The killing of Burhan Wani started a new chapter in the terrorism filled history of the Kashmir Valley. Many have argued that talks with the Hurriyat are imperative to have lasting peace in the troubled region. Yet, the government has categorically rejected any talks with separatists (read Hurriyat) as their eventual goal is the secession of the Kashmir valley from India. Would the current strategy of neglecting the Hurriyat solve the problem of terrorism? Or is the government about to make one of the biggest mistakes in the valley by alienating the entire population?In order to understand the role of the Hurriyat in Kashmiri politics, one must understand the political climate in the valley.
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The Hurriyat are a motley crew of political parties who want the Kashmir valley to separate from the Union of India. While there are some who wish to join Pakistan, others want to be independent of both India and Pakistan. Due to differing ideologies and clashing personalities, there have been many splits. However, the recent hardline stance taken by the government has banded them together as a collective once again.
The official stance of successive Indian governments is that violence in the valley is a law and order problem. If one were to go by the official narrative, one must ask why is the Hurriyat so important to peace as the People Democratic Party suggests. For example, it must be noted that former Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee’s government decided to engage with the Hurriyat at one point in time. Even retired General V.P. Malik is of the opinion that the problem is a political one. While there is merit in terms of more autonomy that can be granted to the state, the line has to be clearly drawn at secession. Unfortunately, the Hurriyat is acting more like a pressure group because it isn’t willing to take part in elections. While it has a hold over sections of the society there is no clear metric to judge the level of support that they enjoy. Anyone can pay a couple of people to sloganeer and create havoc. This lets them overplay their hand by claiming that they are the sole representatives of Kashmir.
Burhan Wani’s demise and the current turmoil in the valley has been painted by many as a spontaneous explosion of anger. However, to many, it looks like a well-orchestrated plan by the Hurriyat to wreak havoc in the valley. Even if there is no proof that supports this statement, it is safe to say that they are the biggest gainers by this “uprising”. From pelting stones to mysterious burning schools, the Hurriyat have played their cards well to create a permanent sense of tension in the Valley. They rely on truth bending and arm twisting tactics (calendar shutdowns) to provoke the people into a sense of hopelessness. The present Modi government has rightly identified that the root problem is the Hurriyat. The sooner they become irrelevant, the faster peace is likely to return.
This is the reason why the Hurriyat has been making sure that Kashmir burns. It is in their political interest for the situation to get worse in the valley. The People’s Democratic Party, which many consider a separatist party, won the largest number of seats in the state elections in 2014. It is now allied to the BJP, which has a strong base in the Jammu region. This is considered a big breakthrough as both sides are working together to provide a democratic solution to the troubled state. The Hurriyat is now on its way to becoming completely irrelevant. It is for this need of relevance that they have made great efforts to make the life of the Kashmiri extra hard. Interestingly, even the National Conference has backed the Hurriyat lately. Once again, it is only for the sake of remaining relevant in the valley that they are doing this.
It’s not just Pakistan but countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has made it a point to make Kashmir an issue. The only reason that the insurgency has sustained itself for so long is because of these countries. The Inter-Services Intelligence agency has worked in tandem with the Hurriyat by providing it with the finances to back an insurgency. Thus, demonetisation would have made sense to counter the fake currencies that were being pumped in. This explains why banks have become targets of this latest bout of violence.
This isn’t to say that anger in the valley does not exist. More than 19% of adults in the Valley exhibiting signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are in a state of vulnerability and many are genuinely angry. These feelings are exploited and they are used as pawns in the larger game to capture power. Many of the stone pelters themselves are aware of this but continue to pelt stones due to frustration/anger. The corruption and moral bankruptcy of the Hurriyat are only too well known. Recently, a Kashmiri politician went to the extent of saying that the Hurriyat has built its fortunes on the graves of young Kashmiris. He is not wrong in making the statement.
Yes, it does. This may be a bitter pill to swallow but the reality in the valley is that there are many in the valley that considers themselves as Pakistani. Rightly or wrongly, they feel an affinity towards Pakistan because they share a common faith. There is an even greater population that wants Independence. The Hurriyat is then simply a product of the democratic ethos of India. This is why many previous governments have ventured so far as to talk to the Hurriyat. This isn’t a validation of the Hurriyat but merely hopes to highlight their place in a democratic society. As in any democracy, the correct approach would be to make them politically irrelevant.
This is a type of politics that has been played by almost every politician in the valley. Many indulge in this deceitful art of playing to the gallery only to change track when they are in power. The current political party in power, the People’s Democratic Party is well known for making separatist statements. The separatist politics is a frivolous one where there is no actual enrichment in the lives of people. It only serves as a way to garner political brownie points. The political reality has become such that the opposition always gains when there is instability in the valley.
While there is a sizeable part of the valley that is vocal on independence, it holds no legal ground. There are many who talk about UN Resolution 47 (The Shimla Agreement is conveniently forgotten), carefully ignoring that the option to choose is only between India and Pakistan. There was a study conducted by Chatham house in 2010. According to the survey conducted, the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir would overwhelmingly vote for India over Pakistan. While parts of the Kashmir Valley want to carve out a separate state, the populations of Jammu and Leh regions are less enthusiastic. As the state of Jammu and Kashmir contains all these areas, listening to only one region and ignoring the others is undemocratic.
The “Azadi” movement is one which is fascist in nature (to read more click here). Anyone with a dissenting view on Azadi is attacked physically or verbally. This puts a big question mark on the credibility of the movement itself. While most news channels obsess over the size of the funeral procession of Burhan Wani, Kashmiris who have died fighting for India (Lance Naik Mohiuddin Rather) also have huge funeral processions as well. Atleast, that was the case until very recently. The inability of India to protect Kashmiris who have died for our country such as Lt.Umar Fayaz Parry is distressing. It seems odd that the Hurriyat scream human rights violations and inflate casualties during stone pelting incidents and maintain a deafening silence over Kashmiris killing Kashmiris. Political workers get killed on a regular basis while the valley stays silent. The fratricidal civil war that has engulfed the valley is the true nature of this conflict. It is important that everyone outside of the valley realize this. Engagement with various stakeholders like students and teachers (excluding Hurriyat) by the local administration is the mantra that has been repeated over and over again by various security experts.
It is hard to say what the future might hold. Mehbooba Mufti has put up a brave front and says she can handle the situation. Narendra Modi has kept his cards close to his chest refusing to reveal his hand. The emergence of rival militants joining ranks to take the conflict to the next level clearly shows that dark days lie ahead.
The Army, J&K police, and CRPF are faced with a tough task ahead. A hostile population willing to bludgeon them to death is just one part of the story. Any act of trying to defend themselves will be immediately used by the Hurriyat as a way to show “Indian atrocities”. Patriotic Kashmiris are too terrified to come forward and help the army for fear of retribution. It looks as though the battle lines have been drawn and the valley is set for a long and protracted civil war.