"We don't want people to suffer. Life and movement have to move on together."
—Hurriyat hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani's September 2 statement
Nayeem Khan, provincial head of the moderate Hurriyat, who organised some of the recent rallies, told Outlook: "Hurriyat, or the people of Kashmir, will not protest against the land deal. We don't care whether it's a Pandit or Muslim on the shrine board. Our non-communal and peaceful struggle is for freedom."
That said, the current peace was not achieved without serious effort. Sources say that hours before the deal was inked with the samiti ending the 61-day agitation in Jammu, Governor N.N. Vohra was closeted in Srinagar with Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. Many in the security set-up may have taken umbrage at talking to the hardline 80-year-old Geelani. But Vohra, a well-known Kashmir hand, thought otherwise.
Raj Bhawan sources say Vohra wanted to tap Geelani and Mirwaiz's reaction before going ahead with an agreement with the samiti. As Vohra would have desired, the two leaders (they incidentally say a DGP and IGP, not Vohra met them) unambiguously said the land dispute was a non-issue for Kashmiris, but added that the people's sentiments have to be respected. They did raise the larger issue of right to self-determination, but felt there were many other issues "on which New Delhi can spare a thought".
The two leaders, among other things, pressed for the release of prisoners, revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives sweeping powers to soldiers operating in J&K, and the urgent starting of truck services on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. Sources say Vohra told them the government is "willing to discuss" these issues.
The governor in turn sought an appeal from them to the people to abandon the protests. Sources say later after a quiet response to the yatra deal in Srinagar (stray protesters did take to the streets the next day), Vohra decided to do away with some "thoughtless measures" adopted to crush the earlier protests. Geelani, Mirwaiz and the JKLF's Yasin Malik were set free on the eve of Ramzan on September 1. A weeklong curfew imposed across the Valley was lifted. So was the ban on local cable TV.
That Vohra's 'soft policy' had worked against the 'iron fist' style advocated by security officials became evident when Geelani dropped broad hints about suspending the protests. "All aspects will be taken into consideration before finalising the next programme," he said. Meanwhile, the government agreed to withdraw the criminal cases against samiti activists registered during the agitation. Eager to ensure that he's not seen as communal, Vohra has pushed for the early release of separatist leaders Shabir Shah and Asiya Andrabi. Sources say they are likely to be set free before Id.
Clearly, at the moment the dust seems to have settled after two months of hostility that left 40 people dead in Kashmir and three in Jammu in police firing. But it's no news that Delhi needs to think positively, start a dialogue and find a political solution to the Kashmir issue.