Hurriyat Closes Ranks After Qureshi Attack, Dialogue Move Gets Boost

13 December 2009
The Indian Express
Riyaz Wani

Srinagar: The attack on veteran separatist Fazal Haq Qureshi may have come as a sobering reminder to the Hurriyat moderates about the likely repercussions of their decision to hold talks with the Centre, but less than 10 days after the incident, the Hurriyat seems to be more positioned than ever to continue the dialogue process. And this time armed with a degree of moral high ground. The Hurriyat, which was earlier split over internal differences over the “secret nature” of the engagement with New Delhi - with some leaders arguing it sowed suspicions among people - has closed ranks and resolved to get on with the dialogue. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was quick to reiterate his commitment to continuing the dialogue soon after the Qureshi attack, stating that there was “no other option” but to “carry on talks with New Delhi and Pakistan”. Qureshi’s own party, the People’s Political Front, has also come out strongly in favour of the talks. Senior PPF leader Musadiq Adil has said his party would not be “overawed and unnerved by the inhuman physical assault”. “Those looking upon dialogue as a sellout are, in fact, demonstrating their intellectual bankruptcy and lack of confidence and vision,” Adil said. In fact, Adil has turned around and accused separatist hardliners of “selling out”. In an oblique reference to Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, he said that those against the talks had contested polls and taken oath on the Constitution in the 1980s when Qureshi was languishing in jail for his separatist beliefs. “The PPF leadership has never compromised on its beliefs. Everyone knows when we were sent to jails and deprived of our government jobs, some people were contesting elections and taking oath on the Indian Constitution. Now the same people are accusing us of selling out,” Adil said. Significantly, the attack on Qureshi has somewhat undermined the appeal of the hardliners. Their belligerent rhetoric has begun to ring hollow and their margin to run down the dialogue narrowed. In fact, Geelani has condemned the attack and has since said that the moderates are free to talk to the Centre even though he himself remains ideologically against such a move as “our stand is that 130 rounds of such dialogue haven’t achieved anything”. The stage, for now, seems set for a new round of engagement between the Centre and Hurriyat. Leveraged by public sympathy over the attack, the doves have been momentarily able to fend off the political challenge from hawks. The ball is now in the Centre’s court. For, it won’t be long before this window of opportunity closes again.