Deep cracks between the two factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq respectively are only too obvious since their split in 2002. But the noticeable rift between Kashmir’s head priest and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Mohammad Yasin Malik has given a new twist to the ongoing movement and divergence within its leadership in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Malik — chief of the pro-independence JKLF — accused Farooq, chairman of APHC-M of “pretence” and “swindling” funds meant for victims of the ongoing conflict. Malik also suggested that the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat was “siding with tyrants” and “safeguarding Indian interests in Kashmir”.
Perchance it is for the first time Malik has overtly leveled charges of such a serious nature against Farooq. “I know what I’m saying. If I cannot prove these allegations I will detach myself from politics,” he told Dawn.com via telephone. Media adviser to APHC-M, Advocate Shahidul Islam told Dawn.com, “It (Malik’s statement) doesn’t deserve a comment. Mirwaiz Umar Sahib has decided not to react on this.”
The latest controversy began when the JKLF chief, despite being invited to a University of Kashmir seminar on June 4, 2013, organised by the Anjuman-e-Shari-e-Shia’an, was “debarred” from speaking on the “freedom movement of Kashmir”. Farooq was the chief guest.
Interestingly, the university authorities seldom allow pro-independence leadership a platform to speak on political issues, especially over the dispute of Kashmir. The state government has pressurised university authorities to curb all political activities and student union politics on the campus. The fact that the APHC-M leadership was allowed to organise a seminar inside the convocation complex of the university in itself has raised many eyebrows.
It is the state's worst-kept secret that politics of any kind is not allowed inside the University of Kashmir. For the past two decades mainstream politicians (pro-India), have been pitching for “de-linking politics from academics”. Ironically, a red carpet is laid by the university authorities to major leaders of the Congress party like Rahul Gandhi and leaders of the ruling National Conference from time to time.
The Anjuman, meanwhile, has dismissed all allegations leveled by Malik and termed these as “irresponsible”. In a statement issued to the press, the Anjuman said: “Malik’s statement and baseless allegations (against the Mirwaiz Hurriyat) are totally against our expectations and lack political maturity. It was only due to a paucity of time that many speakers could not share their thoughts at the seminar.”
Just because he (Malik) did not get an opportunity to make a speech, the statement said, he issued an edict that he was the lone well-wisher of the movement and others had abandoned it. The Anjuman statement further added that it became difficult to accommodate Malik because he arrived late and university authorities were pressing to conclude the proceedings by 2pm. After being informed that he won’t get time to speak, Malik said he left the seminar midway to register his protest.
According to Malik, he was invited to speak at the seminar by Ghulam Muhammad Naago, one of the aides of the Anjuman chief Agha Syed Hassan. “They talk of being the representatives of people? They are the ones who built shopping malls with the money meant for running the freedom struggle and even invited Pro-India politicians to inaugurate the malls,” Malik alleged. He was making a veiled reference to Aga Hassan, a member of the executive committee of Hurriyat-M, who had invited Minister for Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir for the inauguration of his shopping mall in Budgam district of Kashmir Valley in July last year.
After noting that the venue was University of Kashmir, Malik told Dawn.com, he double-checked whether he would be allowed to speak there. “The Anjuman member Mr. G M Naago assured me that I was one of the speakers and without my presence and speech the event would be incomplete.” Malik added, “It is not a matter of feeling insulted. As civilised people we do understand that sometimes due to time constraints and other compulsions everyone doesn’t get time, but in this case they are telling a blatant lie. They wanted to please the university authorities.”
Informed sources, however, said that the Anjuman had not even mentioned Malik’s name in the speaker’s list which was handed over to the university authorities for approval. An insider maintained the seminar was not a Hurriyat-M show but that decency demanded Malik should have been allowed to speak after being invited by the Anjuman. “The university authorities had even threatened to turn off the lights if the speakers touched upon Kashmiri politics. It is not Mirwaiz versus Malik, it is a mistake on part of the Anjuman,” the source added.
Meanwhile, the furious JKLF chief further said of Farooq: “What kind of revolutionaries are they? On the one hand they organize a seminar on the Iranian revolutionary Imam Khomeini but on the other they give in writing to the university authorities that they will not touch the subject of the Kashmir dispute.”
He alleged he was barred from speaking on the directions of the University of Kashmir, an order with which Hurriyat-M willingly obliged. “Some of its leaders have built luxurious houses and grand shopping malls in posh localities, and acquired other benefits by swindling money meant for victims of the conflict.” “If they claim to spearhead the resistance movement in Kashmir, how can they snatch my right to speak on the Kashmir movement? Is their job only to dupe the funds?” My organization JKLF till now has remained silent on various issues for the interest of the freedom struggle, but now it is time to speak up.”
Those who spoke at the university seminar included representatives of Jamaat-i-Islami, former Hurriyat chairman Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, Syed Hassan Budgami, Moulana Muhammad Abbass Ansari, Moulana Showket Hussain Keng, Saleem Geelani and Hurriyat-M Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Farooq, in his maiden speech of a political nature within the Kashmir University premises, had urged Iran to convince both India and Pakistan for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. “Iran has historical and traditional links with Kashmir, which is also known as Iran-e-Sagheer (Iran’s prototype). Iran enjoys friendly relations with India and Pakistan and therefore can play a role in convincing the leadership of both these countries to resolve the Kashmir dispute,” Farooq had said.
It is an open secret that the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference under Farooq’s leadership is a divided house. On many previous occasions some of its senior leaders, including Professor AG Bhat, have exhibited “unwanted flexibility” in their stance on Kashmir, which has irked many including the hugely popular octogenarian Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Only last year, Professor Bhat dropped a bombshell by terming the United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir “irrelevant” and “impractical”. After Bhat’s statement, Nayeem Khan and Shabir Shah, two senior leaders of Hurriyat-M demanded the professor’s expulsion from the amalgam on charges of “violating the Hurriyat constitution”.
Soon after this controversy, there was also an exchange of blows between the supporters of Mirwaiz Umar and Nayeem Khan at a seminar titled ‘Blood of Martyrs: Our Role’ organised by the Hurriyat Conference on May 20 last year. This ugly episode was a clear indicator of how profound the cracks are in the moderate faction.
Many political commentators in Kashmir are expecting direct or indirect participation of some of the Hurriyat-M leaders in the upcoming assembly elections in Indian-administered Kashmir due in 2014.
Gowhar Geelani is a writer/journalist with international experience. He has served as Editor at Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) in Bonn, Germany. Previously, he has contributed features for the BBC. Feedback at (firstname.lastname@example.org).