Instead of using the UAPA against the inactive Hurriyat, the Center urgently needs to restart the political process in the valley.
The reported plan to ban the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference from all parties under the provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Activities Act (UAPA) will be seen as another reckless move from the Center in Jammu and Kashmir. It comes at a time when J & K’s main imperative is to relaunch the political process and to pierce the vacuum created since the repeal of Article 370 and the division of the state into two Union territories. Either way, a ban is never a good idea. It pushes sentiment underground, where it grows under the radar, and can surface more powerfully than before. The Hurriyat is also a depleted force. This was clear from his inability or reluctance or both to protest against the August 2019 changes made by the J&K Center.
The Hurriyat is not a monolith, and the churn rate inside has often come to the fore. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, among the founding leaders of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, and until last year, leader of the pro-Pakistan faction of the All Parties Hurriyat, is sick and bedridden. His resignation from the presidency in June 2020 came following a bitter power struggle between him and the PoK chapter of the Hurriyat, dating back to 2018 over the alleged sale of places in Pakistani medical schools to Kashmiri students. . Geelani replaced the PoK official and handpicked his successor, who in turn was kicked out by the Pakistani security establishment for not aligning. It was soon after that Geelani resigned, claiming the PoK Chapter had become corrupt, more interested in getting closer to the powers that be. Other hardline Geelani Hurriyat supporters are in prison. The moderate Hurriyat faction, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was seen by Indian and Pakistani settlements as being able to win support in Kashmir for the bilateral peace process that began in 2003. It was a moment for s ‘press, for the Indian state to bring into play, once again, its famous ability to turn rebels into stakeholders. But this skill, encouraged by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, appears to have now been replaced by a prisoner-free approach and a preference for blunt instruments like the UAPA. The Modi government’s refusal to recognize the moderates among the separatists had led Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, for example, to join Geelani during the 2016 unrest in Kashmir.
What then could be the point of banning these two inactive organizations, which even Pakistan has lost interest in, unless it is to give the impression that the government has a larger plan for the Valley, of which there is had little to no visibility sign so far. Banning the Hurriyat could help the government score points outside of Kashmir. But those playing with the Hurriyat ban should pay more attention to Kashmir’s closeness to what’s going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s involvement in this project. Relaunching the political process with the dominant parties should now be high on Delhi’s agenda.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 24, 2021 under the title “The ban is a bad idea”.