Who will unite Kashmiris?

‘Kashmir struggle and schism are made for each other.’ I had started my column with this pithy sentence some eight years back. Inspiration for this sentence was the vertical division in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). I believe this sentence sums up 88 years Kashmir struggle. I was reminded me of this sentence one, for the Jamaat-i-Islami Jammu and Kashmir taking targeting repeatedly Syed Ali Geelani on one or other pretext for the past one month and two for the Kashmir Chief Minister asserting that ‘quiet talks’ with Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz were on and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq repeating calls for unity during weeklong death anniversary commemorations of founding leaders of two important constituents of the Hurriyat Conference, Molvi Muhammad Farooq of the Jammu and Kashmir Awami Action Committee and Abdul Gani Lone, of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference. One founded in 1964, as an inheritor of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference and another in 1978, as a vibrant forum for articulating demand for restoring autonomy of the state that after 1990 graduated to demanding right to self-determination for the people of the state. The two leaders were killed within a gap of 12 years by ‘faceless gunners’

I may not to here to debate on the uproar of the Jamaat-i-Islami over a book on Syed Ali Geelani titled Qaid-e-Inquilab – A history, A movement authored by a former University teacher Dr Shafi Shariati. The book had caused the organisation to decide to boycott all the meetings of the Hurriyat Conference (G) of which it has been constituent. I am not here to debate how justified the organisation has been in its reaction over a book or if it was making a mountain out of molehill or if there are some behind the scene factors for the decision. It is not my cup of tea here to debate the politics that has overwhelmed this organisation since 1997 after it distanced itself from its militant wing. A lot has been written about it but what has caught my attention is that if the Jamaat-i-Islami’s exit from the Hurriyat Conference (G) could also be been seen as a part of the grand design of engineering dissensions in Kashmir struggle. Apparently, the action by the party is a naïve party affair but when seen in broader perspective, it cannot be declined from the machinations that have been torn apart the fabric of the major political discourse in the state.

Nothing has changed; I see my eight-year-old columns as relevant today as it was at the time of its publication. Let me recap: The struggle for freedom in Jammu and Kashmir started in 1922, in Jammu but it took an organised shape with the birth of Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference in 1931. The birth of the Muslim Conference was an extra-ordinary event. It was for the first time that the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir united under one banner. The mayhem of July 13, 1931, brought plight of Kashmir under international focus and brought it great support. It was hardly one year after the birth of this organisation that cracks started appearing in the Muslim Conference. And it suffered a vertical division. Instead of fighting the feudal rulers, the Muslims particularly in Srinagar started fighting each other. How this newly born fortress of suffering Muslims of the state got divided and who were responsible for it is an ugly chapter of our history.

This division paved way for Machiavelli’s to play their role in widening of the gaps between the two factions of the Muslim Conference. It was machination of these Machiavellies or Chanakyas as some prefer to call them that found a manifestation in another division of the Muslim Conference in 1938. The 1938, division is seen by most of the historians not only as a contributory factor but primary cause for the Kashmir tragedy. History had provided yet another opportunity to Kashmir leaders to unite in 1964, under an umbrella organisation the Jammu and Kashmir Action Committee. But barely after five months had this organisation that had successfully led movement brought Kashmir once again Kashmir on an international agenda disintegrated. It may not be possible here to debate in detail the causes for the disintegration of the multi-party combine but I see the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s offer for talks to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah as one of major reasons for the top leader defeating the idea of collective leadership.

The 1968, State People Convention that had for the first time brought entire political leadership at one platform to debate and discuss a way forward for finding resolution to the Kashmir problem for divisions in leadership again failed to throw up a consensus and the end result was the burial of the Plebiscite Front. In 1993, it was again the historical forces that once again brought Kashmir leaders one stage with the birth of All Parties Hurriyat Conference. The Hurriyat Conference right away shot into headlines. It was for the situation in the state that unlike its predecessor organisation it immediately got recognition at the international level. The truth is that despite having suffered fragmentation after fragmentation during past eight years it continues to be recognised as representative voice of people of Jammu and Kashmir at the international level. The division in the ranks of Kashmir leaders coming in the way of forward movement has been part of discourse on Kashmir at the international level. The 2008, less said is better.

I am not here to repeat how the conglomerate got ensnared in the 2002 elections that were contested for garnering an international opinion with as good motives behind as those for the 1957 elections – the assembly that ratified accession of the state with Indian Union and had prompted a resolution from the United Nations not recognizing the action of the Assembly.

The wedge between Hurriyat Conference further deepened after former President Musharraf supported the faction that extended unconditional support to his four-point formula and pushed the faction led by Geelani to the wall. Syed Geelani looked at four-point formula as betraying of not only the Kashmir cause but eroded very ideology that gave birth to Pakistan. In fact, this policy has brought the two factions to point of no return.

True, the statement by Bilal Lone at Handawara asking for dissolution of individual groups and coming on a single platform caught my imagination. The statement when seen without tinted glasses is in conformity with the lessons of history that one party, one slogan and one leader was a way out that could help in ending political uncertainty in the state. But given to situation and the diversity of perceptions about achieving of the goal between two factions of the Hurriyat Conference it may be too premature to think about possibility of the two factions merging together. But retaining their separate identities the two factions could work in tandem to come out of the snare that they are entrapped in for the past eight years. It is a big question who brings them one platform at least to pool their heads together.