Mohd Khaleel : Hurriyat Amalgam Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s appeal to observe July 26 as “Unity Day” by the Muslim population of the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir, aimed at building bridges between the two regions, is a welcome step. As Mr Geelani said “It would help to show solidarity and foster brotherly relation between Muslim communities of two regions”. In a qualifying statement he conveyed that there is a need to counter the efforts of the Indian policy makers who are trying to portray that Kashmir movement is confined to Valley and Muslim population of Jammu province are indifferent to freedom movement. This statement came on the heels of the similar statement from the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA). It is for the first time that the Kashmir’s business fraternity has embarked on a mission to revive the ‘lost connections’ between the two regions of the state. While the intentions of KEA are explicitly aimed at promoting the economic ties, Mr Geelani’s initiative needs to be analysed deeper to get to the roots for realistic inferences. All this coming at a time when talks such as “APHC has ceased to be an amalgam of all parties”, “fissures in Hurriyat (M) caused by Professor Bhat’s declaration of UN Resolutions being impracticable followed by criticism from Mirwaiz” were eating away the relevance of the Kashmir movement like a moth, can infuse life into the movement.
While talks of unity had been on for a while from different quarters for different reasons, for some time in the past, the most worried people have been the masters of militant organisations in Pakistan. They were worried that their efforts for re-invigoration of militancy and the mass movement will be adversely affected due to the infighting between different factions of Hurriyat. The statement of Mr Geelani, coming at this point in time, could either be a stateman’s initiative or a move backing the economic agenda of the KEA. Given the past track record of Mr Geelani, the second reason seems to hold greater substance. If that is the case, then there could be two reasons, one that there was a lot of pressure on Hurriyat from KEA due to the economic losses suffered by the traders since February this year or it is an effort by Hurriyat (G) galvanize the masses by exploiting the traders. As such, the movement has been dwindling due to retreat of traders from the movement and unless Separatist leaders compensated them by enhancing the scope of their business, the union od traders will not be in a position to continue supporting the bandhs and strikes.
Given the cerebral capabilities of Geelani, the erstwhile astute politician, all this has to be just the tip of the iceberg. Let me attempt discovering the hidden one. The business season of 2012 commenced with the hanging of Afzal Guru, following almost a month of bandhs, stone pelting and other forms of violence. This period saw a total clamp down by security forces. This resulted in huge loss to the current business of traders as well as the future losses as a consequence inability to tenders. This period of disturbance was prolonged by the continuum of militant strikes followed by the Sumbal and Ramban like incidents. Separatist leadership had no option, but to make the show of their solidarity to the people. Sustained violence, coupled with the uncertainties, together resulted into drastic reduction in tourism and the number of Amarnath pilgrims. As one of the hoteliers said “we are virtually doomed because due to the hopes of normalcy after peaceful 2011 and 2012, we had heavily invested in terms of capacity building”. Even most of the taxi drivers are forced to keep their vehicles parked through out the season. The economic pressure is visible from the air tickets falling sharply and most of the Srinagar bound flights coming empty. If this is the state of richer business community, one can imagine what would be happening to the hawkers, street vendors, poniwalahs, tour operators and other small time shopkeepers whose yearly economy hinges on the tourism rush of summers. Prospects of exploitation of the Mughal Road is the other area concerning KEA. The leader of the masses like Mr Geelani understands that the mass movements can not be generated if the people are empty stomach. Most of the activities that require funds, could not have moved on without the requisite liquidity. It, therefore, goes without saying that ‘unity hinges on economics’ and only a naive person would ignore this reality, not the revered leader of masses.
Unfortunately, this fine move of Mr Geelani, to forge unity on the foundations of economics, got dented by the untimely sectarian violence. This not only surprised the amalgam leader. Anything not meeting the eyes of Mr Geelani, has to be the as the handiwork of security. Moreover, in the state where, even the State government is seen only reacting to the Hurriyat, who other than agencies can afford to contest his strategy. The only moot question is, was Mr Geelani actually not aware about the impending sectarian violence? The concern for the masses and that of the KEA was so dear that he had to sneak out of his house in the name of medical check up and later had to break the police cordon around his house to address the people at Hyderpora. Mr Geelani’s statement “We wont allow division of Jammu and Kashmir. India is hatching conspiracies to divide Jammu and Ladakh from Kashmir. It is one from Jammu and Kashmir to Ladakh” extend the scope of unity to Ladakh as well. Only saddening part was that Mr Geelani left out the Kashmiris of AJK, who equally are the party to the Kashmir Movement and have no less respect for the revered leader as Kashmiris on this side of the LoC. Their woes are equally important because the economic hardships that are being faced by them are harsher than us. Vitality of their inclusion gets particularly enhanced because of the economic component of unity. With a minor adjustment in the strategy, KEA and Hurriyat will do well to incorporate the economic prospects of AJK into that of Jammu and Kashmir. While the political settlement can wait, the economics can not.
Kashmiris are well aware that theirs is not the world of Plato where “philosopher kings love the sight of truth”. They also know that those ruling them are not philosophers. There is also no doubt that even most of those espousing the cause of freedom are only ordinary politicians who have always kept the doors of temptations of all kinds open. Even when economy is the driving force, the word unity appears very soothing. Unity in any form will be great because since 1947, there has been no semblance of this word.