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Has The Hurriyat Lost The Plot In Kashmir?

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On May 20, 2017, a mainstream media channel ‘distilled’ the meaning of the Hurriyat Conference (HC) into a ‘business machine’, with their sting operation “Villains of Valley”. Taking the garb of a corporate manager, the media channel’s undercover reporter unmasked the ‘dirty game’ played by the HC with innocent Kashmiris.

In the video, the provincial president of the HC, Nayeem Khan purportedly confesses to receiving funds from across the border to instigate violence and bring chaos to the valley. However, after the video was made public, he contested the veracity of the sting, saying that the tapes in question were ‘doctored‘. He stated this when he came back from a period of brief hibernation.

The sting video must have been quite a blow to the thousands of Kashmiri people, who prioritise their freedom struggle over their daily hardships. Many of them starve while protesting against the Indian occupation of Kashmir on the streets. In such a scenario, where a major chunk of population considers such uprisings as sacred, there are some self-proclaimed leaders who derive personal benefits from these.

As the news spread across Kashmir, the head of the HC, Syed Ali Shah Geelani suspended Nayeem Khan from the party, almost immediately. However, while doing this, he also termed the Indian media as ‘biased and untrustworthy’ and said that the ‘baseless’ reportage was intended to mislead the international community and drag Pakistan into their ‘frivolous game’.

Nayeem Khan addressing a press conference on May 20, 2017 in Srinagar, India
Nayeem Khan (Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

This is interestingly contradictory. If the Indian media indulged in fake reportage, why was Naeem Khan suspended in the first place?

It has been 24 years since the ‘failures’ of an armed struggle laid the cornerstone of the Hurriyat Conference (HC). Projecting itself as the custodians of azaadi, it brought apathy to the state. Despite claiming to be a leader of the people, which guides society in the right direction, its actions and decisions have always been influenced by certain incidents. Not surprisingly, the HC makes its decisions generally after such incidents. The civilian killings by armed forces is followed by a strike call. The death of the commander of a terrorist organisation is met with interminable strike calls. But, ironically, the killing of a lieutenant rank officer like Ummar Fayaz is not protested, at all.

What does a strike call do?

Well, for some organisations, it could be a means to earn lots of money – but for a common Kashmiri, it has invariably downed their spirits. Not only have these strikes degraded the very fundamental structure of the financial establishment, they are also prime reasons why Kashmir is producing millions with limited intellectual development, who rigorously hold the view that a stone can shake the pillars of this advanced and competitive world. The question is, would this intellect-ridden society survive before people armed with the best brains and ingenious minds?

While the HC always urges the people of Kashmir not to participate in the state and union elections, its leader is a three-time-MLA, who has represented the Sopore constituency from 1972 to 1987. Also, the Hurriyat’s top leadership is always advising the Kashmiris to stop sending their children to army schools, alleging that these institutions are alienating the next generation from their religion and culture. The HC also often urges Kashmir’s youth to abandon their studies and instead volunteer for a bigger cause. Paradoxically, it does this while their own children live luxurious and comfortable lives, both overseas and in Kashmir.

In December 2016, Geelani’s grandson, Anees Ul Islam secretly joined Sher-e-Kashmir International Convection Complex (SKICC) as a research officer, with an annual salary of more than ₹12 lakh. Anees is the son of Altaf Fantoosh, Geelani’s son-in-law and an executive member of Hurriyat G, whose house was raided by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the follow-up to the sting operation. Anees’ recruitment would have remained a secret, had it not been exposed by a Times of India report in March 2017.

 Syed Ali Shah Geelani arrives at Regional passport office to fill passport details for travel documents on June 5, 2015 in Srinagar, India
Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Geelani’s son, Nayeem, who had blamed army-run schools for ‘indoctrinating’ Kashmiri youths, is a medical practitioner in Rawalpindi. Moreover, Mariyam Andrabi, sister of the head of the radical Dukhtran-e-Millat Asiya Andrabi lives in Malaysia, along with her family.

This is but a small insight into the financial and social lives of the kith and kin of Hurriyat leaders. As is evident, Geelani’s son, daughter and other relatives are all living prosperous lives. While the other HC leaders may be tortoises in this ‘race’, they are also steadily being provided with a lot of decent opportunities.

Consequently, the Hurriyat Conference has lost its status, and is now equivalent to a ‘hartal machine’, constantly giving calls for illegitimate bandhs. However, they should internalise the fact that despite being an amalgamation of several ‘intelligent’ heads, they have pathetically failed to give a certain direction to the freedom struggle. And now, with the revelation that the blood of Kashmiri people is being ‘sold’ for a petty amount of money, their relevance to the freedom struggle has reached its nadir.

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Image Source: Abid Bhat/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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