“Yeh kahaan ki dosti hai ke baney hain dost naaseh
Koi chaarasaaz hota, koi ghamgusaar hota!”
(What kind of friendship is this; all friends have started playing a counselor’s role?
Wish I had someone to heal my wounds- someone who’d come and console)
Two very unusual things have happened lately- the first, New Delhi’s cancellation of the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary and the second, the Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani’s call for unity amongst the Kashmiri separatists. Both these events are not only unusual, but completely unexpected too. No one would have ever expected that New Delhi could ever use a phrase more reminiscent of a mafia movie like, “you either talk to separatists or to India” for ‘advising’ Pakistan’s High Commissioner not to host separatists. Nor would have anyone anticipated that when he refused to oblige, New Delhi would unilaterally take the decision to call off these talks.
Coming to Geelani sahib, everyone knows that it is not very usual for the Hurriyat (G) chairman to change his mind. So, who could have ever expected that he would give a call for unity, a thing he had never ever done after the Hurriyat split in 2003. Infact, readers may recall that though this split was ostensibly due to ideological reasons between the ‘hawks’ (hardliners) and ‘doves’ (moderates), reportedly there was also an angle of the clash of egos involved. Probably it is due to this that the Hurriyat (G) chairman never broached this issue inspite of repeated requests from well wishers and even as late as May last year held that, “Every separatist entity is making its efforts on its level and people should understand that unification is not necessary to get Kashmir issue resolved.”
Some feel that by summarily calling off the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary talks just because the Pakistan High Commissioner met separatist leaders for consultations, New Delhi’s has made it clear that it does not intend giving the Hurriyat conglomerate any importance. Thus, the Hurriyat (G) chairman’s sudden call for unity amongst separatists is nothing more than a desperate act of survival to overawe New Delhi by putting up a united front. This hypothesis gains strength from Geelani sahib’s own statement that, “In wake of the dangerous policies of the Modi government with regards to Kashmir, the unity among pro-freedom people is unavoidable and a necessity of time.” Anyway, whatever be the motivation, this is indeed a welcome decision which was long overdue.
It seems to be a time and season for theatrics- if New Delhi’s suggestion “you either talk to separatists or to India,” resembles lines given out by a ‘Don’ in a mobster movie and reeks of jingoism, then Pakistan’s retort that “Pakistan is not subservient to India” and “Kashmir is not part of India,” too fares no better than the caustic remarks one hears in TV soaps. The unity ‘offer’ made by Geelani too has all the trappings of a mega marketing announcement. His announcement that “The doors of Hurriyat Conference are open for any person, organisation or any forum,” sounds like a fantastic ‘no strings attached’ proposal. However like most ads, in this ‘offer’ too, there is a ‘conditions apply’ clause. Entry into “the doors of Hurriyat Conference” is open only to those, who will not:
• “Accept any four-point formula, soft borders, status-quo or any other out-of-box solution to the Kashmir dispute.”
• “Take part in any bilateral or triangular meaningless and result-less dialogues
• “Participate directly or indirectly in the election process which is held under the Indian Constitution.”
• “Violate the agreed principles, constitutions or the above-mentioned conditions.”
While the Hurriyat (G) chairman must have certainly analysed the ‘eligibility conditions’ put forth by him for forging unity amongst the Hurriyat, the same unfortunately appear to be unreasonable. By laying down conditions that suppresses the freedom of expression and does not permit any discussion or analysis on innovative alternatives to resolve the Kashmir problem, the Hurriyat (G) chairman has only reinforced the lingering suspicion amongst other separatist leaders that while he himself is unwilling to compromise or even display some attitudinal flexibility, he expects the others to outrightly discard their respective principles, ideologies, convictions and instead subordinate themselves to Geelani sahib and simply follow his diktats as faithful foot soldiers!
While it is not intended to cast any aspersions on the respected patriarch, but then, even though the Hurriyat (G) chairman has declared that “unity among pro-freedom people (separatists) is unavoidable and a necessity of time,” he himself appears to be in no mood to create conditions that will help achieve this aim. If unity amongst separatists has to be forged, then the approach needs to be accommodative and not overbearing. When the goal is common, there is no harm in accepting alternatives to achieve the same and the philosophy of ‘my way or the highway’ will not work. Like Geelani sahib, other separatist leaders also have their own convictions and strategies which are in no way harming the Kashmir cause. Therefore, laying down preconditions for unity is not likely to be accepted by any self respecting leader as the same gives an impression that this is designed only to help the Hurriyat (G) chairman reassert his complete control over other separatist leaders.
Geelani sahib has said that “We have formulated strategies to confront this situation. The extraordinary situation needs extraordinary steps at this crucial stage. Any negligence or carelessness of the nation will have serious consequences and it can also severely harm our freedom struggle.” The issue is that if this is indeed an ‘extraordinary situation’ that requires ‘extraordinary steps’ to be taken, then isn’t there a case for the Hurriyat (G) chairman to himself set an example by shedding his obduracy just for the sake of forging unity? The people of Kashmir have placed their future in the hands of the Hurriyat and thus, the moral responsibility of climbing down on his preconditions for the sake of the Kashmir cause and its people falls on Geelani sahib. But the million dollar question is- will venerable patriarch oblige?