By K.N. Pandita
Hurriyatis met with Sartaj Aziz in New Delhi. They have been meeting whosoever invites them from Pakistan. They have met with ambassadors, ministers, secretaries and also the ISI chief in the past. Present meeting is nothing extraordinary.
Some of the separatists have shared platform with Hafiz Saeed and Salahud-Din, the standard bearers of jihadist terror. It is the history of Kashmiris to expect others to fight their battle.
But how could they meet the Pakistani envoy unless the meeting was pre-arranged with the consent of the Indian authorities.
The only noteworthy thing is this; did the Pakistani envoy at all think that in the background of delicately rebuilt dialogue process between the two countries, his meeting with Kashmir separatists would be in fitness of things.
Of course, conspicuously the leader of dukhtaran-i-millat joined the pack of separatists for the first time.
Hours after the meeting took place, Hurriyat (G) faction stalwart Ali Shah Geelani came out with a statement that only gun and violence could solve Kashmir issue. Pakistani authorities, either in New Delhi mission or in Islamabad, did not repudiate the statement. Does it mean they endorse it?
What compelled Gilani to go to that extreme? We don’t know what transpired between the Kashmiri separatists and their handlers. However, the leader of Hurriyat (M) faction exuded the patent rhetoric of finding a solution to Kashmir tangle. It was reversal of Gilanee’s stand.
Ali Shah Geelani’s gun tantrum is expression of his anger against the Pakistani envoy who, in all probability, must have told him of difficult internal and external situation with which his country remains bogged. Pakistan cannot continue military aid and logistics to the jihadis whom ISI has deployed for sneaking and subversion in Kashmir.
Nearer home in Kashmir, Ali Shah’s unconditional release from the jail and his immediate campaign for boycotting elections in Kashmir has evoked a lively debate among political circles in Kashmir. Interestingly, Geelani kick started his election boycott campaign with his first rally in Sopor and the second in Shupian, both known as operational mains of external jihadis.
There is still almost a year to go for the elections. What prompts Geelani to precipitate election boycott campaign? No mainstream political party has initiated election campaign as yet.
Whispers in closed door assemblies and sidelines are that NC is forging understanding of sorts with Geelani. They see NC’s volte face in his release. Election boycott calls have usually gone in favour of National Conference. Its candidates are returned either unopposed or have an easy walk over other contestants: hence the unconditional release of Geelani from internment.
Contrarily Mirwaiz Maulavi Farooq has reacted cautiously to the question of participating in local assembly elections. He has said that it is premature to reflect on the issue. He also said that peoples’ day to day problems have to be addressed.
Observers consider it a tilt towards pragmatism. Naturally, Mirwaiz will make many enemies by shunning negativism and adopting pragmatic stance. Whispering campaign is the exclusive domain of lumpen segment of which Kashmir society has no dearth.
In recent months or more, Mirwaiz has demonstrated measure of political maturity and sagacity. Pakistani envoy’s refusal of exacerbating jihadi subversion in Kashmir could have made him wiser while it made Geelani more abrasive. It is ideological divergence.
NC is as much apprehensive of Congress as of PDP with both of them nibbling at its constituencies. Geelani could provide a safety valve. In politics there are no friends or foes, there are interests.
Geelani finds it much more difficult to feather his nest further. Boycott calls are falling on deaf ears and the youth have gone disenchanted. Eighty thousand Kashmiri youth admitted to various educational institutions throughout the country can turn into a formidable constituency. Traditional mindset and frozen ideology are falling apart.
India and Pakistan both have begun to feel hurtles with status quo in Kashmir. The aftermath of US withdrawal from Afghanistan is uncertain and elusive. Assuming that in the post-withdrawal period Kashmir becomes the new battleground for the Islamists in a bid to augment separatism, what position will each Hurriyat faction adopt in a situation in which nothing can stop Kashmiris becoming mass victims of raging senseless catastrophe.
By pandering to gun culture Geelani is trying to carve his constituency within the “guest jihadi” structure whose primacy he awaits tirelessly. Loss of life, destruction of property and fragility of social order are no considerations for one who wants to romance with destruction
Concurrently, sense of responsibility and circumstantial inevitability could have made Mirwaiz realize that emotionalism should give way to pragmatic interaction with New Delhi as it is of paramount importance if Kashmir is to be spared the impending catastrophe. Kashmir leadership will have to choose between two diametrically opposite options.
But this is tantamount to jumping to the conclusion. US withdrawal will be neither unconditional nor in vacuum. It is not for nothing that when Nawaz Sharif talked to President Obama of regional cooperation for restoration of peace in Afghanistan, the President bluntly said that he was engaging India in crucial decisions.
Speaking to media persons, a former RAW top brass said that talks between New Delhi and separatists was absolutely necessary. He even went to the length of reminding his audience that General Musharraf’s formula for Kashmir was not out of cuff.
No-reaction of Sartaj Aziz on Geelani’s statement, and apologetic approach of Indian External Minister to the Hurriyat-Sartaj meeting could be interpreted as measured stance aimed at not vitiating the atmosphere of bilateral dialogue that has been assiduously built over a period of time.
In the previous election rejectionists were countered by pro-election chapters by arguing that elections with the purpose of resolving day to day problems of the people did not jeopardize the UN Resolution 91/1951 which says that local elections would not be a substitute for plebiscite. Under this caveat, Mirwiaz has a strong position to charter revised approach to his election strategy. In a recently published article in Daily Excelsior under the heading ‘The boiling cauldron’, the writer, apparently with access to sources, argues that in the milieu (likely to emerge in post-withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan) Hurriyat leaders might be feeling insecure for a common Kashmiri who would get sandwiched…” Rebuttals from the electorate in two previous elections will evoke divergent reaction when the exercise is repeated in 2014. This is where moderate Hurriyat has an edge over other separatists.