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In Defence of the Hurriyat Conference

January 15, 2013

Last week a delegation of the Hurriyat Conference visited Pakistan. There was much consternation in the media about their visit and there were calls to throw all the members of the delegation behind bars for anti-India activity for their tour to Pakistan. It must be mentioned here that the visit was sponsored by the government of Jammu and Kashmir and was endorsed by the Central Government in New Delhi. The visiting delegation comprised of the Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and six other members, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, Moulana Abbas Ansari, Aga Syed, Bilal Gani Lone, Mussadiq Aadil and Mukhtar Ahmad Waza. Some of the other prominent members of the Hurriyat such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shabbir Shah had opposed the visit for various reasons.

It may be mentioned here that the Hurriyat Conference is a rag-tag conglomeration of at least 25 different political, social and religious parties and organizations. It is seldom that the Hurriyat speaks in one voice. On this Pakistan visit by the motley group there was no consensus either. They were supposed to meet the President of Pakistan, the Prime Minister , the External Affairs Minister and some other social and political leaders. They met all of them and more and that is why they are facing flak at home. They not only met the leadership but also the chief of the army staff, the chief of the Pakistan intelligence, the ISI and such dreaded ultras who are declared enemies of the Indian state – Hafeez Saeed and Syed Salauddin.

It is indeed deplorable that the Hurriyat delegation met with the army chief, the ISI chief and outrageously the LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and HuJI chief Syed Sallauddin. The fundamental question that must be asked is: why was the Hurriyat delegation sent to Pakistan on Indian tax payers money to meet the leadership there. What is the locus standi of the Hurriyat that they were sent to Pakistan by the Indian government.  I must state here that this is not the first time the Hurriyat has gone to Pakistan with the express knowledge and backing of the Indian government. What were they supposed to achieve from their visit? And what did they actually achieve?

There are voices that claim that with the Americans withdrawing from Afghanistan, the focus of Pakistan army will shift on the Eastern border and India is going to have it rough post 2014 American withdrawal. They say that the Hurriyat was sent to plead with the Pakistan government not to up the ante on the Indo-Pak border post 2014. This is as ridiculous an assertion as one can ever have. To imagine that the Hurriyat will manage to soften the Pakistan establishment on their stance vis-a-vis India post American withdrawal is an insult to the Indian state and its capabilities.

In all fairness, it appears to me that the sole purpose of the Hurriyat visit was to take forward the confidence building measures (CBM’s) and this was another attempt to build bridges with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. It was an attempt by the Indian establishment to show the Americans and the West that India is going that extra mile to mend fences with Pakistan. India knew that nothing much will come from the visit, as indeed it did not, but that India was going out of its way to befriend Pakistan and to find some solution on Kashmir was the reason Hurriat delegation was allowed to go to Pakistan. There is a constituency in the West that buys the bogey that the crux of the Indo-Pak tension is the question of Kashmir. They reckon that if Kashmir was sorted out the tension in the sub-continent would subside. This is an outlandish assumption but an assumption nevertheless that finds some takers in the Capitol Hill and in Europe.

The question as to why the Hurriyat Conference chose to meet the ISI chief and Hafeez Saeed and Syed Sallauddin still hangs in the air. The answer to this question lies in the killing of so many Kashmiri leaders over the years and the execution of sarpanches in the Valley more recently. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq has said more than once in national media that they have no choice because they do not have adequate security. They cannot afford to be anti-Pakistan per se as they fear for their lives. Sajjad Lone, the brother of Bilal Lone – one of the Hurriyat leaders in the Mairwaiz delegation said that it was easy for people from other parts of India to pontificate but it is altogether different when you are in the Valley. They lament that India is playing it soft with Pakistan and therefore they have no choice but to play along with Pakistan. I know that some of these Hurriyat leaders were leading ultras when atrocities were being committed on the Pandits in the early ’00’s. The Hurriyat leadership understands that Pakistan is a failed state and that their future lies with India as an independent Kashmir is impossible. Given a choice they would not mind Pandits returning back to the Valley. Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have both said that they would much rather the Pandits returned and such atmosphere needs to be generated such that the Hindu and Sikh minority feels safe enough to come back to their homes.

It must be understood that the industry of terror does not require much funds. And then the oft repeated brotherhood of Islam does come in handy. It is in the name of Islam that most atrocities are committed. A Hindu India needs to be shown its place and those thought to be siding with India must be punished is the ruse given by the hukumran of Pakistan whose ultimate aim is to dismember India with a thousand cuts. A Muslim dominated Kashmir is therefore the chosen place of activity. If the Kashmiri leadership has an overt anti-Pakistan stance they will be eliminated without a thought. It may surprise some but I can say with some conviction that even the mainstream parties such as the National Conference, The Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress have a state leadership that is directly or indirectly in touch with their counterparts in Pakistan. They cannot avoid it for their own safety and security. It is a delicate balancing act that they manage. And it does not hurt either as they take funds and resources from both India and Pakistan to purportedly further either countries ends. Kashmir is a den of corruption. Farooq Abdullah admittedly made Omar the chif minister as he was fed up of listening to incessant lies, the man said. I will not be surprised if the Hurriyat delegation to Pakistan met Hafeez Saeed and Syed Sallauddin not only to listen to their anti-India diatribe and their future plans in the Valley but also to ensure their own personal security.

Again and again the Hurriyat have said that if they were ensured fool proof security they would not hesitate to be a part of the democratic process in Kashmir. They also indicate that their anti-India stand would also be reviewed if they felt safe in their state. What the Hurriyat and other religio- political groups are indicating obliquely is that India should have a pro-active rather than a reactive stand vis-avis Pakistan. India knows that Pakistan has more than 42 training camps to train fidayeen and other terrorists. Has the government of India done anything about it? The beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj shows Pakistan’s devil-may-care  attitude.

The Indian response to Pakistan has to be tough. It will take a lot of political and military will to do what the people of Kashmir want. Pakistan needs to be isolated such that they are unable to stand up to India. Any military help to Pakistan needs to be seen by India as an unfriendly act. Russia has already said that they will not sell any military equipment to Pakistan as that might be used against India. UA and Europe must also be made to understand that they should refrain from any military help to Pakistan. After the American withdrawal DC will have a freer hand in dealing with Pakistan as they feel fit. Pakistan is a basket case and any arms sale will inevitably have to be more of an aid than an actual sale. Even China can be made to understand that military help to Pakistan will be counter-productive for them. Our Western friends and allies need to be taken on board to help China realize the futility of propping up Pakistan as a foil to India. Most of all New Delhi needs to deal with the situation in a manner that gives Pakistan little leeway in trying to harm India either in Kashmir or anywhere else. Any attempt at abetting terror activity in India by Pakistan should have such severe consequences that they do not contemplate hurting India.

It is not the Hurriyat that should be in the dock. They went by explicit permission of the Indian state. The ones that need to be pulled up are the Ghulam Muhammad Fai,( ISI man in the US) acolytes that need to be thrown behind bars. It is people like Arundhati Roy, Dileep Padgaonkar, Justice Sachchar and others who frequented at Fai’s plush conclaves accepting his hospitality that need to be thrown behind bars. There is a whole list of such ‘luminaries’ that were regulars at Fai’s bashes where they would mouth anti-India tirade and would publish papers that were seditious in nature. All these characters are still around and have the cheek to give their ‘expert’ comments on myriad of issues. The pro-Pakistan lobby within the country need to be weeded out. There will be some from the Valley too that may need a close hard look, but the majority will fall in line were India to take a pro-active, uncompromising , no-nonsense stand on Kashmir. We have made progress in J&K. Militancy has gone down, tourism has again been revived and groundswell democratic institutions have come up. People of Kashmir are better than they were yesterday but a lot needs to be done to amalgamate the Valley such that there is a call from the Kashmiri leadership to abrogate Article 370,a temporary arrangement – rejecting the need for special status for Jammu and Kashmir.

Further reads:

All Party Hurriyat Conference

Hurriyat visit to Pakistan: a treatise of its insignificance by Simrit Kahlon

One Comment leave one →
  1. deepak permalink
    January 15, 2013 10:39 pm

    Dear Mr Sharma, I really second your optimism about the situation in Kashmir.Our government has at last sensed the popular mood post the heinous killings of our soldiers and have issued statements. But as you said this is the time to resolve for a befitting action against any pakistan backed insurgency and breach of LOC and to make democratically elected representatives in the valley feel more secure.Yes this is the time to tell the world that India is not a soft state but had till now observed restrain.Hope for the best.

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