Kashmiri input is missing

IN the nearly 20 years, since the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was set up, it has made no tangible contribution to the peace process on Kashmir. It was born with two major fault lines and never outgrew them.

Militancy in Kashmir erupted in 1988. Moves to form the APHC began on Oct 27, 1992; it was an offspring of militancy but had no control over the gun and could not declare a ceasefire. This gravely undermined its capacity to negotiate to establish peace.

Secondly, its constitution contained seeds of a major rift. The objectives clause (2) spoke of a solution in accordance with the UN resolutions; “however the exercise of the right of self-determination shall also include the right to independence”. That is not recognised in the UN’s resolutions. India and Pakistan excluded it.

It goes on to accept “an alternative negotiated settlement” amongst the three parties, the two states and Kashmiris. An “Explanation” excludes “any settlement within the framework of the Constitution of India”. What if India and Pakistan agree to an interim “non-territorial solution” which goes beyond the status quo, does not legally abrogate the LoC but renders it so irrelevant as to reunify Kashmir de facto with agreed quantum of self-rule for East and West Kashmir? That is what the consensus called the ‘four points’ would establish. If the Hurriyat leaders reject it, has any of them an alternative which they can get both countries to accept?

All we have been treated to are slogans, extreme demands, and a form of struggle which makes no allowance for the hardships imposed on the people. The APHC has suffered multiple fractures because its aims are unreal, its leaders’ egos monumental.

The ceasefire declared by the Hizbul Mujahideen on July 24, 2000 ought to have injected realism if not humility. The Hizb parleyed with Indian officials bypassing the Hurriyat, then a united body on the verge of a split. Abdul Ghani Bhat’s election as chairman defeating Abdul Ghani Lone, by three votes to two, was a portent.

Bhat said that the APHC as the only body of Kashmiris that was recognised could not be marginalised, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Hizb. “If our elders believe that only an armed struggle will liberate Kashmir from the occupation and an honourable solution is possible through militancy, then they should come in the forefront and command the struggle. If not they should at least send their wards to join militancy… These leaders changed their stance thrice, during the two-week long ceasefire … the people of Jammu and Kashmir have the right to ask these leaders to muster courage and keep off from the leadership of the movement”.

Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin said on Sept 11, 2000 that “the APHC has not done much for the movement”. This remains true a decade later though the splits have reduced the outfits to a one-man show. Two stand out. First, Syed Ali Shah Geelani; next Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

What Dr B. R. Ambedkar said on Jan 18, 1943 in a lecture on ‘Ranade, Gandhi & Jinnah’ holds good for all in the field: “In political negotiations the rule must be what is possible. …You must not refuse what is offered when you know that your sanctions are inadequate to compel your opponent to concede more”. Also, an “ideal must be such that it must carry the assurance that it is practicable”.

The accords on Aceh in Indonesia and the one on Oct 7, 2012 between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Mindanao were possible for three reasons. The leaders controlled the rebels; the rebels wielded the gun; and the leaders accepted self-rule short of independence.

The Mirwaiz told an Indian daily on Oct 10, 2002 that “an autonomous region with the other side (i.e. Pakistan) being party to it could address the issue” and satisfy all sides. To his credit he supported the four points when they were propounded. Last June he said “we must devise novel ways of keeping the people involved and interested” — a tacit admission that the interest is dwindling. He spoke of “actively participating in people’s lives in a way we have not done thus far”.

Neither the UN’s Human Rights Council, nor the OIC nor foreign diplomats will be of much help. Leaders draw strength from the people and the people are sick of hartals and closures. In this context, Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s concrete moves are helpful.

First came his famous five points on Aug 31, 2010 proposing concrete interim measures. On June 3, 2011 he urged “welcome and respect” for the tourists; warned against “stone-throwing” on July 7; criticised the bogus Sharia court in Srinagar which had “expelled” four Christian priests on Jan 28, 2012; and he denounced the killing of elected members of panchayats last month. These add up to a strong voice for moderation.

The Hurriyat leaders lose nothing but gain a lot by exerting themselves for redressing people’s grievances concerning the everyday needs of their lives, civic amenities, bureaucratic delays and the like. These are less glamorous than the clamour to be made a party to India-Pakistan parleys and the censure of those parleys on the ground that they ignored Kashmir (read: ‘us’).

Not one Kashmiri leader has made the slightest attempt to inject a Kashmiri input into the APHC framework. Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani said “hum chahte thay ke kuch vahan ki leadership ko bhi involve kiya jaye”. He meant well but did not realise that their involvement would be destructive. If they meet at the same table, the Tower of Babel will lose its historic significance as a noisy and chaotic forum.

They can make common cause with all, including the PDP (People’s Democratic Party), on the issues of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and a speedy India-Pakistan accord on the basis of the four points. Only then will New Delhi listen.

The writer is an author and a lawyer.