Restructuring Resistance

Demands from constituents of the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat to make the resistance grouping leaner, united and effective are growing. Its constituents are up in arms for democracy and transparency within to make the conglomerate stronger.  P A Mushtaq reports.

Changing dynamics of Kashmir resistance politics has the Mirwaiz-led All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a grouping of several political parties and splinter groups, clueless but thinking. Both, functionallyas a conglomerate and as a force to galvanise public support around issues and devise strategies for its political objectives, the Hurriyat sees itself failing to live up to the expectations of the people.

Once a force to reckon with, the ‘moderate’ APHC headed by Kashmir’s chief priest and patron of the religious and social awareness group Awami Action Committee, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, is under pressure from its constituents to revamp the conglomerate.

“The APHC should be a force to reckon with once again. It has to bring cohesiveness in its activity and idea. There is no doubt that the Hurriyat right now faces the challenge  of bridging the huge gap between its leadership and the general masses, particularly youth,” said Nayeem Khan, who represents the National Front party in the grouping.

The Hurriyat politics and its reach are witnessing a downhill process for the past decade. From being a grouping of more than three dozen political parties with traders’ bodies, employees’ unions and civil society groups as members in it in 1993, the year of its formation, the conglomerate witnessed a vertical split in 2002 following allegations that its constituents participated in polls violating its constitution.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani decided to head a separate faction of the Hurriyat accusing the grouping of failing to take action against those who proxy-contested in the state elections. Despite the fact that those who contested polls, directly or indirectly, faced axe from the APHC, the distance between its factions could never be bridged.

The split, according to experts, has helped New Delhi to diffuse political energy of resistance in Kashmir. “After participation in elections divided the APHC in 2002, talks and engagement, whose seriousness is debatable, with New Delhi added to the acrimony between the two factions of the Hurriyat. It was easy for New Delhi to seed confusion and suspicion by portraying itself getting closer to a particular faction of the APHC,” said Naseer Ahmad, a columnist and senior journalist.

Over a period of time, the two factions began competing with each other as rival forces rather than political groups that espousedthe same cause with their own means and approach to reach the political goal, Naseer said.

The ‘moderate’ Hurriyat faced a major challenge when agitational politics took center-stage in 2008 following the Amarnath land row. When it was floated in 1993, militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Badar, Al Umar, Al Baraq and others backed the major Hurriyat political constituents. With militant politics reshaping itself, the popular street protestmode of politics made moderates clueless on how to spearhead it or organize it.

“APHC is being perceived as non-serious and incompetent force. I believe that 2008, 2009, 2010 should be evaluated and an introspection done around these years as to see where the Hurriyat went wrong. We could have done better, no doubt,” said Nayeem Khan.

To make the ‘moderate’ Hurriyat resilient and effective, it dissolved itself in 2009. The move was made to reshape and reorganize the grouping as per the ‘need of the hour’ and changing realities on the ground within two months. As part of that reorganization, the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat announced opening up of offices in each district of the state to reach out to the masses. The plan, however, could not see the light of the day and failed to take off for unknown reasons.

“I don’t know what happened in 2009. In fact, I do not know what will happen in the future. I am not a soothsayer and do not live in the past. But I am optimistic about brightest and better tomorrow,” said Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, who represents a splinter group of the Muslim Conference in APHC(M). Bhat is pro-dialogue in all circumstances and for a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Bhat believes Kashmir is going through a complex situation. “There are no easy answers for questions here,” he said, avoiding a direct reply to what happened to the Hurriyat plan of reaching out to the people at the grassroots level.

There might not be easy answers but the moderate Hurriyat, of late, seems to have realized the need to get its act together for spearheading the movement more forcefully. This realization has set in motion a reassertion within the Mirwaiz-led conglomerate.

“We will not repeat past mistakes. Past is past. Hurriyat is custodian of sacrifices made by people of Kashmir and will take the cause to its logical end. But freedom movements do not achieve goals as easily as people go upstairs and shove off snow from rooftops. We cannot go upstairs and get the results. We are resolved to put up a brave front to fight for our cause… Yes Hurriyat requires change to become a better organisation,” said Shabir Shah, who represents the Democratic Freedom Party in APHC(M).

Both Shah and Khan are opposed to secret dialogue with New Delhi. These two leaders disowned and distanced themselves from home minister P Chidambaram’s claim of holding a secret (Quiet) dialogue with the moderates in 2008.

Now most constituents believe that to begin with the Hurriyat needs to restructure itself. “The chairman has constituted a committee last year to seek constituents’ opinion on reorganization. We will deliberate about it and come up with a consensus,” said Shabir Shah.

Khan says the Hurriyat has to be more democratic in approach with all parties onboard over the campaigns and new initiatives.

Interestingly, the grouping has failed to come up with a single programme to deal with challenges it faced in 2011. Members hold separate meetings and spearhead different campaigns. The Mirwaiz rarely has a senior resistance leader around him before or whilemaking his political speeches on Fridays in the Jamia Mosque, except Saleem Geelani on occasions. The Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat seems to be fast turning into a reactionary force rather than a resistance group that could take the people in its struggle and the cause.

Despite a two-layer working system, the Hurriyat’s impotency as a political force is growing with each passing day. At present, the Hurriyat functions through its general council and executive council. Both councils have around seven members each. Earlier, the general council would select representatives for executive council and the executive council would elect a chairman. The chairman’s nomination, however, would again go to the general council for final approval. “The old mechanism was never followed,” said a constituent member on the condition of anonymity.

Shah said the committee to look into the reorganization has met three times without reaching any conclusions. The committee has senior leaders in it which include the Mirwaiz, Nayeem Khan, Shabir Shah, Bilal Lone and Prof Abdul GhaniBhat.

Nayeem Khan insists that most constituents want to do away with two-tier system. “Majority wants to do away with general council and executive council bodies. There should be one platform to push forward unified campaign,” said Khan.

Shah seconds Khan in his opinion on how the Hurriyat should function. “My party had suggested that all constituents should suspend their programme and should carry out activities under the banner of the Hurriyat,” said Shah.

There is a growing resalisation among the leaders that their disconnect with the masses is growing all the time. Most leaders agree that another challenge for the Hurriyat is to connect with the youth at the grassroots level and their sentiment. Earlier, the APHC would have theear of employees’ bodies and traders union as its members. Even the Kashmir University Teachers Association (KUTA) was its member in early 90s.

“Yes we have lost connection. Hurriyat requires expansion and political culture to carry forward opinion. There is dismay among people and mistrust among constituents. Only fair democratic set up can help the Hurriyat to evolve. We need to have youth with us and other civil society members,” said Khan.

Another Hurriyat constituent, Peoples Conference chief Bilal Lone too is pushing for aorganizational reform.

“There is a dire need for introspection within the Hurriyat and its restructuring,” said Lone. “It’s taking time. In a forum politics, there are positives and negatives…I want to clear that we are not divided but divergent in our views, which is a reflection of a democratic set up. I suggest the Hurriyat should act as a single political entity. We should make it strong by taking bold and positive steps,” explained Lone, who heads a splinter group of his late father Abdul GhaniLone’s Peoples Conference.
Lone wonders, “Why the Hurriyat is not one when its constituents pursue a single ideology?”

“Before pushing for bigger unifications, the present Hurriyat has to unite first. I agree it has turned into a loose organization of many groups,” said Lone.
Jammu & Kashmir Ittihadul Muslimeen’s (JKIM) Maulana Abbas Ansari is another prominent face of the Hurriyat. Ansari faced rebuke when he met New Delhi-appointed three-member interlocutors’ group last year against the conglomerate’s collective decision to maintain distance from them. That meeting also exposed the weakness of the command the Hurriyat leadership has over its constituents.

The Mirwaiz has been downplaying simmering discontentment within the forum. “There is no division. A committee has been set up to suggest ways and means to restructure,” said the Mirwaiz recently after a meeting at APHC headquarters in Rajbagh.

Despite repeated attempts, the Mirwaiz did not take calls from the Kashmir Life to respond to questions over the Hurriyat restructuring and ‘disenchantment’ with his leadership.

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