For last more than two decades a name that mostly surfaces in the files of the Kashmir Desk of MHA has been that of the Hurriyat. A group in the troubled Kashmir valley with two factions - moderate and hardliner, have held tight its control on the switch which initiates violent protests, stone pelting, riots and arson in the Kashmir valley.
The decision by the central government on last Wednesday to withdraw security of over 18 radical separatists and 155 other political persons and activists is a paradigm shift from the stated policy of North Block over last three decades—which was to engage Hurriyat.
Current Crackdown on the Separatists
In a sudden development late on Friday night, the MHA directed over 100 companies (coys) of the Central Armed Police Force to be deployed in Kashmir as a precautionary measure for law and order duties. Interestingly, the CRPF was replaced by the BSF for static duties in the valley on Saturday afternoon with CRPF taking over more critical roles.
Sources aware of the security deployment say, “Indigenous coys would be maintaining law and order while the newcomers would be manning static duties and installations. This step is key as the indigenous coys are aware of terrain and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). There is no time for pre-induction training or familiarisation for the newcomers”.
The security redeployment was followed by a night long crackdown on the radical Jamaat-e-Islami cadre in South Kashmir. Jamaat leaders have often been accused of instigating passions and indoctrination. JKLF Chief Yasin Malik was also detained.
However, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of Hurriyat haven’t yet been touched by the security forces.
The next course of action by the Govt remains unclear amidst speculation that it could order a massive crackdown on separatists and radical groups or withdraw Article 35A through an ordinance.
Hurriyat: A Key Element of ISI’s Kashmir Plan
While the world knows, thanks to Wikipedia, that Hurriyat was born in 1993 and later split around 2004 into two factions, not many understand the real inside story of this outfit which has its roots in Pakistan.
The new age separatists of the valley may claim Hurriyat to be an indigenous political struggle for their aspirations but it is part of the Pakistan ISI game plan on Kashmir which was deliberated months before Syed Salahuddin and Yasin Malik took center stage in the Kashmir terror plot.
Pakistan Army and the ISI made a crystal clear three point agenda of - Political Action, Propaganda, and Terrorism often wrongly refered to as militancy.
Political Action was to give birth to a radical yet educated, political voice in Kashmir which would drive separatism among the masses.
Several people were shortlisted, background checks done, and finally meetings organised in the middle-east and United States. The ISI handlers well-equipped with their task and money bags influenced several key politicians to turn their allegiance towards Islamabad and thus gave birth to All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a conglomeration of 26 political, social and religious organisations on 9 March 1993.
ISI’s Strategy of Terror in Kashmir, Propaganda in the West
Second plan of the ISI was to drum up propaganda on Kashmir worldwide. From the committes of United Nations to various countries of Europe and event the Capitol Hill in US. Three key players that the handlers of the Pakistani intelligence agency would choose finally led to a massive fake narrative against India on Kashmir at various multilateral forums, groupings, and state capitals. Something that New Delhi didn't realise all through the 90s.
Ghulam Nabi Fai in US was given the task of forming the Kashmir American Council while they roped in Ayub Thakar in London, and Majeed Tramboo in Brussels who would travel across Europe and shift the narrative on Kashmir.
All three were conduits for financing and in the name of donation to a so called charity, they used to get massive funding by their masters in Rawalpindi who used a hawala racket to channelise money regularly for their funding.
It was decades later in July 2011, after US investigators arrested Fai that the plot not only was revealed in parts but also confessed by the ISI mole himself.
Ghulam Nabi Fai pleaded guilty for receiving millions of dollars from the ISI for illegal activities in the US.
Pakistani funds in violation of the US laws were being used to not only spread fake propaganda on Kashmir and generate support for Islamabad but also fund elections. The Pakistan game plot was in shambles. No diplomacy or military might could savage the situation and end the global embarassment.
Third, and the final, tool used by the Pakistan deep state since 1989 to counter India has been terrorism, which has now turned into a state policy. From funding terror networks, providing them safe sanctuaries, and even providing them training by Pakistan Army officers for important missions—all is fair game.
“I have put fire across this valley. I know how to douse it.”
Propagandists from the other side often rubbish this three-point plan claiming it to be an imagination of India's RAW and the IB. Yet, the testimonies from former militants in Kashmir make things crystal clear.
Sitting at a dingy restaurant in Kupwara, sometime in early 2017, I met Ghazi Baba (name changed for security reasons) who was once considered to be the most dreaded terrorist of Hizbul Mujahideen. What he told me that day has remained etched ever since. “Why does Geelani require security? Who will kill him? Who will kill Mirwaiz, Nayeem Khan? Who will kill Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat? We feel Indian Govt trusts Geelani and his ilk. He has got immense security, not us,” he says.
Ghazi Baba, who spent many years in jail, was upset with the govt inaction against the separatists. “I think we are the real Hurriyat. Not them. We picked up the gun. Not Geelani. We don’t believe in his Hurriyat. Talk to me. Not him. I have put fire across this valley. I know how to douse it” he said with a firm conviction.
The reformed militant, who has often sought Govt help to restore democracy in Kashmir, had a piece of advice for the security establishment as well. “If Geelani comes on the streets, stones will be thrown at him. Geelani will never leave his security and come out. Let the govt set Geelani, Mirwaiz, Nayeem Khan and Abdul Ghani Bhat free. After three days, these guys will run away. For outside world they are under house arrest, but inside they are managing finances and counting money,” he told me.
Recognise Hurriyat For What It Is
While the statement of Ghazi Baba, who was trained in Afghanistan by Mullah Omar and in Pakistan by ISI in 1900, left a deep impression on my mind, it only got confirmed a little later. The massive NIA raids across the Kashmir valley on the separatists in 2018 led to direct evidence of hawala money being received from Pakistan through trade route resulting in arrests in Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi and other cities.
The policy of giving legitimacy to Hurriyat for dialogue, sending interlocutors and investing money in them has been a strategic blunder.
After years of providing Hurriyat with an open fertile playground in Kashmir, New Delhi should carefully reexamine its investment in Hurriyat and explore the possibility of a ban to choke the separatist tendencies in Kashmir. While dissent is a very important tool in a democracy, the Hurriyat gameplan of dissent hatched in Rawalpindi would cost India immensely if not eliminated now.
(Aditya Raj Kaul has a decade long experience in covering conflict, internal security and foreign policy for various national media outlets. He tweets at @AdityaRajKaul. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)