Small men thrown into big chairs – that’s how Manmohan Singh decribed the Hurriyat leaders. They claim to be the representatives of the Kashmiris, though they do not believe in elections. When the Pakistan Prime Minister visits India, he meets the Hurriyat and do not even meet the actual elected representatives of Jammu and Kashmir.
All the same, no impartial traveller to the Valley in recent years even during the drift could have missed the sheer disregard in which the Hurriyat and its leaders are held by the people, angry and disgusted though they are with the high-handed and often unacceptable behaviour of our security forces. Even in its high noon in the turmoil years, the Hurriyat did not represent, in terms of popular support, a relation to the gun-toting outfits akin to, say, the Sinn Fein and the IRA. The British government’s talks with the Sinn Fein do not, therefore, come as a surprise.
The Hurriyat had no grassroots life, and it did not care to develop one. In any case, this would have been near-impossible, given the mutually antagonistic and disparate orientation of Hurriyat constituents. Its constituents were removed from the culture of traditional mass politics which presumes linkages to the people. The exception among today’s big boys’ is Ali Shah Geelani, a na-turally gifted, strongly pro-Pakistan leader who is influential among orthodox Jamaat-e-Islami sections dispersed across the Valley. Though the Hurriyat does not have many takers within the Valley, its usefulness to Islamabad can not be overemphasised. Its strawmen, the handsomely rewarded naysayers, provide Pakistan the proverbial fig-leaf that no foreign meddler can do without. [Hurriyat Doesn’t Represent Kashmiri Aspirations]