SRINAGAR: The moderates in the Hurriyat seem to have gone into hibernation this winter. Hurriyat souces speak of a drift between chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and respected soft-line leaders like Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone and Molvi Abbas Ansari. Prominent separatist leaders Shabir Ahmad Shah and Nayeem Khan have already broken away from the Hurriyat main group.
The signs were evident at the Hurriyat seminar called by Mirwaiz on Dec 10, the eve of International Human Rights Day, which none of them attended. Shah and Khan took out processions in Srinagar, independent of Mirwaiz. Gani, Lone and Abbas chose to spend the day at home. Mirwaiz refused to comment.
The reasons for the split are individual and different. Lone, Mirwaiz’s second-in-command is reportedly angry that the Hurriyat’s azadi-platform has weakened considerably, and this threatens to affect his base in north Kashmir. Meanwhile, Bilal has been calling for a new strategy to connect with the Kashmiri people. “With days becoming shorter and azadi becoming a distant dream, the people’s priority, despite the fact that azadi is their basic aspiration, has somewhat changed. They want to redresses their daily problems as well,” wrote Srinagar-based commentator Shahzeb Loun. Both NC and PDP have been appealing to this aspect of life in Kashmir, to obscure the larger separatist demand. And they have succeeded to a large extent. Except for sundry responses to statements made by the Omar Abdullah government or the Opposition, the Hurriyat seems to have nothing to say on its own.
Imran Khan’s statement in Pakistan that the Kashmir issue could be kept on the backburner has dismayed the separatist movement, considering the former cricket star’s growing popularity as the next Prime Ministerial candidate. Pakistan’s frozen relationship with former ally, the US, has forced it to concentrate on its western borders. Hence, it has downgraded its emphasis on the eastern border, directly affecting the separatist movement, which counts on Pakistani money and propaganda to function effectively. Bhat’s organisation, Muslim Conference, has depended on Pakistan for support, like many other smaller outfits in the Hurriyat. According to sources in Srinagar, Hurriyat leaders are worried that soon, the movement would become defunct. The target of their ire is Mirwaiz himself.