Ever since differences within the Hurriyat Conference spilled into the open, the suspension of political leaders seems to have become the norm.
The latest suspension—National Front chairman Nayeem Khan was removed from the Hurriyat by Syed Ali Shah Geelani—has only highlighted the differences between the separatist outfits.
However, an examination of the history of the Hurriyat reveals that the tensions between the separatist outfits have never been far from the surface.
The first major expulsion from the party took place in 1996. Shabir Ahmad Shah, who is the chairman of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), was removed from the Hurriyat after meeting then US Ambassador to India Frank Wisner.
At the time, the Hurriyat leadership had decided not to meet Wisner or engage in any bilateral dialogue with New Delhi. Shah, who was representing People’s League (PL) within the Hurriyat at that time, later floated DFP.
Shah’s expulsion was the beginning of the rift within the Hurriyat. In 2003, the rift widened and the Hurriyat split into two factions. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who was the Hurriyat executive member representing Jamat-e-Islami, sought action against Sajad Lone, currently a minister in the Mehbooba Mufti government, for fielding proxy candidates in the previous year's elections.
Lone was the chairman of People’s Conference, while his brother, Bilal Lone, was member of Hurriyat executive. After Sajad joined the mainstream, the People’s Conference itself split into two factions.
Geelani has been leading one faction of the Hurriyat since 2003. Although the Hurriyat is strictly against bilateral engagement with New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, it has met different representatives of New Delhi after the 2016 unrest triggered by the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
And now the suspension of Khan has thrown up the possibility that yet another Hurriyat faction will emerge. Khan is being currently quizzed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after he allegedly confessed to receiving funds from Pakistan to create unrest in the Valley in a sting operation by a news channel. He says he wants to clear his name before he decides on any future course of action.
Interestingly, both Khan and Shabir Shah dissociated from the other Hurriyat faction a few years ago after being accused by leadership of anti-party activities. The duo later said that they were against dilution of the party's stand on Kashmir and statements being made by "some members that the UN resolutions have lost their relevance on Kashmir’’ made them leave the party.
Both floated a new outfit, Hurriyat (JK), but later joined the Geelani faction as members of its advisory body, Majlisi Shora. But the strong conflict ensured that even more separatist groups merged in Kashmir.
Hurriyat (JK) convener, Shabir Ahmad Dar, is also the chairman of his own faction Muslim Conference. Senior separatist leader, professor Abdul Gani Bhat, is also heading the Muslim Conference which is part of the Hurriyat (M). Dar says that he had dissociated with Bhat after he talked of UN resolutions becoming irrelevant.
He says that the Hurriyat (JK) is for the resolution of Kashmir issue through tripartite talks facilitated and monitored by the United Nations. “We have adopted the basic constitution of the Hurriyat, but in order to ensure a credible dialogue we are seeking that the talks should be monitored by the UN,’’ he says.
Mukhtar Waza, chairman of the People’s League and executive member of Hurriyat (M) says that the factions within the league were created due to differences “between the leadership over the mode of dialogue’’ as “well as leadership issues.’’
Waza says that he took over the People's League in 2008, after the then leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz was killed while leading a pro-freedom march in Uri. “But I strongly believe that only a peaceful engagement will help resolve Kashmir issue,’’ he says.
A senior Hurriyat leader says that the differences have also emerged mode of functioning of the Hurriyat groups which has lead to splits and creation of more political parties. “The differences have also been over the party leadership not taking into confidence others while making organisational decisions, for example, assigning office bearers," he added.
A senior Hurriyat leader says that the decision to expel Nayeem Khan may have come after instructions from Pakistan as the country “has always been portraying Kashmir as an indigenous freedom struggle’’ while rejecting the “Indian view that it was supporting terrorism in Kashmir.’’
Published Date: May 23, 2017 19:17 PM | Updated Date: May 23, 2017 19:18 PM