For two decades,separatists in the Valley have kept their eyes on the larger picture,deliberately turning a blind eye to issues of bijli,sadak and paani. In the past two weeks,that has changed. The separatist leadership,of both the hardline and moderate camps,has several times raised issues affecting day-to-day life of the people: be it the power crisis,the extraction of minerals or now the controversy over the fake drug scam.
Whenever the moderate Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tried to talk about such issues earlier,critics ensured it never went far by dubbing it an attempt to prepare ground for participation in elections. In a sign of the changed times,the Mirwaiz has been regularly raising such issues through press statements or Friday sermons recently. Among other things,he has been seeking a relook at J&Ks MoU with NHPC on power projects in Kashmir and a joint strategy by separatists to seek return of power projects to the state government.
The Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani,which has always been cautious on such issues,has also sensed the change in the air. Recently,it called for a complete shutdown against the supply of spurious drugs to Valley hospitals. It was the first call for a shutdown by a separatist leader in the Valley over an issue not directly related to the Kashmir dispute.
The separatists appear to have realised that issues that matter to the people cant be put on the backburner in the campaign to have the Kashmir issue resolved. The first sign of this was seen in the statement by Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin in 2011 that militants would not try to scuttle the panchayat polls being held in the Valley as these dealt with the day-to-day concerns of people.
Behind closed doors,some separatist leaders also acknowledge that they made a mistake in giving call for a boycott in the past few elections,and that they should not have linked their legitimate struggle to the poll process. When the people ignored that boycott and came out to vote,they now realise,it ironically allowed the government to claim it had their support.
Bashaarat is a senior correspondent based in Srinagar
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