Over the past few years, combined efforts of the security forces and the Kashmiri society have led to huge progress towards freeing the valley of radical elements. Leading the efforts, the Indian government has also been proactive towards the situation and has been successful in striking a balanced approach against radical separatism in the valley. Local separatist leaders who have supported and perpetuated violence for long have also been under the scanner, with several top local separatist functionaries currently under legal custody. Hurriyat Conference, which has been at the forefront of the separatist movement in Kashmir has also been on the back foot and has been feeling the brunt of actions by Indian agencies.
Taking note of the fast-changing winds, Hurriyat Conference has been indicating towards a change of stance in its long-standing radical ideology. Now the Hurriyat Conference has proposed to form a committee to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley. The separatist Hurriyat Conference (HC), led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and a four-member team of Kashmiri Pandits have come together to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits who fled the Kashmir Valley by the thousands after militancy erupted in the state in 1989. The decision to form a committee was taken after a delegation of Kashmir Pandits held talks with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at Hurriyat’s Rajbagh office. According to media reports, Mirwaiz has indicated that the committee will also constitute of ulemas, traders and civil society members. “We want Kashmiri Pandits to be part of our voice,” he said.
Leading the delegation of Kashmiri Pandits, Satish Mahaldar said “Yes, we will be part of the committee. Mirwaiz is a leader of Kashmir and we are the body and soul of Kashmir. Together, we will fight for peace and the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits… Mirwaiz regretted whatever happened in the 1990s and told us everybody here wants us to return…”
Recently Hurriyat leaders had also proposed talks with the Indian Government, which were welcomed by Governor Satya Pal Malik just a few days ahead of home minister’s visit to the region. Interestingly, also this time no calls for bandh were issued by separatist leaders, first in 30 years for the visit of a Union Home Minister.
According to government sources around 154,080 people had moved out of the valley around the 1990s when the militancy was at its peak. Several families had moved away from their ancestral homes in Kashmir to safer places like Jammu and others. Hurriyat Conference, which had played an instrumental role in the exodus of Kashmir Pandits, by taking this initiative, has surely surprised many however political observers have indicated that the formation of this committee is just a by-product of increased governmental pressure on separatist groups over the past few years. Finding no way out, the Hurriyat is now resorting to empty gestures of ‘Kashmiri brotherhood’.
Taking on the Hurriyat’s terror financing channels, in 2015, ED had also filed a charge-sheet against Firdous Ahmed Shah, member of Syed Ali Geelani’s Hurriyat Conference for having received through his “friend”, money from “Madina Traders” in Brescia, Italy through a sender named Javed Iqbal, via Western Union Money Transfer. The same name of Madina Traders and Javed Iqbal was involved with 26/11 attack when a money transfer was made for activating Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) used during the terror attack in Mumbai. In March, Enforcement Directorate (ED) had imposed a penalty of Rs.14.40 Lakhs on Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani under the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The recent crackdown on the corruption scandal in Jammu and Kashmir Bank has also broken the back of the Hurriyat leaders who used the J&K Bank for illegal activities in collusion with other corrupt officials of the bank.
Over the past few years, the Indian administration has taken a firm stance against radical separatism in Kashmir. The armed forces have already detained the top leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami including its Ameer, Dr. Hamid Fayaz and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman, Yasin Malik among others. Senior Hurriyat leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are already under house arrest.
Countering foreign influence, earlier Indian government had also rattled Hurriyat leaders by indicating towards the arrest of all the Hurriyat leaders who would have attended the national day event at the Pakistan High Commission, in New Delhi. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the Awami Action Committee, one of the two key factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, was adamant on sending Hurriyat representative to the Pakistan national day celebrations however nobody from the Hurriyat cadre was ready to be the sacrificial lamb and be arrested.
Ultimately Modi government has been successful in combating the situation in Kashmir in a holistic way, which includes constant attempts to amalgamate the Kashmiri society with the mainstream Indian society and to fight the radical terrorism with an iron hand. Firm resolve of the Indian government to address terrorism in Kashmir is surely bearing fruits, with the ‘stone pelting’ Hurriyat cadre discouraged, top Hurriyat leadership is also in a fix, Hurriyat, and now with the ground cleared and finding themselves nowhere, the Hurriyat is compelled to take this step.