month ago, when Pakistan''s prime minister, Shaukat Aziz,
visited Delhi to attend the SAARC meeting, Mirwaiz Umar
Farouq, the chairman of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference,
drew down the wrath of New Delhi''s officialdom upon his
head by agreeing to meet him to discuss the Kashmir issue.
weeks ago, he did it again by seemingly having agreed
initially to participate in the prime minister''s third
round table conference on Kashmir, and then backing
out, exactly as he did a year ago.
on top of his meeting with Aziz, this has been taken
as a calculated insult to the Indian prime minister
and to the Indian State. Commentators have therefore
vied with each other to denigrate the Hurriyat and the
Mirwaiz. He and his colleagues have been described as
''small men'', incapable of winning more than a handful
of seats in any Kashmiri election and therefore unwilling
to participate in them for fear of being exposed. Indeed
these are the least impolite of the many slings and
arrows that Hurriyat has to suffer.
Mirwaiz cannot entirely escape the blame for this. Although
stlill young, he is a seasoned enough, and a wise enough,
politician to know that his capacity to influence the
final outcome of the Kashmir negotiations depends not
only on his standing in Kashmir and Islamabad, but perhaps
most of all on how he is regarded in New Delhi.
this is the State where the effective power to meet
or reject Kashmiri aspirations resides.
that the Mirwaiz needed to have done, if he had wanted
to avoid provoking such a strong reaction in Delhi,
was to send a senior Hurriyat leader to each of the
RTCs as an observer. That would have enabled him to
fulfill his initial promises to the prime minister and
his emissaries, and keep his channels of communication
with New Delhi open, while keeping his distance from
the mainstream Kashmiri political parties. But the Mirwaiz
chose not to do this, and thereby raised doubts on what
he really wants in, and for, Kashmir.
wrongs do not, however, make a right. The Mirwaiz may
have missed a step, but that does not mean the Delhi
should trump him by missing two more. The least our
policy makers should do is to try and understand what
is making him do such flip flops. To do this one needs
to remember some of Kashmir''s recent history.
was created by Pakistan in 1991 by merging 31 motley
insurgent groups to
create an ''above ground'' political formation that could
give voice to the demands of the separatists, and to
end an increasingly bitter struggle for supremacy that
had broken out between the pro-independence and the
pro-Pakistan groups in the valley. Under its foirst,
and for a long time also its second chairman, Ali Shah
Geelani and Professor Abdul Ghani Butt, the organization
remained closely linked to Pakistan. But the tension
between the independence and pro-Pakistan groups never
wholly subsided. Eventually Geelani was dethroned, and
Butt who is far less dogmatic and has a far more subtle
intellect, responded to overwhelming Kashmir sentiment
and brought the organization gradually around on the
side of independence. The pivotal moment when this change
occurred was July 2,000 when the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen
announced a three-month cease -fire and the Indian government
immediately agred to meet its emissaries secretly in
Kashmir. But originally criticized the Hizb''s move as
ill-considered, but was taken aback by the vigorous
support it received from all Kashmiris of all strata.
That was when the change in him began.
2002 the Hurriyat was firmly in the hands of the pro-independence
faction, now labeled the ''moderates''. Geelani had been
virtually ejected from the executive committee and had
begun to tell the Hurriyat''s minders in Pakistan that
it was necessary to set up a new organization around
him as all the current leaders had sold themselves to
New Delhi.In 2002, the Hurriyat even considered taking
part in the elections, but thiswas scotched by the assassination
of Abdul Ghani Lone, symbolically on May 21, the dath
anniversary of Maulvi Farouq''s death 11 years earlier.
Professor Butt, who was the chairman, got the message.
But his determination to continue moving the party towards
the centre did not waver.
Many analysts in Delhi are not convinced by Hurriyat''s
moderation and do not need much instigation to start
looking at the party through a veil of suspicion. The
Hurriyat leaders themselves tend to provoke doubts about
their motives and goals because of the alacrity with
which they go to Pakistan and meet its leaders, in contrast
to their reluctance to meet Dr. Manmohan Singh, Mr.
N.N. Vohra, or his predecessor, Mr. K.C. Pant. But one
would have to know little or nothing about Kashmir to
entertain the idea that either the Mirwaiz or Professor
Butt, or the third key member of the executive committee
Bilal Lone, would ever agree to becoming pawns in pakistan''s
hand once again.
Farouq, the Mirwaiz''s father was killed on orders from
Pakistan on May 21 , 1990. The Mirwaiz''s uncle, whom
he was exceedingly fond of, was killed and his family''s
more than century old school was burned not long after
he refused to succumb to telephonic threats from Pakistan
and back out of his second meeting with Mr. L.K.Advani
in the winter of 2004. By the same token, Professor
Butt''s brother was killed, and a grenade with its pin
partly pulled out attached to his car, as a warning
to him not to deviate from the course that had been
charted out for Hurriyat in Islamabad. And when, despite
all this the Hurriyat briefly toyed with the idea of
fighting the 2002 elections, the masterminds in Muzaffarabad
engineered the assassination of Bilal Lone''s father,
Abdul Ghani Lone. Before accusing such people of treachery,
we need to ask ourselves whether we would have been
able to get into bed with the murderers of our parents.
this only deepens the perplexity. If all this is true
why are the Hurriyat still boycotting the RTCs, and
why are they so eager to meet visiting Pakistani VIPs?
One part of the answer is to be found in the convoluted
politics of Kashmir. Hurriyat''s achilles'' heel has always
been its insistence that its struggle is not for change
in Kashmir valley alone but for the whole of Jammu and
Kashmir- indeed for the whole of the erstwhile princely
state of Maharaja Hari Singh. But this has forced it
to face the unpalatable truth that neither in Ladakh
nor in Jammu is there any significant demand for secession
if the results of a poll carried out in April 2004 by
MORO international are to be trusted, there is a significant
level of ambivalence in Kashmir itself. Over the years
this has brought the pro-independence elements who now
control Hurriyat to accept that they will have to accept
something less than full independence if they do not
want the state to fall apart. But this position is uncomfortably
close to the present federal dispensation, which the
mainstream parties have already accepted. Hurriyat therefore
has a compelling need to keep its identity distinct
from that of other mainstream parties. That was why,
after agreeing to attend last May''s RT conference, the
Mirwaiz backed out. He was forced to do so by his party
cadres who warned him that sitting with the mainstream
parties would spell their end.
is not the only threat Hurriyat has to ward off. For
the mere fact that it has accepted the Delhi agreement
between Dr. Singh and Gen. Musharraf and is willing
to accept less than full independence, has opened it
to the charge of having sold out not only to New Delhi
but also Islamabad. This is the accusation that Geelani
hurls at them day after day in speech after speech,
from mosque after mosque.
against all expectations, Geelani is gaining in popularity
once again. There is in Kashmir now, a new generation
of youth at that volatile age when militants are born.
They have known nothing but war, insecurity and terror.
They have been fed on stories of Indian atrocities since
their birth, and they find in the romance of a freedom
struggle a welcome shelter from the anomie that hits
students when they leave school or college without an
assured future. This generation also considers Pakistan
to be traitors to their cause. They are therefore
rebels robbed of a cause, and possibly the most dangerous
political group-in-embryo on the Indian sub-continent.
therefore faces a daunting triple challenge. But it
is prcecisely its awareness of them, and its willingness
to confront them, that makes it India''s, Pakistan''s
and the Kashmiris'' best bet for the future.
author''s articles can be read at www.premshankarjha.com)