MIRWAIZ AND THE CIVIL SOCIETY
“Pakistan visit is very important. It should be fruitful. We don’t want it to be a mere event or photo session. It has to be productive and suggestions from civil society will make it so.”
– Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
Though the Hurriyat may not agree, but the fact is that public in general remains largely indifferent towards this conglomerate. So, while the separatist leadership considers large turnout at their rallies and having the masses religiously following their hartal calls as the absolute vindication of their massive popularity, they fail to realise that the public does what the Hurriyat demands merely since there is no alternative organisation with a pro- azadi agenda that makes them believe that ‘azadi’ is the ultimate panacea for all their problems. And this indifference can be gauged from the sarcastic question posed by a trader during the recent meeting which the Hurriyat (M) had with the trader fraternity. The question hurled at the Mirwaiz during this meeting was, “Is it that the pro-freedom leadership has now started focusing on potatoes and onions?”
So, by deciding to consult all sections of society on the Kashmir issue, the Hurriyat (M) has finally done what was long overdue- asking the people what are their real aspirations. And this move deserves to be complimented as it seeks to demolish the dictatorial philosophy associated with this amalgam that ‘The Hurriyat needs no advice as it knows best what the people want’! Certain sections of the intelligentsia as well as detractors of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq may dismiss his vision to “weave the political independence with economic independence” as a farfetched and impractical proposition. Many may also feel that these objectives are unattainable as Islamabad by itself can do precious little till New Delhi cooperates as everyone knows that in the ‘politics of commerce’ Pakistan is in no position to influence India which has the ‘upper hand’. The Mirwaiz may or may not be able to extract any assurance from Islamabad on this issue during his Pakistan visit, but that is another story. The fact remains that by involving all ‘stake- holders,’ the Mirwaiz has shown foresight and statesmanship by giving a new direction to the pro-independence movement which is presently floundering due to a wide range of uncoordinated pursuits ranging from militancy to protests in the form of rallies, hartals (and more recently, stone- pelting) which have largely proved to be ineffective as the heavy toll extracted by these activities far outweigh the returns.
However, the real test for the Mirwaiz is not how he fares in Pakistan but how his ideas are received at home. For one, the Hurriyat (G) has not associated itself with this proposal. On the contrary, talking to a newspaper on the sidelines of the recent seminar on the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (RA), the Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has been quoted as not only categorically ruling out unity with Hurriyat (M) but without naming it, even taking a swipe at the Mirwaiz led amalgam by stating that “The present position of that faction is known to everyone. That house is not in order. Everyone is aware of what is happening there.” Though the deep ideological divide within the Hurriyat is an open secret, such a direct attack by the chairman of one faction on the other faction is unfortunate and a clear indication that things may have already reached a point of no return!
Divergent viewpoints being expressed by the Hurriyat factions is worrisome and this disunity does not auger well for the pro-independence movement. In fact, this is exactly what the former President, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Shakeel Qalandar highlighted when he disclosed that he had “told the meeting that there is a dire need of evolving an internal and external consensus within the Hurriyat and with the likeminded groups outside the amalgam.” How can a house divided within itself expect that it would be able to unite the masses and lead a pro-azadi movement effectively? This is the first hurdle the Mirwaiz would have to overcome and if past experience is taken as a reference point, then this seemingly invincible hurdle may well prove to be very difficult, if not impossible to overcome. So, can there ever be any meeting ground for Geelani and the Mirwaiz?
The next hurdle which the Mirwaiz will have to cross is equally daunting as it concerns the use of violence as an instrument of the pro-azadi struggle. While the Hurriyat may have publically disassociated itself from militancy, the fact of the matter is that since this amalgam has taken on the mantle of spearheading the pro- azadi struggle, it has to prove to the international community that it is in complete control and that it enjoys full confidence of the people. So, as long as militancy continues, the Hurriyat will always be viewed as a compromised organisation incapable of reining- in the militants and should the Hurriyat claim to be in total control then it would be accused of abetting violence by its failure to curb militancy. To make matters worse, the UJC chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallaudin has made it clear that the militant amalgam he commands as well as his own outfit will not shun violence in Kashmir and thus indirectly conveyed that it is his writ and not that of the Hurriyat which runs in Kashmir.
Asking militant groups active in Kashmir to disarm would be no easy task for a number of reasons. Firstly, for Syed Sallaudin to give up the gun would mean disappearing from the scene and living out a life in oblivion. Secondly, those forces in Pakistan which are using these militants for their own benefit would certainly not allow this to happen (Remember Syed Sallaudin’s “Fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” statement?). Thirdly, the emotionally charged viewpoint that discontinuing ‘armed resistance’ would amount to ‘betraying the sacrifices of the martyrs’ has gained wide currency. Due to this, the reality that violence should be shunned since it only results in death and injury without achieving anything material is overshadowed by emotions. And where emotions rule, rationality is unfortunately the first victim!
Post script: A fore warning. Let us not judge the wisdom of the Mirwaiz’s bold initiative to solicit views and opinions from the cross section of society by the outcome of his impending Pakistan visit. Even if he fails there, he will still emerge a winner at home because he has dared to challenge the antiquated pro- independence movement ideology which has no definite strategy and relies solely in selectively capitalising on events, incidents and issues that gives it an opportunity to protest.