Hamas victory sparks debate in Kashmir
The triumph of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections has created a buzz in militancy-affected Jammu and Kashmir
THE RECENT Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections has kicked off a debate in Jammu and Kashmir on whether the local militant organisations, particularly the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, would tread the same path. Many observers expect it will have an effect in the long term on the militants operating in the State.
For the last few days, the Hamas victory has been keenly discussed in the local press, with speculation on the possibility of new political alignments in the State. In academic circles, too, much importance is being attached to the Hamas victory and its possible fallout on Kashmir politics.
The "movement in Kashmir and Palestine started almost at the same time with the Muslim United Front taking the plunge to join the 1987 Assembly elections, which later burst into an armed struggle; and at the same time Hamas came into existence in Palestine," commented an Urdu weekly. It also outlined a new role not only for the separatist leaders but also for mainstream political parties such as the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party.
While many believe the hardline forces will become emboldened, a few voices were heard that Hamas’ participation in elections will force the gun-wielding youth in Kashmir to finally take recourse to peace.
Giving credit for the Hamas victory to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq says Mr. Abbas had succeeded in turning the debate over Palestine from confrontation to peaceful alternative. "This situation emerged only after the CBMs [confidence building measures] worked which led Hamas to pursue peaceful options. Here we are pursuing demilitarisation to create a peaceful atmosphere. If such a CBM is sincerely undertaken, things would definitely move further," the Mirwaiz said. He was, however, non-committal on whether the militants would join the election fray in Kashmir.
The hardline Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Geelani believes that prolonging the peace process had failed to impress the people in Palestine. "And it can happen in Kashmir if you try to find short cuts," said a member of the faction.
Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a teacher at Kashmir University, is more belligerent saying "it has defeated those who pursue the politics of compromise. It is a jolt to those forces and people have come out openly against moderates who are in favour of short term concessions." Kashmir, he said, cannot be an exception in this backdrop. "Both have been long term disputes in the world of Islam and this development is destined to have an impact."
Emotional bonding — Tahir Mohiuddin, editor of the mass-circulated Urdu weekly Chattan, said Kashmir always had an emotional bonding with Palestine. "That way it [the Hamas victory] will surely have a psychological impact on militants. The armed groups anywhere in the world finally bow before the democratic process and this is very clear from Hamas participation [in the elections]," he said.
Though he termed the Hamas victory a big step towards peace efforts in Palestine, Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah is not sure whether such an experiment is possible in Kashmir. "I had suggested that let there be a joint election commission of India and Pakistan overseen by SAARC. But in that case we need an extremely peaceful atmosphere and that is not possible until India and Pakistan agree to explore the via media," he said.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front vice-chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat, while refusing to draw any parallel between Palestine and Kashmir, said Jammu and Kashmir "is not free." "Let azadi come and you will see which way the popular wish swings."