Unite or step aside, Kashmiri intelligentsia tells pro-freedom camp

SRINAGAR: “…if they are tired, let us respectfully ask them to step aside and rest,” says a Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez.
He went public with his remarks on Facebook which is witnessing passionate debates on relevance of United Nations’ resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.
“Now Kashmiris are in catch 22 situation, unable to decide whether to pay electricity bill, telephone bill or pay troops for sucking blood of innocent Kashmiris, and the insult to the injury is that those who claim to be representatives of common Kashmiris are already sold and they have turned it into a profit-oriented business,” commented one Abid Rashid Baba.
The debate is a reflection of the resentment brewing in the Valley’s civil society against ever-rising ideological differences within the once-united pro-freedom camp, and the consequent race for ‘real’ representative character among its various components.
Hurriyat Conference was a conglomerate with around 25 political, social, and religious parties as its constituents until 2003 when ideological differences caused its first split into two groups—Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat (G), and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat (M).
Ten years later, Mirwaiz-led faction is on the verge of another split. Its senior members—Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, and Azam Inqilabi—have openly dissociated themselves from the activities of the grouping. And last week, the trio informally announced a third faction by the name of ‘Hurriyat Conference Jammu and Kashmir’ and claimed to be the “real” Hurriyat.
“Disunity among Hurriyat is not something very good. In the larger interest of the society, the pro-freedom camp shall be united. But unfortunately, some leaders seem to be endorsing the point of view of either India or Pakistan,” says Prof Sheikh Showkat Hussain, associate professor of law in Central University of Kashmir.
Hussain sees “positive side” of having various representative platforms for the ongoing movement, though. “This way, there are less chances of a people facing deception at the hands of a single leader on whom they put their trust.”
UN resolutions as ‘the course’ for resolution of Kashmir issue have become the major cause of disintegration among the Hurriyat constituents. Geelani-led Hurriyat (G) sticks to its unchanged stand that “Kashmir issue needs to be resolved as per the UN resolutions”, and the estranged leaders of Hurriyat (M) too are toeing the line.
The differences between Hurriyat (M) and its estranged leaders became wide and evident last year when Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, a senior leader of the Hurriyat (M) and former chairman of the united Hurriyat, publicly questioned the relevance of UN resolutions.
Earlier this month on January 5, which is observed as UN resolutions day in the Valley, both Mirwaiz and Bhat batted for “tripartite dialogue” as an alternative to resolution passed by UN, which they described as a “dead institution.”
Besides disunity in the camp, the civil society is also miffed at the non-implementation of UN resolutions considering it a “failure of the pro-freedom camp”.
“If UN resolutions were not implemented in our 65 years of struggle, it is not the failure of UN but the failure of Hurriyat Conference, which has failed to represent us the way it should have,” says Dr Nisar-ul-Hasan, president of the Doctors Association of Kashmir.
“It is very disappointing to see the pro-freedom camp stand disunited at a time when India and Pakistan are moving closer towards a dialogue. Hurriyat doesn’t belong to one person, but masses of Kashmir have associated hope and trust with this platform. The pro-freedom camp shall be united to be able to represent the Kashmiris, and if it can’t then they (pro-freedom leaders) shall step aside,” Dr Nisar adds.
Pro-freedom camp, on the other hand, seeks to downplay the differences, and is trying keep them out of the public domain.
Speaking at a seminar on Sunday, Mirwaiz termed the differences as “media hype”, and asked the pro-freedom leaders “not to go public with the differences.”
“If anybody wants to change anything in our organization, same should be done through consensus and not through public debate,” he had said, leaving a question mark over the future of Hurriyat unity and the role civil society seeks to play in it.