By Khursheed Wani
A group of Srinagar based lawyers said they have started studying National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) jurisdiction in J&K to build a response, or defence, for seven persons belonging to the separatist camp, currently in NIA detention.
The seven separatist leaders and workers have already completed fist remand of 10 days in NIA custody all of them except Farooq Dar (Bitta Karate) were held in Srinagar and subsequently airlifted to Delhi on July 24. Four of them were remanded for 10 more days to NIA custody while others have been sent to judicial custody for a month’s time. The NIA arrests have sent tremors down the rank and file of separatist groups and organisations in Kashmir. The leaders are shaken and workers do not dare to report at the besieged residences. The impact of the arrests is manifest at several levels.
First, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, two main separatist leaders of Kashmir with considerable public following attempted to clear their respective positions on the NIA raids and a sleaze campaign by the TV. Both of them were disallowed by the state authorities to address the media persons. Consequently, they took the alternative path and released videos to elaborate on their sources of income and asset ownership. Interestingly, a shutdown call by the separatists against the NIA raids and arrests did not evoke much response. That is a different story.
The newest crackdown on separatist leaders is part of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s larger plan to dismantle the separatist castles in Kashmir, by hook or by crook. The state government was forced to acquiesce to the policy, initially hesitantly, and later with complete co-optation.
In his first week after taking over as chief minister of PDP-BJP regime, late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took a daring decision to release Masarat Alam Bhat, the epicenter of 2010 anti-India uprising, creating huge flutter in BJP circles. Mufti couldn’t withstand his decision and Alam was re-arrested after only 40 days. During those days, Mufti had to receive delegations of BJP legislators seeking Alam’s re-arrest. Sending him behind bars smouldered PDP’s first commitment to people, to release the political prisoners. In the post-Burhan scenario, jails and police lock-ups were filled to capacity. That too is a different story.
The policy of the Modi government towards Kashmiri separatists was unveiled when Delhi called off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan on the pretext that the foreign affairs advisor of the then Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharief was scheduled to meet Hurriyat in Delhi. Delhi disallowed Hurriyat to meet Pakistani dignitaries, a routine in the past, and prevented them from flying abroad.
The post-Burhan scenario allowed the government to employ harsher methods to suppress and sideline separatists. Geelani has never been allowed to walk free out of his residence for the past seven years except when he briefly flew to Delhi. Mirwaiz’s world has been squeezed between Jamia Masjid and his Nigeen mansion. Yasin Malik is often jailed and when he is not, he is disallowed to come out from his own Maisuma cell.
The NIA case began with a controversial sting operation by a television channel three months ago. National Front leader Nayeem Khan, Bitta Karate and a Tehreek-e-Hurriyat worker were shown conceding their involvement in fomenting trouble in Kashmir including torching schools, paying stone-throwers and managing anti-India protests. It is enigmatic as to how the questioning of Khan and Karate led to a major crackdown on other leaders and workers belonging to Mirwaiz or Geelani group. Shabir Shah, another influential leader, was held by enforcement directorate, apparently to engage the separatists at other fronts outside Kashmir. Asiya Andrabi, has been jailed and is being constantly referred to as leader of a militant outfit.
Whether or not the lawyers would find a method to defend the arrested separatists, the fact is that arrests have shaken the separatists. The major offensive on militants, on the other hand, is equally demoralizing for the camp.
Many years ago, Hurriyat Conference emerged on Kashmir’s political firmament, at a time when guns were ruling the roost. It occupied a space, which was not militant but pacifist and reconciliatory. It gradually turned into the postal address of the separatist movement and remained so despite its periodic fragmentation. Delhi’s plan is to wind up this space. It doesn’t care whether this space has any linkage with the street sentiment.
Ironically, six years after the formation of Hurriyat, PDP was formed to occupy another middle ground between separatist and unionists. The PDP maintained this ground for a decade and a half until it entered into alliance with the BJP. The RSS-backed meticulous BJP leadership craftily pulled the PDP out of this middle ground and assimilated it into its own colour. Does this form the broader contours of Rajnath Singh’s permanent resolution to Kashmir? Only time can offer an answer.
(The writer is a senior journalist)