Introspection or Political Positioning

January 2011

In subversive political cultures the political class excels in competitive deception. Mortal adversaries can live comfortably as friends for years and friends can do a volte face in no time and turn into enemies. The politics practised in such a culture has circles within the circles and each political move carries a counter manoeuvres in its bosom. To make political assessments in this environment is extremely difficult. Prof Abdul Gani Bhat’s expositions in a seminar conducted by the separatist formation Hurriyat Conference (M) should be read and understood with circumspection and drawing of definite conclusions immediately should be avoided. Another seminar conducted under the aegis of JKLF deserves a similar treatment.

On January 3, 2011Prof Abdul Gani Bhat said “No police was involved. It was our own people who killed them. Time had come to speak the truth about the killers of Mirwaiz Mohammad Faroq… and Abdul Gani Lone… and Abdul Ahad Wani…What is the need to identify them … They were targeted by our own people. Story is long and we have to tell the truth. The Kashmiri politicians had started the separatist movement with killing our own intellectuals. Was Prof Wani a martyr of brilliance or martyr of rivalry, we must ask ourselves today? On one hand he (Sayed Ali Shah Geelani ) refuses to talk to India and on the other he takes pleasure in meeting with the Indian parliamentarians. These dichotomies and contradictions have to go. When we initiated talks with New Delhi we were labeled as Kafirs (non-believers) and when you talk there is no problem…” By absolving Indian Security forces from the blame of killing the Separatist leaders, Prof Bhat has played sweet music to the ears of Indian establishment. To read this statement as also the utterances of other ‘moderate’ separatist leaders during the seminar conducted by JKLF as some sort of rethinking on the separatist ideology is premature and also out of place.

Abdul Gani Bhat said almost the same things in the POK Assembly a few years back. There also, he chose not to specifically name the persons and organizations involved in targeting separatist leaders of the ilk of Mirwaiz Faroq or Abdul Gani Lone and separatist ideologues like Abdul Ahad Wani and Dr Guru. He did mention the name of Ali shah Geelani in his latest expositions but only in the context of his political differences with him. Sajjad Lone had named the agency involved in the assassination of his father in the surcharged atmosphere of the funeral rites of Abdul Gani Lone. Not long after his brother Bilal Lone Joined with Ali shah Geelani to upstage his brother. Mirwaiz Omar Faroq in fact chose to work under the tutelage of the same forces that killed his father. After seeing the killer of his father in the company of Mirwaiz Omar Faroq, Sajjad Lone was distraught with him till recently. During the three months of “Quit Kashmir’ movement, which was led solely by the radical Ali Shah Geelani , these so called moderate separatist leaders were in the forefront of the most virulent anti India campaign.

There is a web of interlocking rivalries and alliances which we see in political environment of Kashmir more than anywhere else. However  one thing which is glaringly common amongst these ‘ moderates’ is that they all support the ‘third option’ solutions. But here also we should not make a mistake of concluding that their differences with Ali Shah Geelani types are irreconcilable. Ali Shah Geelani has many times in the past publicly stated that if ‘third option’ is what people of Kashmir want then he may not oppose it.

The seminars during which the so called separatist leadership chose to at least distance from Geelani line on Kashmir had themes as: United Nations Resolutions – A legal base to Kashmir dispute; and Role of Intellectuals in freedom struggle.  The themes reflect an urge of the political class to widen the scope of the options available to the separatists. More important however is the importance which the intellectual class is being conferred. This class has had the best of all worlds. It has been the best beneficiary of the largesse which comes to Kashmir from India, Pakistan and the West. And it is this class which is the bulwark of subversive machinations in the state. This class has been very active these days to forge a unity between the separatist factions. Gani Bhat appealed in his speech, “Let intellectuals come up with suggestions about what the leadership shall do. Let them be critical of our actions…”   The increasing importance of the intellectual leadership of Kashmir means the decision making mechanisms amongst separatists would shift more out of organizational hierarchies. It means the political leadership will have fewer roles to play in devising separatist thrusts. This intellectual class which covers bureaucrats, retired and working, academicians in universities and colleges, has worked always from within to foment alienation in the social milieu. In the coming days subversive manoeuvres of this clan will assume a new stridency.

Many say that the fulminations of the ‘moderate separatist’ leadership are an admission of a colossal failure which perhaps is forcing them to distance from radical Islamist line. More than that it seems to be an attempt to position themselves in case the interlocutors come up with propositions which may offer new opportunities for the ‘third option’ protagonist’s. Is this segment of leadership of Kashmir  privy to the course which the interlocutors may set up for the political solution which Government of India has committed itself to in the nearest future. Interlocutors have already hinted to announce the broader contours of a political solution in a two months’ time. This makes sense. The building of a public stance against Ali shah Geelani can be an attempt to create public space within India. A large segment of Indian Liberal opinion has always held ‘third option’ solutions to be better option for Indian interests.

Crucial question is that of security which this segment of separatist leadership has been putting forward for not speaking the truth and opposing Geelani publicly. What has changed at the security front which makes the ‘moderate Hurriyat’ to dare Geelani and the radical regimes? Geelani still controls the cadres. He still is the most influential leader for the terrorist regimes which are not as yet a non-factor. Has Pakistani establishment chosen to sidetrack Geelani for the time being so that the stalled Musharraf proposals are given a new lease of life as well as momentum? Is the ‘moderate leadership’ confident that Indian state may strengthen their personal securities? Or is it that Government of India, Pakistani establishment and the ‘moderate Hurriyat’ are gradually moving forward to a common minimum agreement? Moderate Hurriyat cannot discount the security factor unless they are doubly sure. And for that some understanding with Geelani is critical. In the good cop bad cop game, has Geelani consented to play a bad cop?

Geelani knows his strategic value in the situation more than his ideological value. He knows it very well that he was released before the Second Round Table Conference to raise the radical pitch so that the self-rule proposals, which some say have been crafted by the Government of India, become palatable to the delegates of the Conference. Is a similar game being enacted again? Geelani is reported to have sent instructions to his cadres to play it cool and not react to the public insinuations against him, direct or indirect, for the time being.

There is one more dimension which needs a close assessment as well as monitoring. For some time the differences between the Al-Qaeda and Taliban have found public expression. Al-Qaeda has criticized Taliban for pursuing a nationalist line which they think is dangerous for the pan-Islamist mission which they are spearheading. The divide between the Baraelvis and Wahabi-Deobandi formations has also deepened in Pakistan. Are we witnessing a brewing conflict between the local Islamists and pan-Islamists in Kashmir valley? The divide has always been there. During ‘Intifada’ it got deepened with Geelani trying to stamp his authority on Jama Masjid in Srinagar, the bastion of Mirwaiz Omar Faroq as well as Hazratbal Shrine which NC and JKLF see as the spiritual center of their creed .

The attempt to create the impression that Geelani’s position has weakened after the dissipation of ‘Quit Kashmir ‘ movement and that is why he has been publicly dared is not well founded. Geelani calls shots because he controls the Islamic establishment in Kashmir. His adversaries are organizationally very weak to challenge his authority. We have already seen how the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir begged for his cooperation not long ago and despite the fulminations against him by the patriarch of NC.   We are not witnessing unfolding of healthy introspection but only a deft game of political positioning.