Hurriyat (M) is on a Pakistan visit. It hurts to say that it is not the same overwhelming Hurriyat which was constituted 19 years and 5 months ago on 31 July 1993. The amalgam started with a total constituency of 31 members in 1993 and the first amendment was made on 13 September 1995, when 10 constituents were dropped from the list and three new constituents, namely, Bar Association, Employees Conference and Khawateen Kashmir were added. There is a remarkable drop in the constituency of Hurriyat.
The preparations and purpose of the visit as the one making rounds in the press in Kashmir, India or Pakistan could not be trusted. It is un-be-known to many important constituents in the Hurriyat (M) in particular DFP chair Shabir Ahmad Shah and chair NF Nayeem Khan. All these smaller groups look towards Shabir Ahmad Shah for leadership and guidance in making their dissent known. It is not only some of its important constituents that have an issue with the visit but there are Hurriyat (G) and non Hurriyat political parties, like JKLF, Muslim Conference lead by Shabir Ahmad Dar (progressively graduating) and others who are not part of this agenda or subject of a Pakistan invitation.
A vital input in the preparation and endorsement of this visit is a reference to the people of Kashmir. One would have expected that Hurriyat (M) would as a necessary principle make a formal approach to Syed Ali Shah Geelani and to other non Hurriyat political manifestations like Yasin Malik in particular and other groups that continue to stand up to represent the people.
There has been a hurried exercise of consultation with various sections of the society. The agenda or the issues highlighted in the press for consultations were all extraneous to the Hurriyat Constitution. A special emphasis has been laid on the consultation with civil society and intellectuals. At the same time one has witnessed that all the leading opinion makers and columnist in the Valley in particular and Kashmiris outside Valley have not endorsed the preparation, purpose and timing of the visit. There have been questions about the inhouse representative behaviour of the Hurriyat (M) as well.
Some (not all) in India and Pakistan may have an issue with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the thought of ignoring him and his constituency in the Valley and outside would not only be a serious error of political judgement but remains unhelpful to a broad constituency. Hurriyat (G) has challenged the Musharraf’s arrogance and it has won it respect and trust of people in Kashmir, India, Pakistan and in many other places. Ali Shah Geelani in his defiance represents the inner core of a human being, namely, self-respect and the desire to stand up in equality for a right. Political and religious leaders like Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai in Hurriyat (G) have endured all turbulence and remain a symbol for the younger generations.
It is understandable that Hurriyat (M) would not have geared up in the present manner unless there is a shared clearance from Delhi and Islamabad. Even onions and potatoes are not loaded on Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bound trucks unless the concerned authorities working on the surface and other working as a subterranean force, ink their consent. What would be an error of judgement is the over-enthusiasm of the visiting delegation and its unpreparedness and non-regard for a debate and reference to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The members of the visiting delegation have in one or the other manner sponsored and owned their respective militant groups, until Musharraf’s decision to unplug the support. The militancy has resulted in heavy loss of life in Kashmir and one would safely say that we have lost a generation. In terms of political arithmetic it would be defined as the killing of right of self-determination. We have a different Kashmir and a different Kashmiri household today than what we had in 1989. It is bruised, humiliated and managed. It has changed the number, behaviour and location of Indian security forces to a bitter annoyance of the common man. These security forces stand at guard for the leaders and somehow remain a source of discomfort to the common people.
Therefore, nudge passing the people in extra ordinary enthusiasm and conforming to the latest brief from the establishment would be a betrayal and with serious consequences for Hurriyat, India and Pakistan. The two sovereign countries have a broad spread of mechanism to duck and dive. Hurriyat (M) or any other non Hurriyat leader who are found to be trading in at this point without a proper debate and reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir (not only Valley) would have a cursed life and the curse of Albatross would follow them to their grave.
If a trade-off were so easy and likely to work, there would have been no ‘provisional accession’ with India, Kashmir would not have negotiated a Stand Still Agreement with Pakistan, there would be no UN mechanism, no Tashkent Declaration, no Shimla Accord, no Indira Abdullah Accord, no Karachi Agreement between the Government of AJK and Government of Pakistan, no militancy and no caution to National Conference and J & K Assembly by the UN on 30 March 1951.
We have every respect for all members of the visiting delegation. However, we can’t afford to treat every Kashmiri to be able in merit and in the representative character to negotiate with India and Pakistan the final disposition of Kashmir. If we need to endorse our ‘provisional accession’ with India, or decide to accede to Pakistan or have a free and independent Jammu and Kashmir, all this would not be trusted to the understanding and representative character of seven members of Hurriyat (M) delegation currently travelling Pakistan. Their understanding of the case has to be reliable and acceptable.
There are no two opinions that none in the group of seven would claim to be as robustly prepared, able and symbolic as Sheikh Abdullah and the India-Pakistan experts who have represented Kashmir at the UN or during their bilateral meetings. India and Pakistan have to settle the dispute with a people and a generation, their children for times to come in equity and good faith. Any trade off with any political dispensation in Kashmir would have no popular sanction and it would not last for long. It would have no legal sanction either.
Delhi has continually been accused for ignoring its trust deficit and for its habit to fail in honouring its agreements with the people of Kashmir. On the other side Pakistan has taken off into the air as a colonial authority in the affairs of AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan. It has its list of favourites and pulls them out to sing its song, as and when required. This partnership has caused the people of Kashmir loss of life, loss of honour and loss of property in particular in the last 22 years.
Government of Jammu and Kashmir has a special role in accordance with the terms of the provisional instrument of accession with India, under the J & K Constitution and the UN mechanism on Kashmir. The Governor is under oath to “devote himself to the service and well-being of the people of the State” and Chief Minister and his Cabinet are under oath to “do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”. These duties extend to all the territories of the State defined in article 4 of the J & K Constitution.
These Constitutional duties do not discriminate between a moderate and a hardliner a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Hurriyat has yet to announce as to whether its Constitutional wisdom had only a 22 year planning and thereafter its politics would have no holds barred.
(Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.)