Mufti's Proposal for Talks Draws a Blank in Kashmir
Hurriyat factional leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
NEW DELHI: All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is not particularly enthused with the new government in Jammu and Kashmir. In Delhi for treatment the ailing separatist leader told The Citizen that for him the composition or nature of the state government is immaterial as all have been the same for the Kashmiris. And that he does not see what good any talks will do until Kashmir remains under Army rule.
Going into his by now very familiar litany against the Indian state, Geelani said that he did not expect the BJP and the PDP to deliver at any level. He said that the immediate step needed was the withdrawal of the Army from the Valley but the new government was not even willing to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Despite the new chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed maintaining that talks with the separatists was high on his agenda, the response from the Kashmiri groups has been cold to lukewarm. Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, more cautious in his responses always, has clearly decided to wait and watch. Syed Geelani is cynical and disinterested. And Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik is clearly sceptical about the possibility of a meaningful dialogue.
However it will be interesting to see the response of the BJP to all inclusive talks with the separatist leaders. The BJP has taken a strong position against both Geelani and Malik although under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee the formula for dialogue did not discriminate between the leaders. However, in the intervening years the BJP and its front organisations have singled out both these leaders for attack, in particular Malik who has been physically accosted by members of these groups outside Jammu and Kashmir.
It is clear that talks with the separatists will have to be inclusive, if at all, as despite the factions and feuds within no dialogue can be even remotely successful if one or the other leader is left out. The separatist leaders are fairly marginalised in Kashmiri society, with the youth selective in responding to their many diktats. For instance the call to boycott the elections was completely ignored by the young people, who, while critical locally of this leadership do not brook ‘outsiders’ from the doing the same.
Hence, an attempt to isolate any one separatist leader from the dialogue will lead to him becoming a virtual martyr in Kashmir although any collective decision, if not acceptable to the young people will not be acceptable even if it has all the possible signatures. The youth have become a determining force in the Valley, and have been taking the lead on several key issues ever since 2010. In fact separatist leaders not in tune with the collective will exercised every now and again by the young of Kashmir, find themselves pushed on the sidelines, ineffective and ignored.
The coalition, thus,will have to tread carefully as currently there is a wave of anger against the PDP in Kashmir for having supported the BJP. This has been pouring out on the social media, with cartoons and derisive comments about the alliance. The separatists too are not going to take a stand on this issue, against the popular will, and unlike in the past the space for the talks has been effectively curtailed. The BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not going to rush into any such dialogue, and hence the Mufti might just find that his old solution will have no takers in the changed circumstances, both in Delhi and in Srinagar.