Fissures among Hurriyat leadership over Rajnath’s dialogue offer | Pakistan Today

Fissures among Hurriyat leadership over Rajnath’s dialogue offer

  • Abdul Basit says Delhi’s talks offer is mere farce
  • A Hurriyat leader accuses central leader of influencing Geelani, Mirwaiz for talks

ISLAMABAD: The recent dialogue offer made by New Delhi to the Kashmiri resistance has exposed fissures among top ranks as Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani is resisting talks overture without India’s acceptance of Kashmir issue while a central leader is pushing Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Geelani to enter into a dialogue to break the impasse.

On May 26, Indian Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh had offered the olive branch to the Hurriyat leadership, saying that the Indian government is ready to hold dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference leadership if they come forward for the talks. However, Ali Geelani on May 28 rejected Rajnath Singh’s talks offer, making it clear that Hurriyat would only talk when India accepts Kashmir as a dispute.

This stance was in line with Geelani’s stance adopted in the year 2010 when he (Geelani) had asked India to first accept Kashmir as a dispute before making any dialogue overture. Geelani believes that Kashmiris have held around 150 rounds of talks with Delhi without a result. He wonders why should there be another round of talks unless his five demands are met.

The conditions include India’s acceptance of Kashmir as an international dispute, beginning of demilitarisation in Kashmir under the supervision of a credible world agency, repealing of all harsh laws, including Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act, 1978, release of all political prisoners and punishing of the forces’ personnel involved in the killings which took place across the disputed state.

Surprisingly, Hurriyat leadership took a summersault on May 29, as the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), after a meeting between Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, announced that they are ready to join a dialogue process if India government comes clear on what it wants to talk about and also speaks in one language.

The JRL also made it clear that the dialogue process must be among all the three stakeholders – India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. But it seems that India is not in the mood to talk to Pakistan over Kashmir, reflecting its lack of will and sincerity to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

When contacted, Foreign Office (FO) Spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said that there was no contact made from Delhi for peace dialogue on Kashmir. No dialogue offer to Pakistan indicates that the peace offer made to Hurriyat is a mere farce and there is no sincerity in the peace initiative.

According to Kashmiri media, Rajnath Singh is all set to visit Srinagar on June 7 where he is scheduled to meet some Kashmiri politicians termed as “Indian puppets” by the local Kashmiris. No meeting, however, has yet been fixed with any of the Hurriyat leaders who are since then mum over the offer made by Delhi.

On the condition of anonymity, a Hurriyat Conference leader told Pakistan Today that Ali Geelani was dragging his feet over the dialogue offer “but someone among JRL was pushing him to join the dialogue to ‘break the impasse’”.

“We were shocked to see how elements among the top JRL ranks are trying to convince Geelani to agree to the talks offer. If Geelani agrees to dialogue without any flexibility shown by India, it would tantamount to a selloff of the blood of millions of Kashmiris to India,” said the Hurriyat leader.

When asked what the harm was in talking for peace, the Hurriyat leader said that millions of Kashmiris did not give up their lives for peace.

“Peace is only when Kashmiris would be free. Without freedom, there is no space for peace. We have been offering sacrifices for a just cause – we want the freedom to choose between India and Pakistan. We want a plebiscite,” the Kashmiri leader said.

Pakistan’s former Ambassador to India Abdul Basit said that there was nothing new in the dialogue offer as it was a part of Indian ploy to play with the galleries on Kashmir.

“In my view, this offer is a mere farce. This is not the first time and Delhi has always made peace overtures to Hurriyat totally ignoring Pakistan (which is the main party to the conflict). But Hurriyat has been putting forth some conditions which include that India first should accept Kashmir as dispute and Pakistan should also be taken on board in the talks process,” he said.

The diplomat said that Geelani sahib has always been rejecting such talks offers outright and the same might be the case this time around. Basit, however, thinks that perhaps the overture was aimed at providing some relief for IOK Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti whose party is fast getting unpopular in the valley.

The peace overture comes at a critical time amid successive defeats suffered by Indian ruling party – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – in several provinces of India. There is speculation that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may go for a snap poll later this year to help salvage another win as his popularity wave was fast fading away.

In case of early polls, Modi would want to see a peaceful Srinagar to help convince the Indian and international audience that he had everything is under control in India. A boiling Kashmir means Modi’s chances to repeat his stint as prime minister would be limited.

Rajnath Singh will arrive in Srinagar amid rising tensions in IOK as Delhi has miserably failed in controlling dissent among the Kashmiri people despite two years of killing spree unleashed by Indian military which has left over 300 Kashmiri youth martyred, over 15000 youth blinded and injured due to use of brute force.

The valley is rife with anti-India sentiments as Indian forces, despite announcing phony claims of a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan, rammed an armoured vehicle into protesters in Srinagar the other day, crushing two Kashmiri youth under the car. A youth succumbed to his injuries while another remains critical.

As if it was not enough, the Indian military opened fire on mourners carrying the body of the martyred youth to the graveyard in a bid to thwart burial by thousands of Kashmiris, injuring many.

During the past two years, since the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, the poster-boy of Kashmiri freedom struggle, over 10,000 youth have already been jailed while extreme measures under draconian laws. But uprising has gathered momentum and each day, more youth are picking up guns to fight the merciless Indian forces as Hurriyat gains more strength across Kashmir.

Ironically, the iron-fist policy of India in Kashmir has backfired terribly as more and more youth are drawn to armed rebellion for the right to self-determination. Has this forced India to halt its anti-militancy operations? Or there is more than what meets the eye?

The so-called ceasefire announcement followed by peace dialogue came amid rising tensions in across the valley. It was first the Line of Control (LoC) which was heated after successive deaths caused by Indian firing into Pakistani areas near the LoC and Working Boundary (WB).

Islamabad then started shelling in Jammu sector as it never shelled the areas where Kashmiri Muslims may come under fire. Shelling in Jammu – a BJP constituency – caused major embarrassment for the ruling party as thousands of Hindus were evacuated from Jammu sector. Recurrent ceasefire violations by rival forces have dented the BJP vote bank in Jammu. Since India is going for Lok Sabha elections in the year 2019 and there are indications that Modi may call for early elections, the BJP would like to have a peaceful Kashmir.

Since India needs military forces for the electoral process in the mainland India as well, more than what was required in past as situation is not favourable in the mainland India given the polarisation of voters following several defeats of BJP.

So India may be constrained to withdraw paramilitary troops from Kashmir Valley. However, it would require that the valley must be peaceful. But if turmoil continues in Kashmir, it will have a disastrous impact for BJP in elections. The BJP in past four years has not been able to control Kashmiri population which raises questions about its polls promises. The situation in IOK could be gauged by the fact that ever since Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti vacated her seat as Indian parliament member in 2016, the government has not been able to hold elections in Kashmir. The BJP would not like this situation to continue as elections in Kashmir, at whatever cost, are important for the legitimacy of the Indian rule there.

So, the call for so-called dialogue, after massive crackdown and killings, is just to restore peaceful environment for electioneering.

However, the JRL should not slip at this critical juncture. Geelani, the only credible leader had clearly said that Hurriyat Conference will not enter any peace process until Delhi accepts Kashmir as a dispute which is in line with his stand on Kashmir.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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