The remark that UN resolutions on Kashmir have become redundant has widened the gulf among the separatists, writes Riyaz Wani
WHAT PROF Abdul Gani Bhat said was nothing new, but this time there was an organised resistance to his remarks from within the Hurriyat Conference. A group of General Council leaders promptly held a press conference denouncing Bhat for saying that the UN resolutions on Kashmir are not applicable. Bhat also called for the Hurriyat Conference to forge a common minimum political agenda with the National Conference and the PDP to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“This is utter violation of the Hurriyat constitution. And whosoever violates it ceases to be a member of the conglomerate. We represent this movement. We will not allow any person to redirect or misdirect it,” says senior Hurriyat leader Nayeem Khan. “The movement does not belong to any party or person.”
The press conference was attended by other senior leaders such as Azam Inquilabi, Javid Ahmad Mir, Hilal War and Bashir Ahmad Bhat. “UN resolutions guarantee our right to self-determination,” says Inquilabi. He says that the executive council of the alliance was trying to monopolise the moderate Hurriyat. “They are bypassing the General Council and don’t take the council into confidence. They talk about things that are never discussed in the General Council,” he says.
Bhat made his contentious remarks at a rally in his native village of Batengo in north Kashmir. His rationale was that the geopolitical conditions that forced India to take Kashmir to the United Nations no longer existed, rendering the resolutions unimplementable. But for his opponents, the UN resolutions have an overarching symbolic value, if not practical validity. “What is Kashmir without the UN resolutions?” asks Hurriyat executive member Shabir Shah. He cited the example of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for the Kashmir resolution during his visit to India. “If there were no UN resolutions, would Ban Ki-moon have talked about Kashmir?”
However, even by Bhat’s standards, his proposal calling for a joint political front with mainstream parties is a radical departure from the Hurriyat stand. It confers legitimacy on the “pro-India character” of these organisations. “These parties (mainstream parties) side with New Delhi when all that the Kashmiris want is separation from India. They believe in accession and have allowed themselves to become instruments in the killing of Kashmiris,” says Shah. “How can we ever join them?”
However, he also laid down conditions for the Hurriyat to join mainstream parties. “If the NC and the PDP decide to quit electoral politics, their legislators resign from the Assembly and they no longer support India’s cause in Kashmir, we are ready to join them,” he says.
Meanwhile, opposition to Bhat’s remarks is not driven by the fight for principles. The dissident group within the Hurriyat has long been calling for the restructuring of the separatist amalgam, which redistributes power from the influential seven-member executive council. At a meeting of the Hurriyat at its Rajbagh headquarters on 9 May, hundreds of dissident activists shouted slogans against Bhat. They also sought disbanding of the Hurriyat executive council.
INCIDENTALLY, BHAT has made similar statements in the past. In fact, in 2007, he spearheaded a campaign to mobilise support for former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point proposal, which envisaged a bilateral resolution of Kashmir without any reference to the UN resolutions.
Bhat himself has since championed a solution that accepts the reality of Kashmir as a state inhabited by a heterogenous mass of people with different political aspirations. “There is a Muslim majority in Kashmir, a Hindu majority in Jammu and Ladakh is equally split between Muslims and Buddhists. How can you have an absolute solution under these circumstances?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told TEHELKA that Bhat’s views were personal and that it does not reflect the stand of the Hurriyat.
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.