Is there more to the Kashmir problem than the Hurriyat?
No, if you go by the excitement in several circles over the possibility of the leaders of the separatists’ conglomerate being rendered ineffective in the Valley’s developments. Cut the Hurriyat down to size and the Kashmir problem will take care of itself — this appears to be the wisdom going around. This is the Central government’s belief too. The media hullabaloo over the Centre’s muscular posturing suggests that we have finally nailed the root source of the problem in the Valley. It’s time for action.
Such understanding is bereft of nuance and reeks of oversimplification, but it is not entirely out of place. There’s a need to break free of the status quo if any progress on the vexed issue is to be made. This calls for another look at all players and changes in the existing arrangements among them. In the fresh government perspective, the significance of the Hurriyat to the Kashmiris is more hype than reality. The separatists carry only nuisance value and whether or not they represent the entire spectrum of Kashmiris is only a matter of conjecture. Moreover, given that they are not amenable to changing their stated position, they have nothing new to deliver in the new discourse.
Thus any attempt at breaking the Kashmir logjam has to keep them out. The government has to find other stakeholders and discuss peace with them. Sounds logical, but the only problem is that logic can be a bad guide in matters where questions of identity, history, geopolitics, ethnicity and religion are terribly mixed up. There can be no one-size-fits-all formula here. Any rash move can only aggravate the existing situation. So, maintaining the status quo is a better policy option than adventurism.
Here are some assumptions about the Hurriyat that have transformed into certitude by over-circulation.
First, the Hurriyat leaders are the singular source of all of the Valley’s troubles. They have been fanning anti-India sentiments relentlessly and instigating ordinary Kashmiris to turn rebels/militants/terrorists. Stop being indulgent towards them, show them their place, and the lay Kashmiri will be more than happy to embrace India.
Second, the culture of stone-pelting which has taken a menacing shape now was encouraged by the Hurriyat leaders to harass Indian security agencies. If we noticed an exponentially high number of people pelting stones during the ongoing agitation,it is evidence enough that the Hurriyat has become more active and found more converts. Tough, preferably punitive, action against them will mean end of the pelting problem.
Third, if there were no Hurriyat, there would be no interference from Pakistan. The separatists are Pakistan’s single-point contact in Kashmir. Pakistani money meant for fomenting anti-India activities in the Valley gets routed through them. This is also the money that helps perpetuate their influence among locals. Squashing them would mean curtailing Pakistan’s role to a big extent.
The conclusion: Why treat this bunch with kid gloves when they show no inclination to revise their position on Kashmir’s relationship with India and are working against our interest with no sense of guilt?
While correct to some degree, these assumptions have flaws — mostly to do with overestimating the strength and influence of the Hurriyat among Kashmiris. The separatists have been a constant in the Valley’s developments over many decades and essentially been the face of the people’s quest for autonomy. But it is possible that they no longer dictate and control the new generation of young agitationists.
There’s more to the Kashmir problem than the Hurriyat
As the ongoing unrest suggests, the agitationists are self-motivated and have found ways of being inspired by each other — the most important of these being through social media.
Again, in spatial spread the agitation this time goes far beyond traditional Hurriyat strongholds. It is possible that new forces have emerged and they are taking the Kashmir battle out of the hands of the Hurriyat. News reports suggest the radical Islamic outfit Tablighi Jamaat has become active in South Kashmir. There’s a religious tinge to the agitations this time, according to some experts, and this is not the usual Hurriyat style. Moreover, Pakistan could not be investing all its energy and resources on a single set of people, knowing clearly that they are under the strict watch of Indian agencies.
The bigger task on hand, thus, is to identify the new challenge, the new leaders.
Flogging the Hurriyat may not take us anywhere. There’s more to the Kashmir problem than the Hurriyat.