May 2002 News

Hurriyat ''split'' may change J&K political scenario

7 May 2002
The Hindu

SRINAGAR: From the controversial Dubai conclave to the expulsion of three top commanders of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the developments in the past few weeks may lead to changes in the political scenario of the troubled State of Jammu and Kashmir. Omar Abdullah is all set to take over as president of the National Conference and a change of guard at the Hurriyat headquarters is also certain, though towards mid-July. The State goes to the polls in September. Attempts to rope in separatist leaders to contest elections were made right from day one of Farooq Abdullah''s tenure as Chief Minister. But, the Centre has not succeeded in its ''mission Kashmir''. Groups like the Hurriyat also have not made any significant gains from their dubious role in resolving the Kashmir issue.Not only the Hurriyat''s different voices, its different actions now have reduced the once powerful alliance to an ''association of compromises''. Its role as the champion of separatist feelings has become suspicious and it is seen more as the ''voice of Pakistan'' rather than the people''s voice. Be it the Hizb''s ceasefire of July 2000, Pakistan''s role vis-a-vis Afghanistan or the activities of militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Hurriyat has essentially sided with the Pakistan establishment. ''It has certainly lost its own decision- making ability,'' commented a political science teacher. The participation of two of its senior leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, in the Dubai meeting, attended by the ''Kashmir Committee'' Chairman, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, was a clear indication of its leaders having adopted different stands. With its chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, the known hardliner, Syed Ali Geelani, and Yaseen Malik not obliging New Delhi in its endeavours, the battle lines are clearer now. Though it seems to be distant dream for the Kashmir handlers to see any of Hurriyat leaders contesting the elections, the first part of New Delhi''s purpose (to divide the Hurriyat) seems to be reaching its climax. Jehad and anti-jehad outbursts among the Hurriyat leaders is also seen as a shift in the ''common minimum agenda''. In the backdrop of the Pakistan Government patronising the meetings like those in Dubai and Chandigarh, in which the Kashmir Committee''s firebrand member, Nasim Zehra, and the former Pakistan Foreign Secretary, Najamuddin Sheikh, held discussions with some senior separatist leaders, the Hurriyat is being marginalised by its own mentors.With reports about an alternative front among the separatists gaining credence, the likelihood of the Hizb''s former chief commander, Abdul Majid Dar, and two others joining this ''more moderate'' side is not ruled out. In the new scheme of things, New Delhi would not lose much time in patronising the new front in which it has established deep-rooted contacts. As the elections for the chairmanship of Hurriyat Conference are also due in July, it could be possible for the moderates to bag the position. Since Mr. Geelani and Prof. Bhat would have ended their terms, the JKLF chairman, Mohammad Yaseen Malik, would have emerged a strong contender for having strong views against New Delhi. But his arrest under POTA has diminished his chances. The battle for the top post is likely swing in favour of the moderates.


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