may not be the proper terms for use in the case of future of Hurriyat. But what certainly will carry the day is objective assessment of ground situation of Kashmir “aazadi” struggle in all its ramifications. If Pakistan with all the atrocious treatment it has been receiving at the hands of the Americans is not averse to holding behind the curtain talks with the Americans to find a way out of present impasse, why should Hurriyat accept ISI’s diktat of not talking to the Indians? What is the logic? If face saving is the issue, well, Prof. Bhat has belled the cat.

Neither Pakistan Army nor its ISI is receiving outright support for their Kashmir misadventure. Mumbai episode has exposed Pakistan. Whatever shreds of credibility were left, these were further decimated by Osama bin Laden affair. Pakistan’s credibility graph is at it lowest at the moment.

Muslim Conference (PoK) has generally been mapping out Kashmir issue in terms of united Kashmir meaning the territories of original State of Jammu and Kashmir. To its leadership opening of the LoC for trade and tourism, easing out visa reagime, more interaction between the people of the two parts and political space eastward are all conducive measures with the potential of expanding to other aspects of peoples’ interaction. This is not easily palatable to ghettoized Srinagar elitist Muslim class and Ansari and Prof. Ghani fall outside its ambit. A  prosperous but small section of rural rich have taken delight in moving to urban areas,  nevertheless the teeming millions in rural Kashmir remain firmly entrenched at their roots. They are the decisive factor in the future course of events in Kashmir.  Once mobility a la railways become more b risk and interaction with the world outside Kashmir deepens and widens, Hurriyat will have to  adapt itself to the  new environs and new aspirations. History will call upon it to perform its constructive role in building a prosperous state. When such an occasion arrives, deadwood must yield place to new saplings. For Hurriyat the drama is heading towards the drop scene and the actors are  obliged to shun the mask.

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