Hurriyat’s ‘third-party’ phantom

For the last few days, rival factions of the All-party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in Kashmir have been engaged in mutual war of words over the desireability of seeking third-party intervention for resolving the Kashmir dispute. Till now, both the groups have generally been votaries of the idea that third-party intervention was not only desireable but inevitable. It was the APHC (M) leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who, during his current overseas visit, struck a different note, provoking immediate reaction from the rival APHC (G) faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Mirwaiz was reported to have said, in London, that their demand for third-party intervention could be dispensed with if and when all the three stakeholders, India, Pakistan and the people of (undivided) Jammu and Kashmir state agreed to sit together and work out a negotiated settlement. In plain language the APHC (M) has now taken the position that if tripartite talks are offered to them they would be ready to do play ball. This position is totally unacceptable to Geelani’s APHC (G) which has gone to town to refute the contention of Mirwaiz and to reiterate that the demand for third-party intervention constitutes ‘unamendable’ basic feature of the original programme of the erstwhile undivided APHC to which, so far, both the factions claim to owe their respective allegiance. Geelani’s objection is based on the argument that the Mirwaiz’s new line marks a qualitative departure from their mutually accepted line and that it reinforces New Delhi’s argument.

India has been consistently opposed to any outside intervention. The message which the APHC (G) is seeking to convey but is reluctant to say it forthrightly is that they suspect that the Mirwaiz camp was gravitating towards New Delhi. It is perhaps for the first time that the Geelani group has found a substantive argument to go after the rival faction although their mutual hostility has been an open secret since the time they parted company about a decade ago. The problem with the Hurriyat and its undulating politics has been that its creation, as well as its action programme, has been the by-product of certain developments with which neither faction of the conglomerate had anything to do.

The APHC surfaced long after the armed insurgency had drastically changed the state’s political landscape and infused a new life into separatist politics, nearly 15 years after the disbandment of the Sheikh Abdullah-led Plebiscite Front in 1975. Since then the course of Hurriyat, its leadership as well as that of its political agenda have all been set by the changing situation on the ground, rather than it being otherwise. Personality factor, common to all shades of Kashmir politics, has fuelled individual ambitions in the Hurriyat which occasionally are disguised as ideological or strategic differences. That is why, unlike the Plebiscite Front (till its unceremonious demise), the Hurriyat leadership and its politics has generally been driven by outside influences compounded by subjective (personal) considerations.

At a time when the Hurriyat leaders of both varieties ought to have been worrying over and analysing reasons for their dwindling influence, symbolised by miserable failure of their successive poll boycott calls, they continue to be engaged in settling mutual scores. That is why Mirwaiz’s alleged ‘departure’ from the basic line went almost unnoticed and Geelani’s instant reaction came nowhere near public discourse beyond, of course, some non-entities venting their spleen through an occasional newspaper column. The Hurriyat and its political image have been fading out which, however, is not to be confused with the existence of deep sense of anger and alienation simmering just below the surface. Hurriyat has only itself to blame for no longer reflecting this ground reality either in the image and influence of its divided leadership or in any of its political programmes. The issue of third-party intervention might have some distant significance but right now it is too obscure to make any difference.