Addressing the party workers at the mausoleum of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah on 05th December 2016, Farooq Sahib said: "I ask these Hurriyat leaders to unite. We are standing by your side at this hour. Don't think of us as your adversaries. We are not your adversaries."
Since then people have reacted to his statement differently. Most of them have derided the statement as mere pretence and election gimmick. Few well meaning people have gauged him rightly. A senior journalist has said: "Farooq Sahab's statement must not be dismissed as coming from his maverick nature. His endorsement of Hurriyat Conference and extending support to them tells a lot about the ground reality". After 5th December, the following issues came up for discussion:
Do we support the freedom of Kashmir?
We ideally support the restoration of autonomy to the pre-1953 position. Secession from the union of India is not our motto. We do not favour merger with India either. We consistently demand that Kashmir is a political issue. No solution is feasible unless Pakistan is taken on board. Apart from the autonomy solution, if a better deal emerges between the Governments of India and Pakistan which satisfies the people of J&K, we would not oppose such a decision. India missed a great opportunity when General Musharraf was at helm in Pakistan. During an interview to BBC around November 2003, he floated his 'Four Steps' approach for addressing the Kashmir problem. I think it still remains the most desirable way to address the issue. The four step proposal envisaged:
1. Official talks commence;
2. Centrality of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is acknowledged;
3. Any proposal unacceptable to any party or Kashmiris is taken off the table;
4. Best solution acceptable to the parties and the Kashmiris is taken.
What type of support do we offer to the Hurriyat
Kashmir is facing an existential crisis at the present moment. We all need to get united against the fascist forces. Attempts are being made to erase our identity by abrogate the Article 370. As we have reiterated time and again, J&K had acceded to a secular India and not to the Hindu Rashtra. Ever since the Modi's accession to power, the right wing forces in India feels emboldened to intimidate the minorities. Secularism is under severe threat. The point is not that the Hurriyat has to fight for the survival of secularism in India, but we have to collectively defend our distinct identity against communal onslaughts. The RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, addressing Swayam sevaks in Jammu in November said that India is "Hindu Rashtra, our ancestors are Hindus and there is no place for separatism in the country." Every step towards building a Hindu Rashtra will effect into two steps towards Kashmir's secession from India. The mainstream regional parties in the state like National Conference won't remain silent spectators of right wing hooliganisms and brazen violence of human rights in Kashmir. We are not here to defend the case of integration with the Hindu India.
Farooq Sahab also said on 5th December: "It was promised that a plebiscite will be held in entire J&K. But for that, Pakistan had to withdraw the entire army first from its part of Kashmir. National Conference is not against plebiscite. We are not responsible for why plebiscite didn't take place. Instead Pakistan is responsible who had to withdraw entire army so that the plebiscite could take place. If they didn't do that, why to blame National Conference?" Omar Abdullah echoed similar views in his New York speech. Pakistan has a role to play if plebiscite is to be held in J&K. It can't focus only on Indian Administered part of Kashmir. Back in January 2013, the former General Secretary of National Conference late Sheikh Nazir sahib urged the centre to hold plebiscite in the state. He said, "Pandit Nehru made a promise to people of Kashmir at Lal Chowk in Srinagar that when peace will prevail, people would be given right to choose their fate. But the promise was never fulfilled. New Delhi instead jailed tallest leader of J&K, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, in 1953. It is high time for Government of India to fulfill promises made by Pandit Nehru." Our party is not against holding of a plebiscite in Kashmir. The unfortunate tribal invasion of 1947 gave a death blow to the demand for plebiscite.
Both Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Muft have created an impression that the accession was done by Sheikh Mohammad Adhullah. While paying tribute to Sheikh Sahab on 05th December Mehbooba Mufti said that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah saved J&K in 1947 by going against the tide as he had a conviction in his decision. But the fact of the matter is that Sheikh Sahab had nothing to do with the accession. The Instrument of Accession carries the signatures of Maharaja Hari Singh and the the Governor General of India. From 1953 onwards, Sheikh Sahab was arrested for almost two decades. But others couldn't wait. After the 1970s, it was Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who had become Delhi's man in Kashmir.
(Dr. Bashir Ahmad Veeri is a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council from the National Conference. Views are personal.)