A mess called Khurriyat
Separatist politics in Valley is precariously placed
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
In the recent weeks, separatist politics in Kashmir has gone through a profound shift. It is no longer moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq only who dominates the separatist discourse in the state – atleast its external dimension. Now, his counterpart in another Hurriyat faction Syed Ali Shah is back in the picture as Islamabad’s best bet in the state.
Islamabad is also keen to rope in JKLF supremo Yaseen Malik and thereby be Rather seen as dealing with a broad separatist alliance in Kashmir rather than a leading separatist personality, which in past has alienated other separatists. As a result, the separatist landscape in Valley is in the process of being completely redrawn and it is unclear as to what its long term fallout will be.
Ever since former Pakistan president Musharraf turned his back on Syed Ali Shah Geelani for defying his “out of the box” approach to settlement of Kashmir, Mirwaiz had emerged a kind of consensus Kashmiri separatist leader between New Delhi and Islamabad. Moderate Hurriyat had become an informal party to the composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan before Musharraf’s sudden exit from the scene in 2008 interrupted it just short of achieving its goal.
From then on, the new democratic dispensation in Islamabad has slowly reconfigured its approach to the separatist politics in the state, where Mirwaiz though still important, has been edged off his previous pre-eminent position. Pakistan has broadened its focus to accommodate separatists of all shades with the objective being to get them act in concert. This new reality was in full display in the last week’s Pakistan Day function at the Pakistan High Commission. Attendance of Geelani - besides of course Mirwaiz and Yaseen Malik - and most of the leaders from his constituent parties was the clearest signal that the times they are a-changing on Kashmir. The large separatist get-together was not only a forced occasion of solidarity in the company of Pakistan High Commissioner. But what was also important was the altered political context on Kashmir. Mirwaiz who so far has been a vocal supporter of Pakistan’s role and the composite dialogue process between New Delhi and Islamabad has lost his earlier principal role as the leading Kashmiri separatist interlocutor for Islamabad.
There is also a subtle clash between the doves and Islamabad over the Islamabad’s renewed stress on the right to self-determination for Kashmiris. Two senior moderate leaders Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Gani Lone are sore at not being taken into confidence. This leaves Geelani who belongs to the idealistic old world school of secessionism. For him, United Nations resolutions on the state define the Kashmir problem and so a solution to it can only emanate from there. Geelani also wants to stand tall as an exemplar of the ideological integrity in a place which according to his votaries has seen the reputations of as legendary a leader as Shiekh Muhammad Abdullah come toppling down after his engagement with New Delhi through early seventies all but produced a status quo.
Separatist scene in Valley, as a result, is precariously placed. Hurriyat is again at the cross-roads. As in 2005 when Musharraf’s tilt towards moderates during his visit to New Delhi split the separatists in Valley down the middle, the new Islamabad policy is likely to perpetuate this phenomenon. Will it be moderates this time round who might go into a long sulk? Even though they are in the throes of the deep rumblings over the new turaround, moderates are unlikely to go that far. They might even prefer to wait until the contradictions in Islamabad’s new outreach to the hitherto estranged separatists play themselves out. Given Geelani’s entrenched opposition to any solution short of the implementation of United Nations resolutions on the state and his demand for a tripartite dialogue between the parties, there is every possibility that the leader’s renewed intimacy with the Pakistan establishment could but be shortlived, As against the past, this time Geelani himself has exhibited a high degree of wariness before rushing into an all out embrace with Islamabad. Despite receiving invite more than a month before, he has yet to take a final decision on a visit to Islamabad. Even during this period, he has minced no words about any fresh hint of accommodation in Pakistan’s approach towards New Delhi. If now Geelani decides to visit Islamabad, he is likely to reiterate this linear, uncompromising line in his public appearances in the country. And given the fact, Geelani has chosen to defy Pakistan under Musharraf over almost four years, rather than tamely fall in line, dealing with him will be challenge too for the new Pakistan establishment.
Mirwaiz, similarly, has also held back his decision on the visit. This is despite the fact that the doves recently held a meeting of their executive council with some deliberation on the issue. However, on Kashmir settlement Mirwaiz did admit that the situation was back to square one and that both India and Pakistan had to try hard to reclaim common ground. Mirwaiz also has a difficult personal job on hand. His challenge is to negotiate between his deep commitment to dialogue and the need to rally his disgruntled colleagues behind him.
There is also an eminent possibility of a positive outcome: that separatists
can actually unite. Mirwaiz has even hinted at such a prospect by calling for a common minimum programme between separatists. But this is a choice that separatists will have to make themselves. However, not making this choice is also an option for them. They can continue to represent assorted strains of the separatist thought and still be of political relevance as they have amply demonstrated over the
years. But for that to happen they will have to find a way to act together rather than act at cross-purposes as they often do. Fundamentally hobbled by their absence from the state s electoral scene, separatists will have to be more than symbolic representations of a political ideology to stay relevant. Pakistan support may help bolster their profile but it their faith among people that will make them leaders.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Mar 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Mar 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Mar 2010 00:00:00 IST
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