Introspection or Political Positioning: Is Musharraf formula being revived?
by Ajay Chrungoo on 28 Jan 2011 8 Comments

In subversive political cultures, the political class excels in competitive deception. Mortal adversaries can live comfortably as friends for years, and friends can do a volte face in no time and turn into enemies. The politics practiced in such a culture has circles within circles and each political move carries a counter-manoeuvre in its bosom. To make political assessments in this environment is extremely difficult. Prof Abdul Gani Bhat’s expositions in a seminar conducted by the separatist formation Hurriyat Conference (M) should be read and understood with circumspection and drawing of definite conclusions immediately should be avoided.


Another seminar conducted under the aegis of JKLF deserves similar treatment. On 3 Jan. 2011, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat said “No police was involved. It was our own people who killed them. Time has come to speak the truth about the killers of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq… and Abdul Gani Lone… and Abdul Gani Bhat…What is the need to identify them …”


“They were targeted by our own people. Story is long and we have to tell the truth. The Kashmiri politicians had started the separatist movement with killing our own intellectuals. Was Prof Wani a martyr of brilliance or martyr of rivalry, we must ask ourselves today? On one hand he (Syed Ali Shah Geelani) refuses to talk to India and on the other he takes pleasure in meeting with the Indian parliamentarians. These dichotomies and contradictions have to go. When we initiated talks with New Delhi we were labelled as Kafirs (non-believers) and when you talk there is no problem…” By absolving Indian security forces from the blame of killing the separatist leaders, Prof Bhat played sweet music to the ears of Indian establishment. But to read this statement as also the utterances of other ‘moderate’ separatist leaders during the seminar conducted by JKLF as some sort of rethinking on the separatist ideology is premature and also out of place.


Abdul Gani Bhat said almost the same things in the POK Assembly a few years back. There also, he chose not to specifically name the persons and organizations involved in targetting separatist leaders of the ilk of Mirwaiz Farooq or Abdul Gani Lone and separatist ideologues like Abdul Ahad Wani and Dr Guru. He did mention S.A.S. Geelani in his latest expositions, but only in the context of his political differences with him. Sajjad Lone had named the agency involved in the assassination of his father in the surcharged atmosphere of the funeral rites of Abdul Gani Lone. Soon after, his brother Bilal Lone joined with S.A.S. Geelani to upstage Sajjad. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq chose to work under the tutelage of the same forces that killed his father. After seeing the killer of his father in the company of Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Sajjad Lone was distraught with him till recently. During the three month “Quit Kashmir’ movement, led solely by the radical S.A.S. Geelani, these so called moderate separatist leaders were in the forefront of the most virulent anti-India campaign.


We see a web of interlocking rivalries and alliances in the political environment of Kashmir more than anywhere else. But one thing glaringly common amongst ‘moderate’ secessionists is that they all support ‘third option’ solutions for Jammu and Kashmir. Here also we should not make the mistake of concluding that their differences with Geelani-types are irreconcilable. Geelani has many times in the past publicly stated that if ‘third option’ is what the people of Kashmir want, he may not oppose it.


The seminars during which the separatist leadership chose to speak out had themes as: United Nations Resolutions – A legal base to Kashmir dispute; and Role of intellectuals in freedom struggle. The themes reflect an urge of the political class to widen the scope of the options available to the separatists. The utterances of apparent introspection are actually postures to distance from the Geelani line. More important is the importance which the intellectual class of Kashmir is being conferred by the so-called ‘moderate’ separatist leaders.


This class has had the best of all worlds over the years because it is embedded in the system. It has been best beneficiary of the largesse which comes to Kashmir from India, Pakistan and the West. And it is this class which is the bulwark of subversive machinations in the state. It has been very active these days to forge unity between the separatist factions. Abdul Gani Bhat appealed in his speech, “Let intellectuals come up with suggestions about what the leadership shall do. Let them be critical of our actions…” The increasing importance of intellectuals means the decision-making mechanisms amongst separatists would shift more out of organizational hierarchies; that political leadership will have fewer roles to play in devising separatist thrusts. The intellectual class covers bureaucrats, retired and working, academicians in universities and colleges, and has always worked from within to foment alienation in the social milieu. In coming days the subversive manoeuvres of this clan will assume new stridency, and decision making within the separatist establishment will become more obscure, diffuse and flat.


Many say that the fulminations of the ‘moderate separatist’ leadership are an admission of the colossal failure which is perhaps forcing them to distance from the radical Islamist line. More than that it seems to be an attempt to position themselves in case the interlocutors come up with propositions which may offer new opportunities for the ‘third option’ protagonists. Are they privy to the course which the interlocutors may set up for the political solution to which the Government of India has committed itself in the nearest future? Interlocutors have already hinted at announcing the broader contours of a political solution in a two months’ time. This makes sense. The building of a public stance against S.A.S. Geelani may be an attempt to create public space within India. A large segment of Indian liberal opinion has always held ‘third option’ solutions to be better for Indian interests. In these seminars the separatist leaders have openly talked about their failure to create a favourable public opinion in India.


This segment of separatist leadership has cited ‘security’ for not speaking the truth and opposing Geelani publicly. What has changed at the security front which makes the ‘moderate Hurriyat’ dare Geelani and the radical regimes? Geelani still controls the cadres. He still is the most influential leader for the terrorist regimes which are not yet a non-factor. Has the Pakistani establishment chosen to sidetrack Geelani temporarily to give the stalled Musharraf proposals a new lease of life and momentum? Is the ‘moderate leadership’ confident the Indian state will strengthen their personal security? Or are the Government of India and Pakistan and ‘moderate Hurriyat’ gradually moving toward a common minimum agreement? Moderate Hurriyat cannot discount the security factor unless they are doubly sure. For that some understanding with Geelani is critical. In the good cop bad cop game, has Geelani consented to play a bad cop?


In this context it is important to note – the appointment of interlocutors who have public positions on Jammu Kashmir close to ‘third option’ variants; the free hand given to interlocutors by keeping ‘no red lines’; fixing a time schedule for interlocutors to give at least a road map for a political solution; interlocutors throwing vague hints about dividing Jammu and support to elected Governor or Sadar-i-Riyasat; initiating a symbolic return of Kashmiri Hindus in the prevailing uncertainty and unofficial high profile interventions from Pakistan to again project that India and Pakistan had almost finalized 90 percent of the solution of the vexed issue.


Last but not least, a near paralysis in government to intervene and capitalize on the growing disillusionment of the public at large in the Kashmir Valley with the separatist leadership and Pakistan. It seems the Centre and State have taken responsibility to not allow the morale of separatism to dampen, and to disallow the impression that ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign has failed to take roots in the public mind. Indeed, the governments at the Centre and State have deliberately conveyed that ‘three months of Intifada’ has succeeded in breaking the inertia in favour of separatist objectives.  


Geelani knows his strategic value in this situation more than his ideological value. He knows very well that he was released before the Second Round Table Conference to raise the radical pitch so that the self-rule proposals, which some say have been crafted by the Government of India, become palatable to the delegates of the Conference. Is a similar game being enacted again? By building an anti-Geelani pitch, are the separatist sections seeking to make their propositions look more amenable? Geelani is reported to have instructed his cadres to play it cool and not react to public insinuations against him, direct or indirect, for the time being.


There is one more dimension which needs close assessment and monitoring. For some time the differences between Al-Qaeda and Taliban have found public expression. Al-Qaeda has criticized Taliban for pursuing a nationalist line which they think is dangerous for the pan-Islamist mission they are spearheading. The divide between the Baraelvis and Wahabi-Deobandi formations has also deepened in Pakistan. Are we witnessing a brewing conflict between local Islamists and pan-Islamists in Kashmir valley? The divide has always been there. During ‘Intifada’ it was deepened with Geelani trying to stamp his authority on Jama Masjid in Srinagar, the bastion of Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, as well as Hazratbal shrine which NC and JKLF see as the spiritual center of their creed .


The attempt to create the impression that Geelani’s position has weakened after the dissipation of ‘Quit Kashmir ‘ movement and that is why he has been publicly challenged is not well founded. Geelani calls shots because he controls the Islamic establishment in Kashmir. His adversaries are organizationally too weak to challenge his authority. We have already seen how the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir begged for his cooperation not long ago, despite fulminations against him by the patriarch of NC. We are not witnessing the unfolding of healthy introspection, but only a deft game of political positioning.


Dr. Ajay Chrungoo is chairman, Panun Kashmir

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