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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kashmir unrest: Hurriyat's strategic blunder gives India chance to finally douse fire

By refusing to meet members of the all-party delegation on a visit to Srinagar, the Hurriyat Conference has made a strategic blunder. The shutting of door on people's representatives has made it obvious that for all their breast-beating, the Hurriyat leaders are unwilling to restore normalcy in Kashmir. 

 Why? Because continued unrest gives them the chance to capitalise on the grievance narrative. The loss of Kashmiri lives merely becomes collateral damage with an additional advantage that deaths could always be blamed on "Indian oppression" and turned into political capital. The renewed violence in Kashmir following the rebuff and an ambush on an army convoy in Handwara on Wednesday served to prove further that the separatist movement triggered off by Hizbul Mujaheedin commander Burhan Wani's killing is fast reaching a level of claustrophobic desperation. 

 Captured Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Bahadur Ali, for instance, recently revealed what we already knew — numerous training camps run by terrorist groups and backed by the Pakistan Army are sending militants to keep the Valley burning. Their brief is to mingle with the protesters, fuel tension and lob grenades at Indian security forces using stone-throwers as cover. 

 And yet, as the violence spread in different parts of the Valley with a degree of sophistication and organisation that is impossible in a vociferous, grassroots movement, a few Indian political parties and leftist voices in the media began putting pressure on the government to talk to "all stakeholders", an euphemism for leaders who want Kashmir to secede from India and align with their religio-political home. 

 These usual Indian voices calling for talks with separatists display a willing suspension of disbelief. As if the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Mailk or Mirwaiz Umar Farooq will drop their secessionist demands as soon government calls them for a discussion. Not only is this demand an exercise in futility, it is also an incredibly blinkered, foolish strategy. 

If the government were to formally invite Hurriyat leaders for talks, it would catapult the Pakistan stooges into relevance and become a tacit admission that India was somehow wrong in killing Burhan Wani, a terrorist with a bounty on his head. Also, what would be the next move if the Hurriyat refuses to bend despite a formal invitation? Should we then also invite terrorists Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin for talks? Some Indian commentators would also call them "stakeholders".

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