Niloofar Qureshi

Hurriyat and the Ramadan Ceasefire

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Ceasefires concern warring factions and thus, when the center announced the Ramadan ceasefire one had expected that it would be the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) which would respond and either accept or reject this proposal. However, while the HM remained silent on this issue, it was the joint resistance leadership (JLR) of the Hurriyat that immediately reacted by outrightly rejecting this ceasefire proposal. And with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (leT) also rejecting the Ramadan ceasefire offer subsequently it’s clear that there are no hopes for the early return of peace and normalcy in Kashmir. While the LeT’s rejection of the ceasefire was expected all along, for the Hurriyat to adjudicate on this issue is intriguing since ceasefires are primarily a military matter.

Accusing the center of using the ceasefire offer as “a ploy to hoodwink public opinion on both national and international level,” the JRL has justified its rejection on the grounds that this proposal is a “cruel joke.” However, by doing so the Hurriyat has once again missed an excellent opportunity to capitalise upon a ‘win-win’ situation and this is very unfortunate as such occasions don’t come by very often. This is because if the center isn’t really serious about the ceasefire then its bluff would soon be called by the international community and the Hurriyat’s claims to this effect would be vindicated. Even if the center is serious, the Hurriyat would still emerge victorious since the ceasefire offer is obviously the result of its protests and shutdowns.

Losing this opportunity to internationalise the Kashmir issue, though unfortunate doesn’t have any negative fallout but by dismissing the ceasefire offer as a “cruel joke” the JRL has committed a monumental blunder. Firstly, what the JRL refers to as a “cruel joke” has been termed as an “olive branch” by New York Times which as we all know plays a major role in shaping international perceptions. Thus, the JRL’s “cruel joke” remark conveys an impression of the Hurriyat trivialising a peace building initiative. Secondly, with the LeT also rejecting this ceasefire proposal citing equally vague reasons like this offer being a “compromise” and a “drama,” an awkward situation has arisen as the unanimity in the outlook of the Hurriyat with that of the LeT (which is a UN designated “Banned Foreign Terrorist Organisation”) creates some very grave political correctness issues!

However, the most serious fallout of the JRL’s ceasefire rejection is the negative message that this decision will convey to the environment. Till a few days ago, the Hurriyat was making fervent appeals to the UN and international community for intervening and stopping the carnage in Kashmir. However, by turning down the ceasefire offer even before giving it a chance to prove its worth has sent out very wrong signals. Some analysts are already interpreting the Hurriyat’s decision as conclusive evidence that the separatist conglomerate is more interested to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir rather than ushering in peace. And they reinforce their view by saying that since Hurriyat knows only how to give protest and shutdown calls, they are averse to any ceasefire as the moment normalcy returns to Kashmir, the JRL would be rendered ‘jobless’!

Then there are others who are openly questioning the wisdom of the JRL actions of demanding international intervention to stop violence in Kashmir while outrightly rejecting the ceasefire proposal merely on presumptions! While one may dismiss such allegations as propaganda being churned out by New Delhi but the undeniable fact is that by rejecting the ceasefire offer the Hurriyat has put a question mark on its own credibility of being ready to walk the extra mile for ending the sufferings of the people and resolving the Kashmir imbroglio.

In his inaugural address given nearly six decades ago the then US President John F Kennedy had said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear; but let us never fear to negotiate” and this is something that the Hurriyat needs to seriously think about. Thus, by rejecting the ceasefire offer out of fear that it could be “a ploy to hoodwink public opinion on both national and international level” the JRL has only ended up conveying the impression that it is not very confident that its own strategy based on ideological fundamentals can withstand New Delhi’s ploys. And this isn’t a very healthy sign for the ‘self determination’ movement!

Tailpiece: In an interview given to news agency CNS last month, United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and HM supremo had said “Kashmir movement belongs to the people. I wholeheartedly appeal and request 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.” I may not be an intellectual but as an ordinary person I would like to offer the suggestion to the JRL that they would do much better if they followed President Kennedy’s thoughts on negotiations in letter and spirit!

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