Has The Hurriyat Missed The Bus In Kashmir?
5 September 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Much was expected by the people of Jammu and Kashmir when the Prime Minister visited Srinagar to preside over the Inter-State Council meeting. On the eve of the visit, Moulvi Abbas Ansari, Chairman of the All Party Hurriyat Conference said that he would be willing to meet the Prime Minister and hold talks with him. This stand was publicly supported by Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, a former head of the APHC, who has a sizeable following. It was also noticed that Prime Minister Vajpayee and the Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani had softened their stand towards the Hurriyat leaders. The general impression was that, whatever be the reservations of the national leadership regarding the APHC, they were veering round to the view that in the final analysis the APHC consisted of people of Jammu and Kashmir and the national leadership should not have any reservations in talking to them. They were prepared to overlook the attitude of the APHC towards former Central Interlocutor K. C. Pant and the present Interlocutor NN Vohra. The change in the attitude of the APHC was preceded by controversy regarding the attitude adopted by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, towards the People's Conference. He wanted the APHC to take disciplinary action against the People's Conference for allegedly setting up proxy candidates during the Assembly elections last year. When Syed Geelani did not receive any support for his stand, he refrained from attending the meetings of the Hurriyat Conference. In turn the Jamat-e-Islami eased out Geelani and appointed Ashraf Sehrai, who was recently released from jail, to represent the organization in the APHC. The stage was set for Syed Ali Shah Geelani to explore the possibility of setting up a parallel organisation to the APHC. But there has been little response to Geelani's offer by other groups in the State. The announcement of Moulvi Abbas Ansari about his willingness to start a dialogue with the Central leadership came in the backdrop of a number of events that followed the announcement by Prime Minister Vajpayee during his last Srinagar visit that he was extending the hand of friendship to Pakistan. Then followed the confidence-building measures between the two countries. The diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan have been resumed and busses are plying the Delhi -Lahore -Delhi route once again. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Muttahida Majlise-e-Amal and leader of the opposition in Pakistan, headed a delegation to India, which received a warm welcome. It was followed by a visit to Pakistan by Members of the Indian Parliament, media representatives, and other important leaders - under the umbrella of the South Asia Free Media Association. By all accounts the visit was a great success - and Pakistanis had the experience of watching India's politicians - in particular Laloo Prasad Yadav - in action. Rationalising the stand taken by the leader of the APHC, the Daily Times of Pakistan said: 'What is apparently the new stance is that Hurriyat would first talk to New Delhi and then communicate the result to Pakistan. Maulana Ansari said that since at the present time the three parties to the Kashmir dispute could not sit at the table, the Hurriyat Conference had to show flexibility. A tripartite discussion could take place at a suitable time later. He praised Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed of the ruling People's Democratic party for declaring that all the parties would be included in the dialogue planned for the near future……….. Increasingly Pakistani unofficial opinion leans to the fact that Pakistan would accept any solution acceptable to the Kashmiris.'Speaking to the Jang, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said : ' Pakistan too had initiated talks with India at Agra without consulting the APHC and then no objection was raised by the Hurriyat because it considered these talks a move in the right direction.' He also said that during the talks the Hurriyat would ask for permission from the Government of India to visit Pakistan. Responding to a question, he said that Ali Shah Geelani would get nothing by launching another party as the Hurriyat was the representative organization of the Kashmiris. Across the border, the opposition to the Hurriyat stand started building up by vested interests. They said that the Hurriyat Conference has not lived up to its promise. The United Jehad Council, based in Pakistan, has supported efforts of Syed Ali Shah Geelani to form a new Party. Geelani is reported to have contacted Al Badr Mujahideen Amir, Bakht Zamin, and Jamaiatul Insaar head Maulana Fazlur Rahman Kahlili and both leaders pledged support. (Daily Times 25-8) Syed Ali Shah Geelani then issued a statement calling for the Bandh in Srinagar on the day of Prime Minister's visit to Srinagar to preside over the Inter-State Council meeting. A reluctant APHC supported the Bandh call - after all the Hurriyat Conference had to live up to its reputation as the All Party Hartal Conference. There was a frantic effort to present to the world an impression that normalcy has not returned to Jammu and Kashmir. The attempt to attack the Central Telegraph Office on the day the Inter State Council met in the Srinagar, resulted in the death of Javed Ahmed Shah, a member of the Legislative Council, his bodyguard and a Jawan of the Border Security Force. The office of the Urdu Daily Wattan was burnt and the building housing the office of Javed Shah and the newspaper was badly damaged. One expected Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who is widely respected in Srinagar, to take a bolder stand. True, he cannot forget the assassination of his father Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq almost thirteen years ago, when he was exploring the possibility of a peaceful solution to the problems in the State. Similar fate had befallen Abdul Gani Lone on the eve of State Assembly elections last year. Return of peace to Jammu and Kashmir does not suit forces across the border. Still all is not lost. The Prime Minister has not drawn back the hand that he has extended, nor retracted the invitation to those who have given up violence to start a dialogue. Deputy Prime Minister Advani has stated that the Hurriyat leaders could meet the Prime Minister, himself or NN Vohra when they visit New Delhi. The Prime Minister has not changed his stand in spite of the grave provocation of the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai which claimed 50 lives. Is it too much to expect that the Hurriyat leaders would look at the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir who want an end to violence. After all they claim to be their 'real representatives.' Will they show some real courage?