Whoever said that the Hurriyat leaders were dying to meet the all-party delegation in Kashmir?
While the country has been debating furiously whether separatists should be engaged in the process to cool tempers in the Valley, amid nationalist grandstanding and telling flip-flop from certain parties, the question whether the Hurriyat leaders, some of whom are under house arrest, gave a hoot about such a meeting perhaps escaped everybody’s attention.
No, this is not meant to be a piece on the wisdom involved in inviting the separatist conglomerate for a dialogue; it’s to point out the apparent lack of clear thinking on the process.
There was no open-arms welcome to the members of delegation on Sunday. In fact, some embarrassment was in store for members of the all-party delegation to Kashmir when Hurriyat leaders evinced little interest in talking to them on the current situation.
Senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and Left leaders D Raja and Sitaram Yechury were booed away from Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s house; MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was cold shouldered by Mirwaiz Farooq and Shabir Shah. Perhaps they should have anticipated this reception. There have been no confidence-building moves — releasing the leaders from house arrest could have been one — or even placatory noises in the run-up to delegation’s visit.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s blow-hot blow-cold approach prior to the political team’s visit has certainly confused matters. It’s curious that she would invite them to talks as the leader of the PDP and not the chief minister of the state. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah was appropriately sarcastic when he tweeted:
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) September 3, 2016
It’s possible it was her way of snubbing the Hurriyat, which as the nature of the ongoing agitation suggests, may not be in control of the new generation Kashmiri agitationist.
With the most powerful players in the entire equation — the BJP government at the Centre and the PDP-BJP government in state — disinclined to entertain the Hurriyat, it made little sense for delegation members from other parties to extend the olive branch to the separatists on their own. The Centre has made no secret of its antipathy for the Hurriyat since it took over. It wants to keep the latter out of any future roadmap for Kashmir. The PDP’s predicament stems from the fact that it is in existential crisis after entering an alliance with the BJP. It stands alienated it from the common Kashmiri. Its only option is to do Delhi’s bidding.
As experiments go, keeping the separatists away from the Kashmir discourse is not a bad one.
Between 2010 and 2016, there has been no change in their position. In fact, they can be credited with being consistent on their demand while regional parties sing different tunes depending on when they rule the state. While they have little reason to be respectful to mainstream parties, the urgency with which some seek to engage them appears a bit odd. However, this position oversimplifies the complex Kashmir ground reality. There’s no real assessment of their pull among the ordinary Kashmiris and the fact that they emerge as the focal point of discussion every time trouble erupts reveals that there could be popular heft behind them.
If there is a consensus to render them redundant, then why not convey it clearly? Of course, the delegation has sent no formal invite to the Hurriyat, but the attempts by some leaders to meet them on a personal level reflects the lack of a well thought-out plan. It sends out conflicting messages.
The over-emphasis on the Hurriyat obfuscates the fact that the dialogue process is over-hyped and nothing more than tokenism. With positions hardened on all sides, was it really expected to achieve anything substantial? The Valley continues to simmer even as the delegation talks peace. Perhaps the governments and parties have failed to acknowledge that there are other forces than the Hurriyat at work.
Engaging them would be a brighter idea.