Mainstream, VOL LIV No 39 New Delhi September 17, 2016
All-Party Delegation in Srinagar, Hurriyat’s Position
Sunday 18 September 2016, by
The all-party delegation to Srinagar has only ushered in complications. Instead of reaching out to the alienated masses or taking the initial steps towards a solution to the ongoing crisis, what’s taken off is sheer politics! You could call this nothing short of Right-wing politics, where instead of focusing on the crux, distractions are brought about along a certain well-crafted agenda.
In the context of today’s bleeding-battered Kashmir, the Centre seems hell-bent on targeting the Hurriyat—“for not opening their doors when our parliamentarians knocked!” It’s so deter-mined to promote and circulate this theory together with negative propaganda, it’s not even ready to hear counter-views from the local Kashmiris who are equally determined to query—Why are the Hurriyat leaders jailed or under house arrest, forced to sit in a caged condition? Why were no formal invites handed to them from the Centre—after all, it was a well-planned visit? Why did the parliamen-tarians take two months to finally wake up to the killings here? There has been a history of bogus promises by visiting VVIPS from New Delhi, so what miracles could have been expected now, when parliamentarians came knocking—would their salaams or ‘hellos’ bring back our dead or blinded children and revive our ruined economy which is worsening as clampdowns carry on? Is New Delhi bothered about our daily survival, about the hundreds of freshly-dug graves, about our children stuffed indoors for eight long weeks?
Ironies hit as Never Before!
Ironies hit. Though the Hurriyat was shunned both by the government at the Centre and also the one at the State level, within hours after the killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016 Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and several of her senior colleagues appealed to the Hurriyat leaders to help the government in bringing about peace and calm.
More ironies. On one hand the Government of India (GOI), leaves no opportunity to state that the Hurriyat leaders—hardliners or separa-tists as are they called—are irrelevant and not to be part of any of the discussions on Kashmir, yet they are placed under house arrest and security restrictions imposed on their movements as any given pretext is enough to relay that the GOI does realise that these local leaders do have a hold on the sentiments of the Kashmiris and with that on the prevailing conditions in the Valley.
Also, former Prime Ministers of India— Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh — had invited the Hurriyat leaders for discussions with the Government of India. Then why this halt to those talks with the Hurriyat? Why this U—turn? The Pakistan factor was always there; yet there were talks with the Hurriyat, so what has happened to that season of talks? Or, were the Hurriyat leaders called by the Centre for those talks just for publicity along the strain that the GOI was serious in trying to bring about a political solution of the Kashmir crisis?
Today the ground reality is that though the Hurriyat stands divided to a certain extent (in fact, intelligence agencies have played a major role in bringing about divisions) its leaders do matter. The Hurriyat leaders do hold a strong base in the Valley. Walk in and around the Maisuma locality of Srinagar and see and sense the JKLF’s stronghold in that locality. Locals recount that Yasin Mailk has been in the forefront with relief each time a disaster struck, be it the Tsunami of South India or be it the calamities hitting the Kashmir region. And if you were to go towards any of the downtown locales of Srinagar it would get writ large that Mirwaiz is the leader. He is not just a Hurriyat leader but the religious head for the Muslims of the Valley... hundreds of Kashmiris reach Srinagar’s downtown-situated Jami Masjid each Friday noon to hear Mirwaiz lead the Jumma namaaz and after that address the people... He is a scholar, his talks go beyond religious philosophy and do touch the prevailing ground realities. I had been interviewing the Hurriyat leaders when they were in New Delhi and also in their Srinagar base. Putting together these excerpts from my earlier interviews with the Hurriyat’s top brass, which relay that these leaders do talk sense and are not a bunch of outdated rebels as the electronic media portrays them.
When Hurriyat’s the then chairman, Maulana Abbas Ansari, had flown down to New Delhi for the much-publicised January 22, 2004 talks between the Centre and five of the Hurriyat leaders, Maulana Abbas Ansari, Abdul Gani Bhat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Fazul Haq Qureshi, Bilal Lone, he (that is, Maulana Abbas Ansari) had spoken to me during the course of an interview. He gave the interview the day after meeting L.K. Advani and just a couple of hours before meeting Prime Minister Vajpayee... The day’s schedule seemed tight, what with he giving one interview after another, switching from Hindustani to fluent Persian (he’d studied in Iran) for an Iranian channel and in between speaking to “friends” who had assembled— even non-Kashmiris like Pandit N.K. Sharma, who was heading the Universal Association of Spiritual Awareness.
What is your concept of a lasting solution for Kashmir? I’d asked Maulana Abbas Ansari and he had detailed, “No solution will be possible till the Kashmiris are not heard and not asked what they want... and it’s in the interest of both the countries—India and Pakistan—that a solution is worked on as soon as possible for God forbid if war erupts then the whole of South Asia tabah ho jaega... don’t ask me what will happen to us Kashmiris for ham to waise hi mar gae hain, we Kashmiris are almost dead but I’m worried about this entire region, I‘m repeating that if war erupts this entire region tabah ho jaega ... We came to New Delhi for talks for what’s wrong with our talking with the Centre, after all, even Mahatma Gandhi had talked to the British, there was Nelson Mandela who did the same.... And we agreed to talk to the Centre after they came round to our basic condition that these talks would be held without any conditions and in total sincerity... Right now, as of now we want the Kashmiri to be heard, to be allowed to live and live in dignity.... Has till now any one bothered to find out what he (the Kashmiri) wants? He has to be heard, as he is the one who is suffering from all possible sides.”
And when I had interviewed Lone sahib in Srinagar in 2001, he‘d stressed: ”We want peace, every Kashmiri wants peace but they (Govern-ment of India) are not letting us even talk or not even letting us enter into a dialogue, leaving us feeling so frustrated. But as I said earlier there can be no peace with broken promises and the GOI’s track record has been full of deceit... we just can’t trust them. The Hurriyat is absolutely against any bifurcation talks .. we are all one people—we want no division of the state against any lines. This State has to remain intact.”
And during my three interviews with Yasin Malik, he was categorical: “I’ve always believed in a non-violent struggle, right from the age of 17 years when, in 1983, I first jumped into this struggle for self-determi-nation... It is only much later in 1988 that I took up armed struggle under the banner of the JKLF but six years later, in 1994, we again opted for a unilateral ceasefire, gave up the armed struggle and wanted a peaceful settlement of this problem. ... The Government of India has to decide what it wants because it has adopted a different yardstick for the peace process in Nagaland and it is treating us on a different level. I believe that India and Pakistan can’t hold any talks without involving representatives of the Kashmiri people... Kashmiris have to be involved in these talks and cannot be bypassed.”
Around 2009, during a meet in New Delhi —Multi-Party Dialogue on the Political Future of Jammu and Kashmir—which was organised by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in collaboration with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, I had inter-viewed Hurriyat’s Professor Abdul Gani Bhat. He’d said: “No, there is no change for the common man, for the man on the streets. I’m of the opinion that metal detectors cannot detect the anger and alienation of the Kashmiri people. What has to be taken into account are the sentiments of the Kashmiri people and also the dynamics sweeping across the world. Today there seems no escape route available for India and Pakistan but the only way out is to work on actual issues... after all, peace and dispute cannot ever co-exist and the nuclear weaponisation in the subcontinent has added an alarming dimension.”