Published On: Tue, Jan 21st, 2014

Is Hurriyat Politics out of date?

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

The principal duty of any leadership has remained to organize its narrative, launch it and take it to fruition. Kashmir politics too organised itself on 8 March 1993 into a collective leadership under the title of “All Parties Hurriet (Freedom) Conference”, and somewhere in the process the title “Hurriet” was substituted by “Hurriyat”. The attitude towards re-naming the collective leadership has remained pretty relaxed.

Hurriyat first fragmented in 2003, causing Syed Ali Shah Geelani to lead the breakaway group and the 2013 drifting away of some senior partners has ultimately caused the renaming of a third faction as Hurriyat Conference Jammu Kashmir in 2014. The third fragment is led by Shabir Ahmad Shah and the press would like to identify all the three factions as Hurriyat (M), Hurriyat (G) and Hurriyat (S). Each one of the three factions would claim to be the ‘real’, but claims have to be processed in the People’s court.

The question that would concern every citizen of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Pakistan and the international community, has to be, “Is Hurriyat Politics out of date”? Or whether the three fragments would severally be able to prove their individual merits and be able to take the Constitutional discipline adopted on 31 July 1993 any further than it was in 1993 or at the times of their severing away. It does not remain a hidden secret any more that Hurriyat politics and the militancy have a Pakistani reference and the reference has failed.  Kashmir politics is doomed to fail if all the three Hurriyats compete for the same reference (Islamabad) and fail to evolve an indigenous reference of their own. After 23 years they may have left it for too late.

Hurriyat (G) seems to have broken loose the status quo and has made a conscious effort on Saturday in this regard. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has announced to transfer his entire immovable property to an “autonomous and independent 8-member trust.” He has handed over his residential house, Tehreek-i-Hurriyat headquarters and Millat Publications to the trust. It is for the first time that someone from among Kashmiri leadership has rightly admitted that “It has remained a tragedy with Kashmir that its leaders have not been held accountable and nobody has raised fingers over their conduct.” “But I want my person and my party to stay transparent in our dealings with the society.” The move has set a precedent and others have to pass through this check point at some stage. Earlier the better.

A simple audit of Hurriyat politics from March 1993 to date has a balance sheet full of losses and deficits. It made a serious error in allowing itself to be used as an irritant (in a controlled manner) against India and was never allowed to focus on its Constitutional mandate. The people of Jammu and Kashmir do not have any issue with the Republic of India, with 26th January or 15th August. These are dates that the people of India of all faiths (including Muslims) have a reason to celebrate and the Government of Pakistan on behalf its people extends good wishes to the Government and the people of India.

Kashmiri leadership and the people of Kashmir should have been concerned with their right to self-determination as ‘equal people’. They should have been concerned with a rigorous political agenda to force India to keep to the terms of Accession and ensure that the full regime of relief available under this bilateral agreement with India is not denied to the people of Kashmir. Our leaders do not have any evidence to convince a common citizen that they have by word and deed ever made any demand that UN mechanism should be put in place to run the three Governments at Srinagar, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit.

On the contrary leadership misdirected its wisdom and wasted its energies and time in advocating a failed boycott of elections. Hurriyat has remained clueless in respect of the manner of Governments that should have been in place in the three administrations. If one would buy the commonly held belief that India has been a hindrance in implementing the UN Resolutions, Hurriyat could have convinced Pakistan to let Muzaffarabad and Gilgit have the manner of administrations envisaged in UN mechanism. All its rounds to the High Commission of Pakistan in Delhi and trips to Pakistan ended on non-issues.

The question of a UN supervised referendum remains an international obligation but  it is a fact that Hurriyat politics and militancy has killed  the realisation of a referendum, may be for all times to come. Kashmiri leaders don’t have any clue in regard to the basics of a referendum.  In recent past Quebec (a province of Canada) has been through two referendums in May 1980 and in October 1995. Quebec’s lost the first referendum by a 59.56 percent to 40.44 percent margin. The second motion in October 1995 to decide whether Quebec should secede from Canada was defeated by a very narrow margin of 50.58% “No” to 49.42% “Yes”. There was a 94% turn out of voters and Quebec’s failed to gain independence by a thin margin of 54,288 votes.

Referendums are not an obsolete option as believed by many of our Kashmiri leaders. The people of Scotland are preparing themselves to take part in Scottish independence referendum due to take place on Thursday 18 September 2014. If Scotland rejected independence this time, a second referendum is likely to take place within 20 years, provided that the vote difference is within 20% points.

We could have put the Indian concerns in regard to Kashmiri referendum at ease by explaining that passing on the sovereignty to the people and gaining national independence, Kashmir would continue to have economic union with India, in the manner in which Quebec’s in the event of their independence wanted to keep with Canada. Many other common similarities could have been argued and the good will of the people of India retained.

Kashmir has lost a generation and its Pandit population has been displaced. Muslim leadership has made either little or no effort to reach the other communities and has failed to travel beyond the city of Srinagar. Even all Muslims do not seem to be pro Pakistan or pro Independence. In addition we have a much higher deficit, nearly 100,000, than the thin margin of 54,288 votes by which the independence vote was defeated in Quebec. The present number equation and the various regions of the State do not favour a successful referendum in Jammu and Kashmir.

All these 23 years Hurriyat brand of politics and its subscribed militancy has not yielded any benefit at home, in India, in Pakistan and at the international level. Pakistan has not made any effort to guide the politics in Kashmir beyond a certain point and in turn decided around 1996 to desert the militant component inducted into Kashmir politics. It was unfair to encourage a politics and militancy which did not reconcile with the agreed UN mechanism on Kashmir and which could have been invoked under the instrument of accession.

The allegation that India has stalled the implementation of UN mechanism on Kashmir has no merit or very little merit. The people of Jammu and Kashmir were denied the benefits of a Stand Still Agreement reached with Pakistan. On the other hand the four stipulations in the instrument of accession and Indian petition to the UN remain the basis of Kashmir case.

Our leaders have hesitated or have remained neglectful in not taking their case to the people and the institutions of India. In a fit of unappreciated partnership with some elements (not the people) in the Government of Pakistan, we offered an excuse to Indian army and security forces to nudge pass the four stipulations in regard to their duty in Jammu and Kashmir and precipitated a situation which offered them a further excuse to violate the restraints on their number, behaviour and location under the UN Resolutions.

The three Hurriyats namely, M, G and S have an immediate bother to justify their existence and the triangular war would be fought in the local press. Their activities would be far remote from the Kashmir case, which lies in the four stipulations in the instrument of accession, Indian petition to the UN and the UN mechanism on the resolution of the question of free will of the people. Kashmir case has no relevance to poll boycott, a shut down on 26 January or 15 August. The latter are political theatrics and a wasteful engagement.

Unless Hurriyat and others are able to have a reliable understanding of the Kashmir case, fighting a war through local press, Kashmir Media Service (Islamabad) and a section of Pakistan press have no merit. The practice hurts and discredits more than increments the constituency of any success. We have to ask ourselves, “Is Hurriyat Politics out of date”?


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