Niloofar Qureshi

Welcoming Contradictions

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Difference of opinion is not only an inherent phenomenon within any coalition but also a healthy sign as it reflects a vibrant and democratic setup where open minded people freely discuss and debate various issues. However, when differences on core issues acquire the form of serious contradictions, then most people believe that the end of the coalition is near. However, while internal disagreements do pose a serious threat to the unity of any conglomerate, those that question status quo due to which progress is being impeded and attempt to break stereotypes are contradictions that are most welcome!

Two weeks ago, when Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani announced that “we humbly appeal for a complete and unanimous boycott of upcoming elections,” he was merely doing something that the separatist conglomerate has always done and this is evident from the fact that Geelani sahib prefixed this appeal with the word “We” to convey that it was the unanimous decision of the Hurriyat’s joint resistance leadership (JRL). And he defended this decision by saying, “How can we afford to be part of the house where laws and resolutions are passed only to throttle and subjugate the people,” implying that public participation in elections goes against overall interests of the ‘self determination’ movement in Kashmir.

However, on his return from Delhi after being quizzed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook told last Friday’s congregation at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar that elections will have no bearing on the Kashmir issue. This announcement has caused unease within the separatist camp and some contend that it has only created confusion. These people contend that if what Mirwaiz is saying is correct, then why has Geelani sahib given a poll boycott call on behalf of the JRL and why Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) is threatening to kill those who cast their votes? And if Geelani sahib and HM are right, then why is Mirwaiz giving a statement that outrightly contradicts the collective decision of the JRL?

Another issue that finds mention in both Geelani sahib’s poll boycott appeal and the address that Mirwaiz delivered last Friday concerns the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Though the Hurriyat (G) chairman didn’t include this aspect while talking about the election boycott directive, but he reiterated his endorsement of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir by using this opportunity to pay rich tributes to militants killed during the Lasipora encounter in Pulwama. On the other hand, by telling Friday’s congregation in Jamia Masjid that “If not today, but tomorrow, there has to be a peaceful solution to the (Kashmir) issue,” Hurriyat (M) chairman has clearly maintained a discernable distance from the ‘armed struggle.”

There is yet another major inconsistency in positions taken by the two Hurriyat leaders on the issue of ‘armed struggle’.  While Geelani sahib has justified the same by using the JRL’s standard response of blaming Delhi for “forcing our youth to take the extreme steps (joining militancy),” Mirwaiz Umar Farook has completely rejected use of violent means to achieve ‘self determination’. And by declaring that the pulpit of Jamia Masjid “represents the aspirations of people of Kashmir who have sacrificed a lot for its peaceful resolution” and announcing that “We will not change our stand because of this policy of use of force or coercion,” the Mirwaiz has clarified that he does not subscribe to the JRL’s current reasoning that repression justifies and legitimises violent reaction in the form of militancy.

Thus, while what Hurriyat (G) chairman is saying has merit but the position taken by Mirwaiz also has its own plus points. In fact, his declaration that the pulpit of Jamia Masjid stands for “peaceful resolution” of the Kashmir issue is a political masterstroke for two reasons. Firstly, at a time when Islamophobia is spreading rapidly like a wildfire, this statement is a timely reminder to the world that Islam is a religion of peace. Secondly, since the looming threat of terrorism inspired by radical religious beliefs has made the international community extremely edgy, an assurance from Mirwaiz that Kashmiris will only use peaceful means for resolving the Kashmir issue will effectively quash any attempts by vested interests to demonise the ‘self determination’ movement by trying to portray it as a movement with a radical character or fundamentalist outlook.

With Washington taking the unprecedented step of circulating a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to designate Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group chief Masood Azhar an “international terrorist,” it’s time for the JRL to seriously rethink on the issue of ‘armed struggle’. It needs to be remembered that in order to succeed in today’s world, one has to use the mind and not allow one’s heart to dictate terms as allowing emotions to overpower logic can prove to be suicidal. Readers would recollect that despite Geelani sahib’s clarification that “We as Muslims have a duty to offer funeral prayers for the dead,” his emotive decision to hold funeral prayers in absentia for Al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden still drew widespread criticism and even made a visiting European Union delegation call off its scheduled meeting with him.

The JRL deserves to be complimented for displaying maturity and good judgment by not presiding over the offering of funeral prayers in absentia and observing a shutdown for the Pulwama suicide bomber who had attacked a CRPF convoy. One only prays that the JRL will continue to avoid getting involved in controversial decisions and contentious actions. With most militant groups fighting in Kashmir being designated ‘terrorist organisations’ by UN or other influential countries, to associate such organisations with the Kashmir movement is a bad political decision as it discourages international from supporting our cause.

During an informal interview with foreign journalists last week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan admitted that armed militias were created by Pakistan army during the eighties and declared that “We have decided, for the future of our country- forget the outside pressure – we will not allow armed militias to operate anymore.’’ While this announcement could be just an attempt to prevent Pakistan’s likely blacklisting by international terrorism financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task force (FATF), what stands out is that even Islamabad is officially confirming that it is breaking all ties with militant groups and is determined to rid Pakistan of those whom it, till very recently, eulogised as “freedom fighters” who were waging a ‘just war’in Kashmir!

When even Islamabad has succumbed to international pressure and given an assurance that it would no longer patronise militant groups that are fighting against its neighbouring countries, for our leaders to continue extolling militancy doesn’t make good political sense. If our leaders want the international community to intervene to end the seven decade long logjam and facilitate speedy resolution of the Kashmir issue, then we have no other option but to put an end to the ‘armed struggle’. If this is not feasible, then in larger interests of the Kashmir movement, the JRL will have to take the hard decision of completely disassociating itself from the ‘armed struggle’ as continued glorification of militancy will only further alienate the international community!

Tailpiece: The era when achieving freedom through armed revolutions was in fashion ended long ago and today any such uprising is viewed as terrorism. Kashmir has long been bearing the brunt of militancy but ‘azadi’ (liberation) which our freedom-fighters told us was “just around the corner” three decades ago is nowhere in sight even today. So, while the gun hasn’t really given us any gains, it has made the international community extremely suspicious of supporting the movement for right to ‘self determination’ despite the fact that UN resolutions mention the same. And that’s why Mirwaiz Umar Farook’s complete focus on peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue is a welcome step that must be given a fair chance!

The writer is a Delhi based columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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