Taking Stock!

That the congregation at the central Jamia Masjid in Srinagar would take out a ‘pro-azadi’ and anti India rally after offering Eid prayers and listening to the sermon of Kashmir’s chief priest and Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq was expected, as it is an annual feature. However, what certainly was not expected was the fact that some protesters in Nowhatta area would be seen carrying posters and banners with pictures of the deceased Al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden and gun-wielding Taliban cadres. While this could well be the individual decision of a few radicals and may not be necessarily reflecting the general consensus of the masses, it is nevertheless, a disturbing trend, which begs immediate attention.

Readers will recall that while addressing the mammoth gathering of Haj pilgrims at Mount Arafat on the eve of Eid, the Grand Mufti of the Ka'aba Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, had emphasised that “Islam does not allow terrorism at any cost.” The Mirwaiz in his Eid sermon too had urged the people to follow the teachings of Islam, which, as we all know strictly prohibits the killing of innocents. Thus, the appearance of these banners and posters is in sharp contrast to what the Grand Mufti of the Ka’aba and Mirwaiz of Kashmir had just preached, because both the Al Qaida and Taliban have made it amply clear that in pursuit of their objectives, they have no qualms if innocents are killed. While the separatist leadership may have considered this to be too insignificant an incident to merit any comments, this silence could well be misconstrued as the separatist conglomerate’s tacit acceptance of the Al Qaida and Taliban philosophy and this is certainly not a healthy sign for the Kashmir struggle.

The rally taken out by those congregated at the Jamia Masjid was to vent their anger at New Delhi’s apathy towards resolving the Kashmir issue as well as their desire for ‘azadi’. Therefore, since the protests were not to express solidarity with the radicalised concept of ‘jihad’ that these two internationally proscribed groups espouse, the appearance of these posters and banners is all the more worrisome. There is no gainsaying that the possibility of the Taliban entering Kashmir post- American withdrawal from Afghanistan has caught the imagination of many. Infact, readers will recall that it was the Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq himself who was amongst the first to publically articulate this apprehension after his Pakistan trip in December last year. Though the Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has since declared that the Taliban has “no role” in Kashmir, the unanswered question is - who will stop the Taliban if they do decide to enter Kashmir?

With the public admission made by the Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani that “We (the Hurriyat) never denied or ignored the role of gun in our struggle,” use of violence as a means for taking the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ to its logical conclusion has acquired ‘legitimacy’. While the octogenarian Hurriyat leader may have made this statement in relation to the Hizbul Mujahideen, which is primarily a Kashmiri militant group, the fact is that the Hurriyat has never expressed any aversion towards the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pakistani militant group, which is also fighting in Kashmir. And the Hurriyat’s stoic silence on LeT presence portends a dangerous precedence, as the primary agenda of this militant group is not helping Kashmiris to get ‘azadi’ but ‘restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India’, which it perceives (alongwith United States and Israel) to be an ‘existential enemy’ of Islam.

So, if the LeT, which is not fighting for the ‘right to self determination’ for the people of Kashmir but waging a ‘jihad’ against India, is welcome in Kashmir, how can the Hurriyat deny entry to the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP)? With Wali-ur Rehman, the Deputy Chief of TTP announcing way back in December 2011 that, “We will go to Kashmir and will liberate the Kashmiris … We will also establish an Islamic Shariah in Kashmir. The registered jihad that Pakistan had started in Kashmir can't liberate it -- and even if does, it cannot change its system. Only the Taliban can establish Islamic system in Kashmir,” the writing on the wall is clear. Therefore, it is essential for the separatist conglomerate to dwell on the possibility of this proclamation made by someone no less than the TTP Deputy Chief himself, coming true and then re-evaluate its present stance that ‘TTP entering Kashmir bogey’ has been conjured by New Delhi just to justify its large army presence in the State.

The Hurriyat also needs to stop turning a blind eye towards the rapidly growing radicalisation in Kashmir and reassess its approval of violent means to further the ‘freedom struggle’. While an increase in militancy level may appear to be beneficial as it could possibly provide a military solution to the Kashmir problem, this development is fraught with danger as it would well lead to a protracted war and certainly foreclose whatever little hope there is for a negotiated settlement. Moreover, such a situation would only help New Delhi as it would then be able to easily solicit international support for its ‘war on terror’ and thus effectively ‘kill’ the ‘K’ issue by portraying it as being a communally motivated and not an ideologically inspired movement. It also needs to be remembered that under no circumstances can New Delhi afford to allow Kashmir to go out of its hands, as this would open the floodgates for similar demands from separatist groups in its troubled Northeastern states.

The present situation in Kashmir is precarious and the Hurriyat needs to seriously introspect and draw-out a comprehensive plan to ensure that the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ is not marginalised by emotional decisions made in haste. Whereas optimism is certainly an invaluable asset for ensuring that the pace and momentum of the ongoing struggle is not retarded, disregarding realities and failure to think- ahead could well prove to be suicidal. And with the authority of the UN resolutions sanctifying the movement for the ‘right to self determination’, the very need to take refuge of an ‘armed struggle’ (which the international community perceives as ‘terrorism’), certainly doesn’t seem to make any sense. Therefore, instead of concentrating their energies in taking up ‘non-issues’ like protesting against holding of musical concerts and leasing out of Toshamaidan shooting range to the army, the Hurriyat would do well to identify and focus more upon the more critical aspects so that they don’t miss the wood for the trees!

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