What I like about Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is that he speaks sense and is not unduly obdurate when it comes to discussing an issue. But what I don’t like about him is that while coming up with suggestions, he gets carried away and lets emotions get the better of his rational self. Consequently, his solutions for resolving Kashmir are mostly unachievable simply because they are based more on moral and ethical considerations rather than on technical and legal grounds. And the latest slogan of “No solution without self representation” that he has given the people of Kashmir on his arrival after attending Pakistan Day celebrations is a case in point.
The Mirwaiz has no doubt hit the nail on the head by emphasising that Kashmir is not a “land dispute between India and Pakistan.” However, this is exactly what the Kashmir issue has today been reduced to; but instead of remedying this fundamental flaw in perception due to the fear that it would expose skeletons in the cupboards of some stakeholder, the separatists consider brushing it under the carpet more convenient! How does it matter you may ask and the answer lies in the next observation of the Mirwaiz wherein he has also touched upon the core issue that “New Delhi and Islamabad have no right to decide the fate of Kashmir.” Now, when the international community itself considers the Kashmir issue to be a mere ‘land dispute’ between India and Pakistan, then aren’t these countries well within their rights to mutually resolve this dispute without reference to the people of Kashmir?
The Mirwaiz also deserves credit for being brutally frank and putting both India and Pakistan in the dock for having occupied Kashmir by saying that “Kashmiris have given lot of scarifies and they are the main stakeholders and both the countries should remember it.” Yet, while his warning to both countries that their “Colonial approach won’t work now” is reassuring, in declaring that “It is the people of Kashmir who will pursue their case and choose their fate,” the Mirwaiz maybe treading on thin ice as his assertion once again throws up the tricky question- who actually represents the Kashmiris?
The Hurriyat claims that it is the “true leader” of Kashmiris and Islamabad univocally agrees with the Hurriyat. However, while the Hurriyat cites its large public following as the basis of this claim, New Delhi out rightly dismisses the same by stating that in a democracy, proof of popularity is through elections and not by the size of protesting crowds or demonstrating mobs. And herein lies the problem- even if what the Hurriyat is saying is right, by out rightly rejecting the ballot option it cannot quantify its popularity to prove that it has the peoples’ mandate. Thus, inspite of Islamabad’s endorsement, the Hurriyat has no legal basis to its claim of being the “true representative” of Kashmiris. On the other hand, the international community would be more inclined to accept New Delhi’s view as it has the support of democratic conventions- no wonder New Delhi that has the temerity to declare that the Hurriyat is just a “third party” in the Kashmir dialogue process!
Only recently, Islamabad has once again endorsed the Hurriyat by reiterating that “Our stand on Jammu and Kashmir is very clear. We believe that the Hurriyat is the true representative of the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” Brave words echoing a reassuring thought indeed- but can this influence New Delhi to change its views on this issue? Not the least likely and so, even though Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit may have assured the Mirwaiz during the Pakistan Day celebrations “that without the desire of Kashmiri people (represented by the Hurriyat), no solution to Kashmir is acceptable (to Pakistan),” he was presumably just playing a good host. This is because technically speaking even Islamabad cannot insist that New Delhi should accept the Hurriyat as the “true representative” of the Kashmiris, because in a democracy there are only elected leaders and there is no such thing as “true leaders”!
In his wisdom, the Mirwaiz has announced a Valley wide campaign for the inclusion of representatives of Kashmiris (Hurriyat) in the dialogue on the ‘K’ issue between India and Pakistan. While there is nothing wrong with this, yet coming immediately after his meeting with the Pakistan High Commissioner, its timing certainly raises several questions. If the Mirwaiz feels so strongly that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved without inclusion of the Hurriyat in Indo-Pak dialogue, then why did he not launch this campaign for all these years? If Islamabad is now saying that “that without the desire of Kashmiri people (as expressed by the Hurriyat), no solution to Kashmir is acceptable,” why was it talking with New Delhi on the Kashmir issue for all these years without insisting on the Hurriyat’s participation?
What the Mirwaiz needs to understand that by historically engaging New Delhi on Kashmir without insisting upon the inclusion of representatives of Kashmiris in the dialogue process, Islamabad has already set a wrong precedent. So, when there are no major changes in the overall situation, for Islamabad to now try and reverse the trend would be practically impossible and would end in a diplomatic disaster. Therefore, despite its rhetoric, Islamabad is not likely to make Hurriyat’s participation a precondition for Indo-Pak dialogue for two reasons- firstly; insisting on incorporating the Hurriyat (which has no officially recognised status) would be viewed by the international community as an unreasonable demand and a ploy to scuttle talks. Secondly; due to Pakistan’s past history of attempting to seek a military solution to the Kashmir dispute and its ongoing covert support to militant groups fighting in Kashmir, Islamabad has squandered the diplomatic leverage which the UN resolutions on Kashmir provided. Thus, it is in no position to press the international community for the inclusion of Hurriyat in Indo-Pak dialogue as doing so will only end in embarrassment for Islamabad.
There is no doubt that the calls for hartal and protest marches given by the Mirwaiz will evince overwhelming support. However, the more important question is- will this campaign achieve anything worthwhile in the end? The answer is ‘No’, simply because in order to force any decision on the establishment, the demands of protesters should have legal sanctity or at least some conventional acceptability. Unfortunately, both these ingredients are missing in this case and so with due regards to the Mirwaiz, it would be really naïve of him to expect New Delhi to be overawed into submission by the Hurriyat (M) led protest campaign.
So, while nothing material is likely to emerge from this campaign, but going by past experience there is every reason to expect that during these demonstrations there would be incidents of violence- either due to provocation by the protesters or over-reaction by the police and other law enforcement agencies. However, whosoever may be responsible for starting the violence, ultimately it will be the protesting Kashmiris who will be killed or injured. Therefore, the Mirwaiz needs to take a conscious call on this-if he is confident that something substantial will be gained at the end of this campaign of protests, then he should go ahead immediately. However, if this campaign is going to fizzle out without achieving anything, then it would be morally wrong on the part of the Mirwaiz to betray the faith of the people by exposing them to grave risk just for the sake of nothing!