Are Hurriyats Irrelevant?
Well, the ground realities say not really
DATELINE SRINAGAR BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, during his last week’s Valley visit repeated what he and his predecessors have said previously: that “New Delhi was ready to talk to representatives of all sections who are opposed to terrorism and violence.”
The repetition of the “representatives of all sections” phrase needs to be underlined again. It marks a continuity of a policy. It also underscores that there is no shift of New Delhi’s policy on Jammu & Kashmir. It, most importantly, symbolizes the root of the problem – reluctance in accepting some hard facts, which go beyond numerical logic.
In the beginning, however, Dr Singh said something which is particularly interesting: “We felt that the people of the state are not only interested in financial assistance and development projects, but also desire a political process that meets their aspirations. We want to take the dialogue process forward.”
This sentence symbolizes a genuine acknowledgment of a reality which, however, needs to go beyond statements. This acknowledgement needs to translate into a policy practice on the ground.
Surprisingly, a caveat after this statement soon followed. One of the state Congress leaders, Ghulam Nabi Azad, came up with a sort of corrigendum to Dr. Singh’s statement. He said the Prime Minister “basically hinted towards a dialogue with militant groups in case they eschewed violence.” So the earlier guess that the offer may have been thrown before the two Hurriyats stood null and void.
The question about a dialogue between the two Hurriyat Conferences and New Delhi has to be viewed from two angles. One from New Delhi’s angle. And, two, from the Hurriyats’ angle itself. Sensing the nuances behind the “talks invitation”, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was quick to dismiss such a talks format, where New Delhi would make non political entities like trade unions, NGOs, social activists and even academics part of the dialogue process. So far so good, but there are questions.
Let us first play the devil’s advocate. Does New Delhi see it necessary to talk to the two Hurriyats under the present circumstances? Fundamentally, Jammu & Kashmir’s political space has to be understood in terms of geography as well as identities – both majority and minority. And then there is the cyber space, which cannot be ignored either.
Which political space do the two Hurriyats represent and occupy?
From New Delhi’s point of view, things by and large are stable in Jammu & Kashmir if gone by the geography logic – “the trouble is limited to a small geographical space”. Militancy has also been largely contained. In terms of regions, it has almost no problems in Ladakh and Jammu now. Within the Kashmir region, New Delhi’s policy mandarins argue, it sees resistance to its rule merely emanating from Old Srinagar and one police station each in Sopore, Varmul and Islamabad.
On the ground, even though its armed forces are overstretched in a costly military campaign, it sees this campaign “manageable.” New Delhi gets a bad, nasty press, both locally and internationally, yet, somehow, it sees that manageable as well.
We often hear the two Hurriyats saying that New Delhi is not sincere about resolving the Jammu & Kashmir issue. Well, to expect an adversary to be sincere sounds little naïve. Every party to a dispute comes to the table with its own overt and covert agendas, to get the best bargain for itself. The term ‘sincerity’ in diplomacy is a misnomer. It is the conditions that parties find themselves in that make them to strike a bargain. So what is the two Hurriyats’ bargaining chip?
When these parties say that economic packages and developmental activities won’t resolve the J&K problem – something latently voiced by Dr. Singh himself - they only reflect the ground reality. Have the past sixty years of New Delhi-injected economic activities changed something greatly here?Then is the question of Srinagar, where Dr. Singh felt the youth were particularly angry.
Say whatever, Srinagar is politically very important. It impacts the political thinking and course in rest of the Valley in significant ways. The political message that is regularly conveyed on the streets of Srinagar, Varmul, Sopore, Islamabad and other parts of the Valley is what the two Hurriyats say. It is here where the Hurriyats are mostly based. Then the occasional expressions of anger voiced against New Delhi’s rule in other parts of Kashmir tightly controlled militarily convey the same message.
Then there is the cyber space. The cyber space is controlled neither by the two Hurriyats nor by the state. It is controlled those who prefer to go by their conscience and political common sense. In a nutshell, the dominant viewpoint in the cyberspace is that J&K’s political future remains resolved. New Delhi’s actions here are questioned, and too vociferously. In other words, what the two Hurriyats say is echoed in the cyberspace.
A lot has been said about the two Hurriyats’ failure in enlarging their support base and their inability to speak for other non-Kashmiri speaking and non Muslim communities of the state. To some extent it is true that both the Hurriyat factions have had limitations in understanding the nuts and bolts of inclusive politics. It is also a fact that they had limitations in organizational effectiveness and leadership. Questions have also been raised on their values about accommodation and inclusiveness.
There is also a perception – which echoes every now and then – that the reason minority ethnic and religious identities have not wholeheartedly joined Kashmiri movement for restoration of J&K’s political sovereignty is because it acquired overly Islamist overtures.
Today those who see the two Hurriyats inconsequential say it on the grounds that they do not represent the state’s Pahari, Gujjar, Dogra, Rajput, Ladakhi and Dard political aspirations. That is only partly true. At any point of history, communities in J&K have nursed both economic and political aspirations, which may not necessarily coincide. It is not that confusing to understand. The two Hurriyats surely may not represent the economic aspirations of many of these communities, but when it comes to the political aspirations, the Hurriyats, whether we like it or not, have a claim.
If we do not accept this logic, then a plebiscite in J&K should today go in India’s favor. The reason there continues to be aversion to a plebiscite in J&K as that New Delhi and the ruling formations here do not represent its dominant political space. That explains why the two Hurriyats remain relevant despite their limitations of numerical representation and inclusiveness. The sooner that is acknowledged, the better.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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