J&K's resistance camp: Differing perceptions



Over the last month, in various interactions with stalwarts in the resistance camp, difference in perceptions was clear, though it is often stated as long as the goal is same, differing perceptions may not matter. That indeed is poor comfort for the ones favouring unity for resolution of ‘K’ issue. No party denies that the issue needs resolution, though the perception of the issue at hand varies. Indian official view is that issue pertains to Pakistan administered Kashmir [PaK] getting back into the Indian fold-Indian administered Kashmir [IaK] being an integral part. India though would be happy with LOC becoming a permanent border.

India hardly if ever talks of Northern territories-a part of erstwhile J&K State being converted virtually into a Pakistani province-a tactic acceptance-a fait accompli, as profound as Indian administered Kashmir being an integral part. For Pakistan Kashmir continues to be the jugular, though jugular gets lower down in importance, when the very life line is choked, with hardly a breathing space. Pakistan is in deep trouble. It has nevertheless a few aces up the sleeve, it may not use unless it gets into desperate straits. And Pakistan getting into desperate straits could have a spillover effect, with an outfall-an impact far from healthy on neighbouring states.

Given the overall situation, the need to interact with leaders in resistance stream was imperative to get the facts, as Pakistan thought of inviting them to interact on Pakistani soil, after having put the ‘K’ issue on back-burner, ever since PPP assumed power after easing out Gen. Musharaf. That changed over last few months, with President Zardari hyping up the issue in U.N general assembly speech. I met Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat around noon on November, the 18th-the day a statement attributed to SAS Geelani made front page news. SAS Geelani while ruling out union of two Hurriyats reportedly said, "People need to go into what led to the division after amalgam remained a single entity for 10 years. You have to see why we parted ways." Why did the leadership part ways? This is a question, often asked.
Straightaway, I asked Prof. Bhat to comment. Initially, he seemed a bit hesitant, saying, "I wouldn’t offer a comment, I don’t choose to offer a comment for an obvious reason". I persisted-what is the reason? If I spell out the reason, said Prof. Bhat, I would be offering a comment, however if you please, I will go back to John Lock, who says and I quote, "Inconsistency is the virtue of a brilliant mind". By quoting John Lock, he was making a virtue of inconsistency. He explained it further, which may be quoted in his own word "Inconsistency and politics go together or not will have to be understood with reference to the dynamics of politics. Change is the only constant in life, if you don’t recognize change in politics, you are gone".

It was obvious that Prof. Bhat was alluding to allegations often made that the Hurriyat of which the executive member is inconsistent, while as Hurriyat headed by SAS Geelani is steadfast in its stand. By quoting John Lock, he was making a virtue of inconsistency. Expounding his take of dynamics of politics further, as per his take change being the only constant, Prof. Bhat quoted Prof. Galbrith [US ambassador to India in Nehruvian era] "Politics consists in exercising a choice between what is disastrous and what is unpalatable". Applied to Kashmir situation it could be interpreted to mean that not changing could be disastrous, however unpalatable the emerging scenario on changing might be..

Taking the disastrous and unpalatable choice further, Prof. Bhat said, "If this be the situation, where leaders say that they are forced to change their position and regard UN as dysfunctional, which is what it is, UN resolution may not be implemented in Kashmir at all". Prof. Bhat, it seemed was alluding to SAS Geelani’s lines quoted in 18th November news reports, where Hurriyat (G) chief termed United Nations as a "defunct" body that only promotes violence. "UN is an unsuccessful institution. It has been watching silently American invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq first. It continues to be a mute spectator over the genocide of Muslims in Gaza by Israel." Was SAS Geelani’s context same as the take of Prof.Bhat is open to debate? However it seems to provide Prof. Bhat space for putting in different context his much debated statement on UN resolutions on Kashmir being defunct merely because there seems to be apparently no way of implementing them.

Differing perception of SAS Geelani and Prof. Bhat being apparent, I asked Prof. Bhat to come clear on what Shabir Shah had related in an interaction on organizational set-up in Hurriyat [M]. Shabir Shah’s contention as he persistently related to me being that the set-up needs change at the grass roots, rather than the change being cosmetic. As it emerged the dominant voice in Hurriyat [M] is for incorporating general council members in day today activities, such as making provision for a few secretarial positions. That could in hard political terms mean providing some space for Shabir Shah’s close associates like Nayeem Khan. Re-organization proposed by Shabir Shah was voted down by six votes to one, said Prof. Bhat. The only vote in support being Shabir Shah’s vote, however Shabir Shah weighs in resistance camp more than what his lone vote would suggest. Dissention in Hurriyat [M] has provided space to SAS Geelani to say that it is a house in disorder, as he indeed did in one of his media interactions recently.

Shabir Shah, concurrently Yaseen Malik, as both related to me in separate interactions did not favour a visit to Pakistan at the present juncture due to varied, however interlinked reasons-internal situation that Pakistan is face to face with, upcoming elections and interaction with post-election Pakistani leadership being a better and a longer-term option. Prof. Bhat on the contrary seems to believe that elections-Indian, Pakistani or state elections in J&K have hardly a bearing on ‘K’ issue; given that vis-à-vis Kashmir the approaches of political parties are similar. Though he didn’t use the word, he perhaps meant bipartisanship. More over, he related that in Pakistan, they would be seeing a cross section of leadership.

Incidentally Shabir Shah and Yaseen Malik were separately invited by Pakistan. Shah does not have papers to travel, and he wants to make a political point by applying for travel across LOC. Malik on the contrary has papers for travel, however pleaded health reasons when Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan—Babar Amin visited him in Fortis, reputed health care facility in Delhi, where he was treating for kidney stones. Malik earlier in the year was in Pakistan, as Mashal-his wife delivered a baby girl. He however interacted with a cross section of leadership including Hina Rabbani and Imran Khan. From recent visits of Kashmiri leaders to Pakistan, prior to the visit of Hurriyat [M] whether it was that of Yaseen Malik or Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, what interested keen observers of the scene was Kashmir being off Prime Minister’s table and that of Aiwan-e-Sadarat [as the presidential house is called in Pakistan]. In early phases of PPP, even Mahbooba Mufti would be ushered into Aiwan-e-Sadarat.

The observers are intrigued by changing priorities. It is being debated whether Pakistani elections affected the change, given that ‘K’ issue has emotional implications for many voters in Pakistan. And PPP would not like to be seen treading lightly. In India likewise, Congress on a sticky wicket due to multiplicity of scams would like to play it tough. ‘K’ issue comes handy on either side of the border; it sells handsomely for either of the parties. There might be an irony involved-settle Kashmir and give up the card, you may rough your opponent’s hand with? Given the dividends, why settle it? Long term outfall continues to remain hostage to short term objective. Peace in the subcontinent, the teeming millions keep craving for can take care of itself. It may not be catered to with fostering it, nurturing it, and furthering its cause.

It was a sum total of differing perspectives related to Pakistan scene, the turn of Indo/Pak relationship in recent past that made many voices within the resistance spectrum, in the media pose questions on the agenda. From SAS Geelani, to Shabir Shah still within Hurriyat [M] fold, to Yaseen Malik everyone seemed to be on similar trail, with questions on the agenda. It was made out by Hurriyat [M] that Pakistani leadership would be persuaded to push India to include Kashmir in tripartite talks. The opposing view emerged-whether Pakistan has the wherewithal to push India into agreeing, given that Pakistan appears to be willing to oblige?

The differing perceptions may lead to re-alignments in the resistance camp. In JKLF sponsored on human rights day on 10th December, observers were intrigued to note absence of Hurriyat [M] leadership, while they were still in Srinagar. In the past, JKLF seminars had Hurriyat [M] leaders as prime participants. On 10th December Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan-Hurriyat [M] dissidents were amongst the front line speakers. A few days later, Shabir Shah stated that Hurriyat [M] left without informing him. He added SAS Geelani and Yaseen Malik should have been consulted on the move to visit Pakistan. Whether this amounts to a new combine in the resistance camp or not—your guess could be as good as mine?

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
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