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Force Magazine

Fighting for Peace

Separatists and the new government gear up for major faceoff in Kashmir

By Fayaz Bukhari

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led coalition government and the separatists are in for a major faceoff in Jammu and Kashmir. The separatists are against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who they believe is here to fulfil its hidden agenda. The BJP, on the other hand, is dead against the separatists and so wants Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to deal with them with an iron hand. The chief minister has been known to be soft on the separatists.

It is well known that Pakistan and the separatists were against BJP being a part of any coalition in Jammu and Kashmir. But once that couldn’t be avoided, the separatists reportedly formulated a strategy to create trouble for the new government.

For the past two years Pakistan had been trying to unite various separatist groups but in vain. They finally managed when BJP became a part of the coalition. That’s when the pressure on the separatists to unite and rally around hardliner Hurriyat Conference chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, grew. Last month seven separatist leaders from Hurriyat Conference (M) led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq parted ways in order to strengthen the Geelani faction of Hurriyat Conference. The leaders who parted ways include Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Saleem Geelani, Yasmeen Raja and Bashir Andrabi. These leaders are likely to join Hurriyat Conference (G). A few more senior members of Hurriyat Conference (M) are likely to part ways to join the Geelani faction. This will weaken the Mirwaiz faction and isolate some of its leaders against whom Geelani has had reservations.

Last year, Mirwaiz’s faction had split when three of its senior leaders, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Ahmad Khan and Azam Inquilabi, formed a new group called Hurriyat Conference Jammu and Kashmir (JK). At that time they had alleged that some of the leaders in Hurriyat Conference (M) were sabotaging the unification of separatist groups.

All the three Hurriyat Conferences have been told to form a broader alliance around Geelani who will then be accorded the role of the decision-maker. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik, has also been asked to support the separatist unification.

In Pakistan various Kashmiri separatist groups, which had already united last year following pressure from the Pakistan government, are formally under one platform for last one month now. Apparently, since the Nawaz Sharif government came to power, Pakistan has thrown its weight behind Geelani. Earlier, when General Pervez Musharraf was in power, he had thrown his weight behind Mirwaiz, and later Pakistan People’s Party-led government followed suit.

On the militancy front, there is a change in strategy. Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) have been asked to work under Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) headed by Syed Salahuddin. The LeT and JeM will supply the cadres but keeping in view the international pressure, militancy will be given an indigenous face in Kashmir.

For this, recruitment of local boys has been going on for past two years. Last year, 63 local youth, aged 17 to 25, joined militancy. The year before in 2013, the number was 31. This year, as per reports, the figure has already reached 25 including a policeman who fled along with two rifles from the residence of the minister for roads and buildings, Altaf Bukhari in March this year. These youth no longer ex-filtrate to Pakistan for arms training but are locally trained in the handling of weapons.

Hurriyat leaders at the Friday prayer
Hurriyat leaders at the Friday prayer

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