The Irrelevance Of Hurriyat: Kashmir's Silent Majority Is Cheering PM Modi

22 August 2014
Aasha Khosa

New Delhi: The Valley's silent majority, which does not favour Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan, is quietly cheering the Narendra Modi government's decision to cut the separatist conglomerate - the Hurriyat Conference - to size. The government has made it clear to Pakistan that there would be no further bilateral talks if it fails to disengage with the separatists. 'Who are these Hurriyat people - Pakistan giving them importance is fine but why should New Delhi keep pandering to their whims and fancies,' said a former Congress leader from south Kashmir. He had quit politics after his family was humiliated and threatened by the pro-Pakistan armed militants in Kashmir in early nineties. 'For the first time in 20 years, I am feeling that there will be end to putting a premium on being a pro-Pakistani in Kashmir,' he added. He sought anonymity for the fears of reprisals from armed militants, who, he fears, still lurk around. Representational image. AFP Representational image. AFP Many grassroots political leaders in Kashmir were feeling betrayed by New Delhi giving a matching legitimacy to the Hurriyat as Islamabad. 'Standing for India has become such a crime that I have started doubting myself,' said a leader, who had to send his children to south India to escape the suffocating pro-Pakistan street culture in Kashmir. Kashmir, like rest of the Indian subcontinent, is neither a monolith entity nor a culturally monotonous society speaking in one voice. For example Radio Kashmir Srinagar (AIR, Srinagar) broadcasts in seven languages and differences among the Muslims on aligning with Pakistan are open. Asgar Ali Karbalai, a veteran leader in the Muslim dominated Kargil, had said recently that they were with Kashmiris but did not support their yearning for Azadi. The sidelining of Hurriyat Conference is definitely being feted in Jammu and Ladakh and also pockets of Kashmir. 'Hurriyat does not in any manner represent us, so why give them so much legitimacy and importance,' said Sajjad Bhat, a resident of downtown Srinagar. Bhat, who runs a tailoring shop in the narrow bylanes, says Hurriyat leaders are working only for their self-interest and not for the common people. There are several reasons why most Kashmiris have no liking for the not liking the Hurriyat Conference. Nothing natural or Kashmiri about it: It was cobbled in Islamabad in 1993. The first copies of its manifesto were, in fact, printed in Rawalpindi. None of the Hurriyat leaders, at that time, would see eye to eye leave alone joining hands. They were simply ordered to get together to create a 'political face' of the anti-India armed movement in Kashmir. The conglomerate has never confronted Pakistan on any issue and has primarily focused on India-bashing as a strategy. Amoebic tendency: The Hurriyat has the amoebic tendency of splitting too often. The splits are linked to personal ego clashes of its leaders and financial interests. Today there is the Sayed Ali Shah Geelani-headed faction, the other one is led by Mirwiaz Umar Farooq and the third by Shabir Shah. Political deadwood: Except Syed Ali Shah Geelani none of the Hurriyat leaders are politically active. They live in their traditional comfort zones and make no attempt to increase their following for an eventual gain in case of election. Geelani, however, has made huge inroads among the youth with his ultra religious and hard line approach. Hurriyat is a Kashmir-based and Kashmir-centric group. People in Jammu and Ladakh regions have no links with the group. Sworn enemies: The enmities among Hurriyat leaders are well known. For example, Sayed Ali Shah Geelani-supported Hizbul Mujjahideen is accused of killing Moulvi Farooq, father of Moulvi Umer Farooq and also Abdul Ghani Lone, father of Sajjad Lone. Sajjad has since delinked himself from the Hurriyat and had contested the last assembly elections as an independent. However, his brother Bilal Lone is part of the Hurriyat. Hartal Conference: Hurriyat has become a byword for 'bandh' and 'hartal' in Kashmir. The group has not offered any original program to the people of Kashmir. Geelani is particularly prone to giving calls for hartals at the drop of the hat. Divided House: Their one-time headquarter at Srinagar's Gogji bagh area is not even registered in the name of Hurriyat. Today all the factions occupy portions of this residential building, which hardly gives a picture of unanimity. Hurriyat is also a much divided house on the basic issue of what would they want in case of a settlement on Kashmir. The Mirwiaz-led group has debunked settlement on the basis of the 1948 United Nations resolution on Kashmir that gives Kashmiris the right to opt either for India or Pakistan through plebiscite. The Geelani faction swears by the UN resolution and is opposed to the 'azadi' idea floated by the modrates. Good Life: Most of the Hurriyat leaders with no known sources of income have lavish lifestyles and have owned mansions and properties overnight. This is disliked by the common people, who feel they are exploiting them in the name of azadi.