Niloofar Qureshi

JRL’s “Comprehensive Joint Strategy”

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After six months of protests sparked off by the death of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Burhan Wani in a gunfight with security forces, joint resistance leadership of the Hurriyat issued a statement in December 2016 informing the people that “Now it is time to consolidate our gains and build upon them in order to move ahead further.” The statement went on to say that “In this regard the leadership feels that a long term sustainable strategy based on proactive initiatives, programmes and sustainable modes of protests with maximum public participation in their creation and implementation and minimum costs for the people is the way forward.” This announcement was well received by the people as they were really being hit very hard by the Hurriyat’s ‘shutdown strategy’.

The joint resistance leadership (JRL) statement went on to outline how it proposed evolving its new strategy. It announced that “efforts are on to reach out to all sections of society including students, traders, transporters, teachers, lawyers, artists, writers, artisans and others to discuss the idea with them, seek their suggestions and their assurance of participation and support to the long term plan.” The Hurriyat leadership’s decision to seek public involvement while formulating “a long term sustainable strategy based on proactive initiatives, programmes and sustainable modes of protests,” was something unprecedented. And the JRL’s decision to seek consensus by involving people  from all sections of society all while framing the proposed strategy was highly appreciated by the public as it gave every Kashmiri a sense of self importance.

However even though nearly two years have elapsed, there is no sign that the Hurriyat has been able to work out a “sustainable” protest strategy. And with United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin making an appeal just six months ago requesting “intellectuals, journalist fraternity, civil society, professionals to come up with suggestions and share them with Joint Resistance Leadership so that an effective strategy could be chalked out vis-à-vis Kashmir,” it is evident that the JRL hasn’t kept its 2016 promise. Thus, when the JRL once again announced on Tuesday that it had decided to have wide-ranging consultations with all sections of society to “frame a comprehensive joint strategy” this announcement didn’t generate much enthusiasm amongst the public

Detractors may say that the Hurriyat’s failure to work out an effective protest strategy is due to lack of the ability to do so but this assessment is absolutely wrong. The separatist conglomerate has no dearth of sharp minds, but unfortunately the old guard refuses to shed its antiquated ideas and doesn’t encourage out of box thinking. Shutdowns have been the one and only form of protest in the Hurriyat’s arsenal and due to its indiscriminate use for two and a half decades hartals ceased attracting international attention long ago. On the other hand since shutdowns disrupt normal life and cause hardship and loss of livelihood to those associated with the tourism industry and the daily wagers, shutdowns only ‘punish’ the local population. And when some people are forced to disregard shutdown calls for inescapable reasons they are attacked by our own people which at times cause fatalities and this gives the ‘self determination’ struggle a bad name.

For any mass movement to succeed it must have a sound ideological foundation and a strategy that is internationally accepted. In the case of Kashmir, while UN resolutions do give the ‘self determination’ an excellent ideological standing, the multi-faceted strategy currently being adopted to achieve this suffers from some very serious drawbacks.  And what’s surprising is that even though these fundamental shortcomings are quite apparent, our leaders don’t seem inclined to eradicate them. For example, UNSC resolution 47 which mentions the issue of ‘self determination’ also lays down the procedure for the same, specifically outlining the mandatory pre-requisites that need to fulfilled prior to holding of plebiscite. In this regards, Islamabad is required to take the first step in the ‘self determination’ process by withdrawing all its nationals from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK).

It’s because of Islamabad’s refusal to fulfill this pre-requisite that the UN and international community are powerless to take any action on the incessant pleas of Pakistan and the Hurriyat to compel India for holding plebiscite in J&K. And silence of UN headquarters on the JRL’s latest petition to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminding him that “The dispute of Kashmir is on UN agenda, with umpteen resolutions passed on it in the august body. It is the binding responsibility of United Nations to resolve this dispute as soon as possible in light of these resolutions,” illustrates the UN’s helplessness. Therefore, effective pressure can only be built on New Delhi to ensure that it abides with UN resolutions on Kashmir and holds plebiscite, if Islamabad is willing to fulfill its own obligations necessary for facilitating the ‘self determination’ process in J&K.

However, this isn’t the only hurdle in resolving the Kashmir issue in accordance with UN the resolutions as the situation for the Islamabad- Hurriyat combine has become even more unfavourable due to the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. This is because ‘armed struggle’ advocates the use of force and violence to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio, which is the complete antithesis of UN resolutions that seek a peaceful settlement of this problem. And perhaps this is why the office of UN Secretary General Guterres hasn’t said or done anything on the complaint in the JRL’s petition of how “A ruthless military operation called CASO (cordon and search operation) has been undertaken by the Indian state under whose garb civilian areas are cordoned and searched for armed freedom fighters and in the process civilians killed beaten and harassed and homes blown up.”

Two and a half decades of experience has taught us that one can’t have the cake and eat it too. Therefore, before sitting down to work out a ‘comprehensive joint strategy’ for taking the ‘self determination’ movement to its logical conclusion, it is most important for us to determine the method that we wish to use for this purpose. Thus, if we want to take the ideological path that UN resolutions offer to us then we will have to get international support to isolate and compel India to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with these resolutions. However, this is only possible if Islamabad plays its part by fulfilling the pre-requisites essential for facilitating conduct of plebiscite in J&K. This will also require an end to the ongoing ‘armed struggle’.

Conversely, if we share the UJC chief’s view that “The deciding front which will compel India’s 750,000 army to quit our motherland is the Jihadi front” and thus want to resolve the Kashmir issue militarily then we should stop pleading to UN and the international community for intervention. However, Geelani sahib had once remarked that in order to succeed an ‘armed struggle’ needs “support of a country which could provide supply of weapons, resources and training camps, which we don’t have…it, also needs ideologically perfect youth. It needs strategy. The militancy in Kashmir lacks these things.” Thus, in case we want to get our right to ‘self determination’ through the ‘armed struggle’, then we must demand that Pakistan extends full military support to the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir- just like Salahuddin sahib has recently done!

Tailpiece: Deciding on which of the two options to take may be a very tough call but we have no choice since there isn’t any third option!

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