Article 35A: Engineer Rashid's offer to join Hurriyat will make little difference to the Kashmiri separatists

Since last week, Kashmir's political scenario has been stirred with talk of possible abrogation of Article 35A, which grants exclusive state subject rights and other privileges to "permanent residents" of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This has brought another period of uncertainty for the Valley, with mainstream politicians warning of serious consequences from any tinkering with the article.

And with Attorney General KK Venugopal asserting that the Union government wanted a "larger debate" on the issue, many mainstream politicians have criticised the Centre for not filing an affidavit in the case.

While the controversy over the issue flares up, Engineer Rashid, the firebrand MLA from north Kashmir's Langate constituency in Kupwara, has offered to quit the post of MLA and join the separatist leadership to "fight for the right of people of the Valley."

 Article 35A: Engineer Rashids offer to join Hurriyat will make little difference to the Kashmiri separatists

File image of Engineer Rashid. Getty Images

This offer comes in response to the Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's statement wherein he had asked mainstream political leaders to join the Hurriyat to help resolve the Kashmir issue. "In response to Geelani Sahab's appeal to mainstream political parties, to join the Hurriyat, we are ready to give it a thought. I am ready to join the joint Hurriyat leadership," he said in a statement.

But Rashid's offer comes with the condition that the Hurriyat should have a plan to fight for Article 35A. And therein lies the problem. In the past few agitations, the Hurriyat-led separatist leadership hasn't shown any imagination for protests apart from the frequent call for shutdowns.

Back in Rashid's constituency, many seem to support their MLA's move by saying that development of the area is less important when it comes to the Kashmir issue.

Mir Waheed, a journalist from the Langate area told Firstpost, "He has not clearly mentioned of joining Hurriyat, but had said that if they have a better road map to go for resolving the Kashmir issue, he will think of joining. It's least important to think of development in his own constituency, rather than the Kashmir issue".

"We have voted for Rashid Sahab not for development issues. He knows very well how to go about Kashmir related issues," Showkat Pandith, a businessman from Langate told Firstpost. Another resident, Reyaz Ahmad, echoed these views saying that Rashid is well aware of the situation. "If we talk about development, he has done his part in last five years," he added.

Making his point clear, Rashid said that he "will not be ashamed of working as a servant of Geelani, Mehbooba Mufti or Omer Abdullah for the betterment of Kashmir, but only if they have the potential to lessen the trouble of Kashmiris".

However, many believe that Rashid has made his point at a time when Hurriyat has nothing to fight the abrogation of Article 35A.

"I don't think Rashid is going to join Hurriyat because he has said that (he will join only) if Hurriyat has a clear road map, which everybody knows they don't have. The Hurriyat constitution might not allow him to be a member of both the posts and, moreover, Rashid stands for plebiscite which Hurriyat has almost abandoned. So, I believe it is Rashid's well-engineered political stint," Javid Wani, a political analyst told Firstpost.

There are various factors which might hinder Rashid's ways to join the Hurriyat. Some believe that north Kashmir, especially Langate, will lose its roaring voice from the state Assembly.

"Rashid cannot change the Hurriyat paradigm, which it holds since inception... both have a contrary vision. His joining may not produce the aspired results," Wani said.

Giving a different assessment, Noor Ahmad Baba, a political science professor said: "He is a very resourceful person and has the capacity to protest. He had been raising issues related to Kashmir from the very beginning. I believe that if he joins Hurriyat, at this point in time when they are under pressure, it will be a boost for the Hurriyat."

Rashid's offer of joining Hurriyat comes at a time when the latter is steadily losing ground in the Valley. While Rashid won't be a major steal for the Hurriyat, it will certainly indicate the shrinking space for mainstream politics in the current turbulent scenario of Kashmir.

Updated Date: Aug 11, 2017 18:44:32 IST