September 1999 News


Hurriyat looks forward to `new initiative' after polls

24 September 1999
The Hindu
By Harish Khare

The All Party Hurriyat Conference leadership remains convinced that Kargil has not changed the basic nature of the `problem' in Jammu and Kashmir. "We were better off without the Kargil conflict," observers Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, former chairman of the APHC. "It did not result in a movement forward," according to him.

Still at a loss to understand as to why he and Maulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari were prevented from boarding a flight to New York yesterday, the Mirwaiz argues that it was sad that the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, instead on using coercion to make people participate in the Lok Sabha elections.

"When the Election Commission members came to Srinagar, it was proclaimed that those who were campaigning against the elections would be allowed to articulate their point of view. But most of the Hurriyat leadership was put under house arrest. Poor Sayeed Geelani is still being released on bail and then rearrested on some other count," laments the young Mirwaiz.

The extremely low turnout in the Valley in the elections has made the Hurriyat leaders feel emboldened to claim representative character for themselves. The Mirwaiz argues that "Dr. Farooq Abdullah represents India in the Valley, but not the people of India or Kashmir." Asserting that "we do not want any military option," the Mirwaiz points that the Kargil conflict repudiated the gathering perception that there was a fatigue with militancy in the Valley, and that the militants were on the run. He describes the Kargil conflict as initiated by "the mujahideens, backed by Pakistan," or "something else"; but stresses that the flare-up was because of the underlying tension on account of the Kashmir issue.

That is why it is important for "India to acknowledge the reality" and he hopes that after the elections the new government would be able to start afresh. If the new government continues with the old policies, we will be back to square one."

The young Mirwaiz has no delusions on the American objectives in the region and the nature of Washington's interest in the Kashmir problem. Apart from asserting its "choudharyat" (busy-bodyness), according to him, the U.S. would be interested in peace in their region, in a getting India and Pakistan to adhere to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and in exploiting the potential of Indian markets. But he also notes that the elements of the American position have remain unchanged, and these include (a) there is dispute, (b) that has to be sorted out between India and Pakistan, (c) keeping in view the views and preferences of the people of Kashmir.

The Mirwaiz gently shrugs off the suggestion that the Hurriyat was a Pakistani-sponsored outfit. "We do not concede Pakistan's claim to speak on behalf of people of Jammu and Kashmir. We do not recognise that it is bilateral matter to be sorted out between India and Pakistan. For us, Kashmir is a political issue and both India and Pakistan. For us, Kashmir is a political issue and both India and Pakistan are enjoined to talk to the people of Kashmir."

In fact, a few weeks ago Sayeed Ali Geelani, the current APHC chairman, had criticised the Pakistani Prime Minister's role during the Kargil conflict. In a pamphlet called "KARGIL - A Short Review", he wrote: "the Washington visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, and his agreeing in the bilateral statement, to recall freedom-lovers from the Kargil heights is nothing but blatant unfaithfulness to the fifty-one-year-old freedom struggle and the ten-year-old bloody and self-sacrificing movement.

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