Triangular Tensions

Apparently a changed Islamabad policy towards Kashmir is witnessing new regrouping within the Hurriyat diversity. But will these unity efforts make a sustainable sense, M A Shah analyzes

Syed-Ali-GeelaniOn  June 15, cops enforcing house detention of octogenarian separatist Syed Ali Geelani at Hyderpora, stopped three visitors at his outer gate. They created such a scene, that cops ‘violated’ the orders from high-ups and allowed them in.

It was not an ordinary trio. They were emissaries of JKLF’s Mohammad Yasin Malik. “We asked Geelani for few minutes in isolation and informed him about Malik’s desire of a joint programme against the Sopore killings,” said one of the three JKLF men, after they had a “successful” meeting.

Later, they drove to Hurriyat (m) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for another meeting on the same issue. The outcome was visible.

The three parties organized a first joint meeting after 2010. They not only issued a joint protest programme against Sopore killings, which had rattled them, but also decided to have “more such meetings” in future, albeit on second line leadership level.

Right now, the second line is busy signing Misaaq-e-Hurriyat (agreement of freedom) at Hyderpora, a pre-requisite to join Hurriyat (g) since two months now. If insiders in the camp are to be believed, the efforts of “unity” were started in August 2014, but the devastating September floods drowned the initiative. Sopore murders helped revive the initiative.

While nobody can hazard a guess over the fate of the initiative that took-off on the slipping credibility of PDP-BJP alliance, it has set the tongues wagging. Has the elusive ‘unity’ changed its definition? Or does the word give a kick-up when separatists are idle or feel irrelevant? “As and when the separatists sense their irrelevance, they toss out the word ‘unity,” said Tariq Ali Mir, a journalist. “It helps them bounce back to page one.”

Frontline separatists are poles apart. Ask them how they interpret “unity”, they skip the discussion. Given the fact that the real unity requires sacrificing larger interests, they sustain ‘reactionary unity’ – a demand and supply system. Market needs it, they manufacture and sell!

The result is there on ground. Separatist camp is worker-deficient and leader-surplus. Meet them and they introduce themselves as chairman, deputy chairman, general secretary, and spokesperson – all office bearers.  Who is their worker? Their audience is usually the people who are driven by the separatist sentiment, not by the charisma of the multitude of leadership. Some people even disturb them by waving Pakistan flags. Even separatist leaders confess it. Clarifying controversy about its Tral rally, Hurriyat (g) issued a statement saying “we don’t wave flags of any country. It is the common people who out of love for the country raise green crescent flags.”

Given the differences they exhibit in their conduct, analysts believe that real unity among them could, at best, be a dream. They all have the same political ideology but what makes them different is the way, they approach their targets. One side sees its politics as “possibility or an opportunity”, the other side sees it as “a holy duty”. If one party sees politics and faith as two different facets of life, the other one sees it so inter-linked that one cannot survive without the other. But that is a different debate.

But insiders suggest the ongoing unity efforts have strong Islamabad backing. This, they say, is the second efforts in last 12 years. Talking strictly on the condition of anonymity, a civil society member privy to the developments said that last two meetings between Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit and the separatist leadership were very ‘important and decisive’ in this regard.

“I was not part of any secret meetings,” the member said. “But I got to know that Pak High Commission during its meetings with separatists revealed and named some front line separatist leaders who according to them had gone close to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).” He was referring to the March 23 meeting in Delhi. “They had even talked about some of them who supported the party in polls.”

Interestingly, however, reports about Islamabad feeling irked over some Hurriyat men staying ‘dangerously close’ to PDP is making many people laugh in Srinagar. At the peak of BJP’s high-voltage campaign to wrest Kashmir, the same High Commission was supportive of PDP takeover in J&K. That was perhaps why Mufti Sayeed, after taking over, ensured to thank Pakistan and militants. For those comments he had to embarrass his ally, Narendra Modi, who faced an angry parliament. Now when the PDP-BJP government is adversely commented on ground zero, Islamabad is shifting its stand.

Change in strategy and the system is not peculiar to Hurriyat alone. Even Islamabad has been exhibiting the same. At one point of time, even Geelani had to oppose General Parvez Musharaf, the then President of Muhasin Mumlikat, the benefactor nation, as Geelani usually refers to Pakistan, in his Delhi meeting for his “out-of-box” thought-process – his four point formula.

Mighty and the powerful from across the Redcliff Divide, including Musharraf, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former RAW boss A S Dulat, have separately stated that Delhi and Islamabad had almost reached an agreement on Kashmir on the controversial four-point formula. But Geelani’s stern opposition prolonged its signing until the then Indian Lok Sabha polls started preventing Dr Manmohan Singh’s Islamabad visit. Geelani had termed the formula as “anti-Kashmir”, and “against the historical perspective of the dispute”.

Mirwaiz-Umar-Farooq-&-otherIn quick follow-up to this, Musharraf administration encouraged all separatist parties and leaders to desert Geelani – the hawk and join peacenik Mirwaiz Umar Farooq – the moderate. While leaving the apparently “sinking ship”, the Hurriyat (g), some even accused the aged Geelani of having “an international agenda”.

In 2015, according to insiders all those separatist leaders are mulling rejoining Hurriyat (g). This time again, Muhasin Mumlikat is behind the initiative. Actually, some have succeeded in their efforts to convince the aged ailing leader to get them in. This time, however, Geelani has a list of conditions for aspiring rejoinders. That is what Misaaq-e-Hurriyat is all about.

Sources even said that many known faces want to bypass the “agreement”. Instead, they are seeking assurances about some positions in Hurriyat (g) and this is the reason for delay.

But there seems no possibility for a broad-based alliance that would look even remotely closer to Hurriyat of 1995, or even of 2000. Unity is going to manifest itself at level-II leadership.

“Small separatist parties and activists are being run between Geelani and Mirwaiz which clearly indicates that Pakistan is also not interested in a broad based unity of the camp,” said Showkat Parray, who teaches political science in a college.

Even on that front obstacles are around. Senior leaders like Shabir Ahmad Shah and Nayeem Ahmad Khan have decided to stay equidistant from the rival Hurriyats. Insiders said their Hurriyat JK was abandoned by its own constituents and now they find it hard to sign Misaaq-e-Hurriyat. “So Shah has decided to confine himself only to the level of “coordination” with Hurriyat (g) and his partner Khan is even unwilling to do that much as well. “Both the old associates are running serious disagreements on the unity issue,” his close aides said.

Interestingly, erstwhile Hurriyat JK was created to showcase ‘unity’ after Shah, Khan and Azam Inquilabi parted ways from Hurriyat (m).

But this has not happened for the first time. In 1993, Hurriyat was formed to “make it easy for Delhi to reach out” to Kashmir. Then religious groups like Jama’at-e-Islami, Jamiat-e-Ahlihadees and an outfit representing state government employees were part of it.  Gradually, they started leaving the flock. Some even contested polls.

“And now leaders claiming of safeguarding ‘the blood of martyrs’ are fighting a war for their existence,” says Showkat, the college teacher. “They see it not taking off and eventually they may end up accusing Delhi for blocking the initiative.”

People aware of the happenings inside the camp see the individual egos driving them crazy. Off late, they are airing their tensions and their preferences of love and hate. Not so distant past, one of the executive leaders of Hurriyat (m) accused Hurriyat (g) spokesperson, of trying to become Qaid-e-Azam. The famous ‘who the hell’ remark of Mirwaiz about Geelani is also not so old. So despite meeting in the Jamia Masjid to forge a two day unity (shutdown on June 17, and Sopore Challo on June 19), there is genuine limitation of scope.

Pertinently, many separatists after parting ways from Hurriyat (m) recently joined Hurriyat (g). Hurriyat (m) dubbed them as “irrelevant” and said their leaving the amalgam will have no impact on its functioning. Interestingly, when the same people had deserted Geelani in 2003 and joined Hurriyat (m), the moderates had then termed their joining as “empowerment of Hurriyat”. Hurriyat (m) according to sources was less concerned about parting ways of its constituents, till Shia leader Agha Hassan, its executive member decided to leave them.

Twelve years after he was “disempowered”, the octogenarian Geelani is back to limelight. “Hurriyat (g) has received more than ten written and verbal requests seeking membership,” sources close to the amalgam said, “Some of them have been accepted and some are under consideration.”

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